How to Become an Optometrist
If you're interested the eye and have a strong interest in a career in medicine, then you might like to become an optometrist. An optometrist diagnoses and treats diseases and disorders of the eye. They also prescribe corrective glasses and contact lenses as a part of treatment.
A qualified optometrist is a doctor of optometry, sometimes shortened to OD. This is a great qualification to have, as the population ages it's expected that there will be an increase in demand for the services of optometrists.
Education Requirements to Become an Optometrist
If you're a high school student and would like to become an optometrist, you should concentrate on getting good grades in all your subjects, especially math, biology, and the other sciences. You'll need to complete at least three year of pre-optometry education at an accredited college. Most students complete an undergraduate bachelors degree.
After this you will be able to apply to optometry school. Competition is high, and only one in every three applicants gains a spot. Admittance is based on your college grade point average, as well as the optometry entrance exam, or OAT.
It takes four years of study to graduate from optometry school. Coursework is a combination of theory and practical experience. After the four year program, students may elect to complete a one year residency which will grant them a specialization.
In all states, optometrists are required to be licensed. This involves both a written and practical exam which must be completed before you are able to start practice.
Optometrist Job Description
When you become an optometrist you will work to help correct your patient's vision. this could involve diagnosing various diseases of the eye, and vision problems. You might find a patient to be near or far sighted, color blind, or to be suffering from a problem like cataracts.
Often an optometrist will prescribe correct eyewear such as glasses or contact lenses. They may also give a patient exercises to help strengthen the eye muscles. An optometrist will also refer a patient on to another specialist, such as an ophthalmologist.
Some optometrists work in a particular specialty. For instance, they may only work with elderly people, or those suffering from a particular condition. Some will provide vision rehabilitation for those suffering from vision problems cause by a degenerative disease, or an accident.
While some optometrists work for private clinics or hospitals, many are also self-employed. In these instances an optometrist must also plan and manage their own practice, including administration and bookkeeping.
Here are some of the duties of an optometrist:
- Seeing patients
- Conducting vision tests
- Forming a diagnosis
- Prescribing corrective eyewear
- Treatment planning
- Referring patients to specialists
- Business administration
Optometrist Salary and Career Path
When you become an optometrist you will usually have your first job working in a hospital, or in the offices of another optometrist. After a few years you may decide to open your own practice and become self-employed. Many go on to run large practices which employ specialists. Some optometrists open retail shops where they will both diagnose patients and also sell glasses and eyewear.
Most optometrists work business hours, there are a few that will offer after-hours consultations and emergency call-outs. Optometrists work in hospitals, private consulting rooms, and sometimes in retail centers.
Some optometrists will move on to pursue teaching or research interests. Others with further study may move into field like neurophysiology, physiological optics, public health, or other similar areas.
The median salary for an optometrist is $96,000 a year. The middle 50% earn between $70,000 and $125,000 a year. The median for those that are self-employed is much higher at $175,000 a year.
Job prospects are good, and there is growth predicted in this sector, as the population ages and demands increase.
Some similar roles to that of optometrist you might be interested in include:
- Medical doctor
Optometrists help people see the world clearer. If you're looking for a challenging role in medicine with regular hours, like working with people, and want the potential for a high salary, then you might like to become an optometrist.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics