Optometrist Quick Facts
Median Salary: $71,900 – $124,100
Number of Jobs: 34,200
Hourly Rate: $34.56 – $59.68
Employment Outlook: Good
Optometrist Job Description
When people have problems with their vision, they visit an optometrist. Optometrists specialize in diagnosing problems with the visual system and providing corrective solutions that will improve their patients’ sight.
Optometrists use specialized instruments to diagnose their patients’ vision problems. For example, they use ophthalmoscopes to see inside of the eye, and retinoscopes to see how patients react to different lens strengths.
After a diagnosis is made, optometrists prescribe medicines, glasses, contact lenses, or other corrective eye wear that will improve their patients’ vision.
Sometimes, optometrists find problems with the eyes that are caused by serious diseases like glaucoma. In these cases, optometrists must refer the patient to a medical doctor who can help treat the problem.
Many optometrists choose to specialize in correcting a particular type of problem or helping a particular type of patient. For example, some optometrists work exclusively with children. Others may specialize with helping patients who have very low sight, or helping patients recover after they have eye surgery.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most optometrists work in standalone optometry offices, but many also work in retail stores, hospitals, and doctor’s offices.
The working hours for optometrists vary depending on the environment they work in. For example, optometrists who work at Walmart or another retail store may be required to work on evenings and weekends to accommodate the store’s hours. On the other hand, optometrists who work in a doctor’s office are more likely to be able to keep more regular hours.
Optometrists who own their own practice often have to spend long hours performing general business practices like hiring employees, paying bills, and marketing their practice.
How to Become an Optometrist
To become an optometrist, you will need to complete a Doctor of Optometry program. A minimum of three years of undergraduate study is required before you can enroll in an optometry school, but most students go ahead and finish their bachelor’s degree while they can. As an undergraduate, taking courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics can be very helpful.
Before you can enroll in an optometry program, should make sure that it’s accredited. Without an accreditation, you will be unable to earn the license necessary to practice. You can find a list of accredited schools here.
It takes four years to complete a Doctor of Optometry program. These programs cover many scientific disciplines, including biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and visual science. They also provide students with the clinical experience necessary to diagnose problems with patients’ visual systems.
After earning a Doctor of Optometry degree, some graduates choose to enter a residency program. These residencies are much shorter than most others in the medical field, and normally last only a year. In a residency, graduates are able to work with experienced optometrists in the area they want to specialize in.
All states require optometrists to be licensed before they can practice. In addition to earning a Doctor of Optometry degree, you will also have to complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. Some states have additional requirements, often including taking an additional exam.
There are currently 34,200 optometrists in the United States, with 2,340 new optometrist job openings created each year.
Optometrist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Optometrist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most optometrists make between $71,900 – $124,100 per year, or $34.56 – $59.68 per hour.