How to Become an Optometrist-Salary, Education & Career Tips

Optometrists (also known as eye doctors) are examining, diagnosing, managing, and treating various disorders of the human visual system, they deliver care to deal with eye injuries and diseases and prescribe contact lenses and eyeglasses when needed.

Students thinking about studying Optometry, should already in high school take classes in subject fields as biology, math, chemistry, and physics. To be able to work as optometrists, these professionals require a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree.  If you want to know whether this career track is right for you, you can take a free career quiz.

There are 17 accredited O.D. programs, and four O.D. programs are preliminary approved. O.D. program applicants need to have completed no less than three years of post-secondary coursework in English, physics, chemistry, math, and biology, but the majority of O.D. students already hold a bachelor’s degree when they apply for a Doctor of Optometry program.

Applicants are required to take and pass the OAT (Optometry Admission Test) before they are admitted. The OAT is a computer-based exam that measures an applicant’s skills and knowledge on four subject fields: physics, reading comprehension, science, and quantitative analysis and reasoning.

O.D. programs will require four years to complete and include both classroom instruction and clinical experience under the supervision of a qualified and experienced optometrist. These programs include courses in physiology, anatomy, optics, biochemistry, and visual science. Students also are educated to be able to diagnose and treat visual system disorders and diseases.

Optometrists who want to specialize, need to complete a residency program of at least one-year where they will receive advanced clinical training in their concentration. Concentration areas may include low vision care, geriatric or pediatric optometry, or ocular disease.

Optometrist Salary

  • Average Yearly Salary: $98,280
  • Projected Lifetime Earnings: $4,089,000

Over the coming decade, the professional perspectives of optometrists are pretty good. The employment options are expected to increase by over twenty percent, and this is more than the occupational average. Vision problems show more as the population gets older, so an aging population requires more optometrical treatment.

Additionally, the number of individuals with chronic diseases, for example, diabetes, has increased over recent years, and diabetes causes eye conditions to deteriorate. Consequently, more and more optometrists are needed to diagnose, treat, or refer patients suffering from these conditions. In 2014, the median annual income for optometrists was around $98,280, although geographical circumstances, experience, and specialization, may cause considerable differences.

Optometrist – The Job

Optometrists usually carry out vision exams and analyze the test results. They will be diagnosing sight issues, for example, farsightedness, nearsightedness, and various eye diseases, for example, glaucoma. Optometrists will be prescribing contact lenses, eyeglasses, as well as various medications to treat eye disorders, and they will provide a variety of eye treatments such as low-vision rehabilitation or vision therapy.

They will provide care to patients who need to undergo eye surgery both before and after the operation, and examine patients for diseases like diabetes. They will refer patients to various other healthcare professionals when needed, and promote their patients’ eye health by instructing them on cleaning and wearing contact lenses.

In case optometrists work in a group practice with physicians or other optometrists, they may provide further specialized care. Then we can see optometrists that mainly treat patients who suffer from low vision (with only partial sight), while other optometrists may concentrate working with infants or children.

There are quite a few optometrists who run their own their practices so they usually spend some of their time on activities that include ordering supplies, hiring staff, or promoting and marketing their businesses. Some optometrists are working as postsecondary teachers, others again perform optometry research at colleges, or are working as consultants in the industry of eye care. Optometrists do not perform eye surgery, that’s the task of ophthalmologists.

Where do they work

In 2013, there were around 33,500 professional optometrists working in America, and a little over half of them were working in a stand-alone optometry office. Optometrists can also be working in physicians’ offices, in outpatient clinics, or in retail stores, and just under 12% of all optometrists were actually self-employed, running their own small businesses. The majority of optometrists are full time employed, and some will also be working evening and weekend hours to be able to optimally accommodate their patients’ wishes and needs.

Licenses and Certification

All U.S. states require that optometrists are licensed. To become licensed, optometrists must have completed an accredited O.D. program and must meet all NBEO (National Board of Examiners in Optometry) requirements. There are states that additionally require applicants to take and pass an extra clinical exam, and sometimes a law examination. In every state, optometrists must take continuing education courses and renew their licenses periodically. Further certification may be issued by the American Board of Optometry for optometrists who want to demonstrate their advanced level of specific knowledge and proficiency.

To discover if this professional path could be good for you, take a free career quiz.


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