How to Become an Optometrist

How to Become an Optometrist

Optometry is a vital part of the medical field that deals with the care and treatment of the eyes and related areas. Optometrists are licensed professionals that provide a variety of vision care to many different patients.

What does an optometrist do?

Optometrists (also know as doctors of optometry) are healthcare practitioners that examine patient’s eyes to identify and diagnose vision problems such as farsightedness and nearsightedness. They test the eyes’ ability to focus and coordinate and depth and color perception. They often prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other treatments. Optometrists also test for eye diseases such as glaucoma. They prescribe medications to assist in the diagnosis of problems and help with treatment.

Most optometrists work in general practice caring for a variety of patients. Some specialize in specific populations such as children, the elderly, or patient’s that need specialized visual treatments. Others create and implement ways to protect the eyes of workers from injury or strain caused by their professions.

What kind of training does an optometrist need?

Optometrists must have a bachelor degree and a Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited optometry school. There are a limited amount of optometry schools, in 2006 there were 16 colleges of optometry in the United States that were accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. Aspiring optometrists must pass the Optometry Admission Test to be admitted into optometry school. Optometry programs provide classroom and laboratory instruction and students typically complete courses in optics, vision science, pharmacology, systemic diseases, and biochemistry. Some optometrists complete specialty clinical residency programs after graduation.

All states require optometrists to be licensed. Licensing requirements include a degree from an optometry school that is accredited and passing a National Board examination and additional national, state, or regional examinations. Continuing education is required to renew licensure.

What are the prospects for a career as an optometrist?

Employment of optometrists is projected to grow as fast as average for all professions, increasing 11% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased vision care needs of a growing and aging population will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be very good due to the limited amount of optometry graduates. There will also be increased need to replace optometrists that retire or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do optometrists make?

As of October 2009, the middle 50% of optometrists earn annual salaries between $97,828 and $121,707. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $136,987 (2).

A career as an optometrist is an excellent choice for individuals with an interest in optometry that have a strong desire to provide eye care to a variety of patients. Optometrists must pay close attention to detail and have a strong ability to interact tactfully with many different patients. Manual dexterity, self-discipline, and patience are essential characteristics. Optometrists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to interact with patients and other professionals.

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