Choosing an optometrist career can mean making a huge difference in people’s lives. Being able to see clearly is a major quality-of-life issue. When people suffer from blurry or otherwise diminished vision, they lose a significant part of the pleasure of interacting with family, friends, and beloved pets. At work, this can lead to a failure to complete assigned routine tasks and projects on time, as well as unnecessary sloppiness or inaccuracy, and could even endanger both the affected employees and their co-workers in certain work environments. The job of the doctor of optometry, or optometrist, is to prevent any and all of these from occurring and to correct already existing visual problems. How does an optometrist accomplish this? While you have probably visited one at least once in your life, it’s doubtful that you could give a detailed answer to the question. In this article, we’ll present an overview of an optometrist career.
Optometrists are highly trained medical specialists, most of whom are private practitioners. They check peoples’ eyes to assess their health and ability to focus, diagnose problems like nearsightedness, test depth and color perception, prescribe glasses or contact lenses, and at times provide treatments like vision therapy. Testing for glaucoma and other conditions brought on by diseases like diabetes, referring patients to other types of doctors when necessary, delivering pre-operative and post-operative care to cataract patients and those who have undergone laser surgery are also things an optometrist does in the normal course of his or her work.
Also, like doctors in other fields, optometrists promote habits such as healthy eating and proper hygiene that effectively help prevent disease. Many optometrists work as primary-care providers, though some find that specializing in a particular field, such as geriatrics or treating children, is more suited to their natural talents and interests. This makes it possible for a number of individual doctors to combine their talents by opening a group practice wherein each member focuses on his or her specialty. For those in private practice, the business end of running an office, attracting patients and employee talent, and ordering equipment are factors that also come into play. This can hold true to some extent for those operating franchises as well, which is an increasingly common path in an optometrist career.
To receive a Doctor of Optometry degree, completion of a four-year program is required, and a minimum of three years of pre-optometric study in college or university is a prerequisite. All states mandate licensing of optometrists. After college, which should include courses in math, chemistry, biology, and other subjects that provide a good grounding in science, those who aspire to become an optometrist will also need to outperform many of their peers in order to gain admission to a school of optometry. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, only about one of every three applicants is accepted. If fortunate enough to make the cut, an applicant will then take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT), which is a four-part test comprising a natural sciences survey, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning. Licensing requirements are similar from state to state, but in all states, licenses must be renewed every one to three years, with continuing education credits also being essential to the process.
The employment outlook for an optometrist career is good due to population growth and an increasing number of baby -boomers entering their golden years and developing age-related vision problems. As doctors, optometrists are well compensated, with annual salaries that can surpass $100,000. Salaries should continue to increase as the demand for optometrists surpasses the supply of new optometry graduates in the next several years.