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The median starting salary for graduate optometrists has dropped for the first time in more than a decade, figures released in a new report show.

In 2013, bachelor degree graduate optometrists aged under 25 years in their first full-time job earned $70,000 overall and for those working in professional practice, the average salary was $72,500.

This compared with an average overall salary of $79,000 in 2012 and $80,000 for those working in professional practice.

Graduate optometrists also earned a starting salary of $70,000 in 2011 but this jumped $9,000 the following year.

Despite the drop, optometry graduates in 2013 had the second-highest starting salary of all graduates surveyed and it was at least $15,000 higher than the aggregate median starting salary for male and female graduates overall—$55,000 and $51,600, respectively.

Dentistry remained the highest paid field of education with a starting salary of $80,000, followed by optometry ($70,000), engineering ($64,000), earth science and medicine ($60,000) and education ($57,000).

Graduate Careers Australia updated its annual overview of the labour market for new graduates with the release of three new reports covering graduate destinations, graduate salaries and graduate course experience.

Graduate Salaries 2013 details employment and salary outcomes of recent higher education graduates about four months after completion of their qualifications.

It revealed that graduate optometrists who worked in rural areas were paid $15,000 more than their colleagues working in cities, but authors said these statistics were based on a low number of responses and should be interpreted with caution.

The survey of 22 graduate optometrists found they worked an average of 38 hours a week and their average hourly rate was $35.40.

Female graduate optometrists earned 87.5 per cent of their male counterparts’ earnings in 2013. Averaged over 10 years, females earned 95.7 per cent of the starting salary of males.

The median salary for optometry postgraduates in full-time employment in 2013 was $90,000.

Examining the median starting salary growth indices covered by the period 1988 to 2013, the growth in optometry (266.2 per cent) exceeded the average growth, 228 per cent.

The growth in median starting salaries for male optometry graduates of 301.9 per cent exceeded the growth in male average weekly earnings between 1988 and 2013, which was 282.4 per cent.

Previous reports show that in 2000 the average starting salary for optometry graduates was $40,000, 2001 and 2002 $43,000, 2003 and 2004 $50,000, and 2005 $52,000. In 2006 it was $51,200, 2007 $56,500, 2008 $60,000, 2009 $64,500, and 2010 and 2011 $70,000.

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