Optometrist Job Description:
Optometrists provide primary vision care. Also called Doctors of Optometry or ODs, they diagnose and treat eye diseases and disorders. They determine whether vision correction is needed and if it is they prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Some optometrists specialize in a particular clientele or type of treatment. For example some treat patients with low vision and others provide post-operative care to patients who have undergone surgery.
Other practitioners who provide vision care are ophthalmologists and opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who, unlike optometrists, can perform eye surgery. Opticians fit eyeglasses and make adjustments to them but do not examine eyes, make diagnoses or treat diseases and conditions.
Employment Facts for Optometrists:
There were slightly over 34,000 optometrists employed in 2010. Half of them worked in optometry practices, while others worked in retail stores, medical practices and clinics and hospitals. Under one-quarter was self-employed.
Educational Requirements for Optometrists:
To become an optometrist one must complete a four year program at an accredited optometry school. You can find a list of programs accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education on the American Optometric Association website.
Although applicants to schools must have completed only three years of study at an accredited college or university, most have earned, or will shortly earn, a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate coursework should include mathematics, English, chemistry, physics and biology. Applicants must take an entrance exam called the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). It is sponsored by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.
Training combines classroom instruction and clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed optometrist. Those who want to specialize in a particular area of practice will spend an additional year getting advanced clinical training by doing a residency.
Other Requirements for Optometrists:
To practice anywhere in the United States one must become licensed. In addition to earning an OD from an accredited program, one must pass the National Boards of Optometry, a four part exam administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. Some states require passing another exam in addition to this. Continuing education coursework is generally required to maintain licensure.
Job Outlook for Optometrists:
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of optometrists will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. This increase, however, will not result in many jobs since this is a relatively small occupation.
How Much Do Optometrists Earn?:
Optometrists earned a median annual salary of $94,690 in 2011 and median hourly earnings of $45.53.
A Day in an Optometrist's Life:
On a typical day an optometrist will:
- examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases;
- test patients' visual acuity, depth and color perception, and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes;
- prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses;
- provide vision therapy and low-vision rehabilitation;
- analyze test results and develop a treatment plan;
- administer drugs to patients to aid in the diagnosis of vision problems and prescribe drugs to treat some eye diseases;
- provide preoperative and postoperative care to cataract patients, as well as patients who have had laser vision correction or other eye surgery;
- diagnose conditions due to systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure and refer patients to other health practitioners as needed;
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Optometrists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/optometrists.htm (visited October 17, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Optometrists, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/29-1041.00 (visited October 17, 2012)