The Scoop on Optometry

You've got eyes? You wear glasses? Do you want to help folks with their eyesight?

Perhaps Optometry is the gig for you! Optometrists are the folks who examine your eyes (yes, they use those little dilating drop and give you funny sunglasses to wear out of their office), prescribe your glasses or contacts to you, and diagnose any other problems you're having with your eyes. Optometry is expected to grow with the need for vision care (because the population is growing, aging and the "baby boomers" are retiring.)

What in the World Does an Optometrist Do?

Like I said, an Optometrist (or a "Doctor of Optometry" - I know, it's fancy) examines your eyes, tells you if you're near-sighted or far-sighted, diagnoses disorders like an astigmatism, and diagnoses diseases like Glaucoma. I you were working an Optometrist you would use equipment to take measurements of the inside of someone's eyes and "do the math" to understand what someone's eyes are doing. You might even get them in front of a chart and have them read the letters so you can tell how well they see.

After you've figured out how the patient's eyes are working you can prescribe contacts, glasses, or some sort of therapy to help them with their vision. If you've diagnosed a disease or disorder (glaucoma, cataracts) then you might prescribe a therapy or treatment for those disorders. If your patient needs surgery you would have to refer them to an Ophthalmologist because Optometrists do not perform surgeries.

The work requires a lot of your hands and, of course, your eyesight. You'll spend a great deal of time examining people's eyes and even working with their eyes so a steady hand is necessary. You may want to hire a staff to work with you so you can focus your attention on your patients while your staff does clerical work, take appointments, answers the phone, etc.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

You will have to get a lot of schooling to become an Optometrist. In order to get the "Doctor of Optometry" (I know, still fancy) degree you'll have to finish college with a couple years of "pre-optometric" study and then you'll have to be accepted to Optometry School. Unfortunately, there are only 16 schools of Optometry in the U.S. as of 2006 so you might not be able to walk around the corner and go to school. Then, you have to consider how competitive the schools are. Since there are only 16 schools of Optometry in the U.S. then admission to those schools is tough. Most people who want to go to Optometry School major in a science (Biology, Chemistry, etc.) in college and have already decided early on that they want to go to Optometry School. (In other words, this isn't a party you can show up late to.)

In Optometry School you are taught everything you need to know from optics to vision science. When you graduate you will be a "Doctor of Optometry" and then you will have to go get your license from the State Board. Getting your license usually includes passing a written exam and some sort of "skills" test before they give you your license. After that, you can get to work (but remember that your license requires continuing education in order to renew it.)

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

33,000 people worked as Optometrists in 2006 (which doesn't seem like a WHOLE lot) and the population is again and growing so job opportunities are supposed to rise with the national average. If you became an Optometrist you would most likely go into business for yourself and open your own practice. Occasionally, as an Optometrist you might be able to find an Optician (who dispenses glasses and contacts) or an Ophthalmologist to partner with you so you can refer patients to your partners, but typically an Optometrist works in their own office as the sole Doctor on the premises. This requires hiring a staff and having a bit of a business sense about you, but hiring a clerical staff relieves some of that strain.

Sometimes Optometrists work as part of a larger practice or as "The Optometrist" at a hospital or health clinic. If you wanted to advance in your career you could get into teaching or research (but these areas require more schooling) and you could work in public health as "The Optometrist" in your community.

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Optometrists Overview

Optometrist Salary:$96,320
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:8 years
# Employed in US:25,970
% Who work Part Time:30%
Physical Difficulty:+ +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ +

The Pros of being an Optometrist

  • You can own your own business and set your own hours
  • You don't have to work in your own office, you could work for a hospital or even the government
  • You get to help people improve their eyesight
  • Jobs in this field will grow with the population and the retirement of the "baby boomers"

The Cons of being an Optometrist

  • There are 8 years of schooling after High School to complete
  • You have to be licensed and your license requires continuing education to renew
  • Admission to Optometry School is VERY competitive

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