An optometrist is the person who conducts eye exams for vision quality and eye health. Optometrists screen for diseases, treat existing eye problems, counsel patients on proper eye care and eyewear care, monitor patients both pre and postoperatively after eye surgery and prescribe contact lenses or glasses based on a patient's vision. An optometrist is different from an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists perform surgery and treat serious eye diseases.
An optometrist may concentrate on:
providing a certain type of care, such as for a disease group or an age group
running their own office, and the business aspects that go with it
teaching or doing research in universities
Optometrists who want to open their own practices should consider working in a larger office when first starting the career, to gain experience, patients and a credible reputation. It is also a good way to judge whether or not the business aspects of running a small practice are going to be welcome or enjoyable.
Optometry Job Education Requirements
To become an optometrist, one needs a Doctor of Optometry. This is different from attending medical school, which is required for ophthalmology. The Doctor of Optometry degree (O.D.) takes four years to complete, and can be obtained at one of 17 accredited schools in the US. Though only three years of college courses in the right fields are required, most O.D. applicants complete their bachelor's degree before applying to optometry school. After completing school, an optometrist needs to become licensed. Year-long residency programs, while not required to become a practicing optometrist, are good for additional training in certain specializations, such as ocular disease.
Optometry Job Market
The job outlook for optometrists is very good, with a projected 24 percent growth through the year 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Changes in the health insurance industry have increased the number of people with access to at least partial eye care coverage, which means more patients for optometrists. In 2012, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the self-employment rate for optometrists was 11 percent.
Optometry Job Salary Information
In 2012, the median wage for optometrists was $97,820. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the bottom 10 percent of optometrists earns less than $52,590, and the top ten percent earn over $184,530. Even the lowest ten percent is considerably higher than the median yearly salary for all occupations in the US, which is $34,750.