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Home > Articles > Few Things are More Rewarding than Helping Others, Become an Optometrist for a Fulfilling Career
Optometrists assist patients with vision care and treatment. Optometrists perform eye examinations to detect potential vision or health issues. They test for depth and color perception, visual acuity, and the ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. If the examination uncovers a vision issue, the optometrist will recommend treatment that may include prescription glasses, contact lenses, therapy, or possible rehabilitation. Optometrists may also prescribe medication for an eye-related illness.
Optometrists may support their patients before and after an eye operation, but they do not perform surgical work. If they discover potential health issues during the performance of an eye examination, they will refer the patient to the appropriate physician.
Optometrists usually operate alone in an optometry practice, or with a group of medical providers. Professionals in this field sometimes elect to specialize in specific vision-health issues. Optometrists should also possess business management skills because they may be required to supervise office employees, medical personnel, and handle financial matters.
If you are considering a career as an optometrist you should enjoy working with people because most days are spent working with patients and office staff. You should also have the ability to motivate yourself and others, since you will likely be the manager of your business. A sense of compassion may also help when working with patients and your staff.
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2006 the median annual income for optometrists was $96,320--the highest 10 percent had a median income of $125,460. Self-employed optometrists tended to earn more than those who worked for institutions.
Training and Education
All optometrists must be licensed prior to treating patients. In order to receive a license to practice optometry, a degree from an accredited optometry school should be earned and a written and clinical exam must be passed. The license to practice must be renewed every 1 to 3 years, and continuing education is required to keep up with advances in their field.
If you are interested in becoming an optometrist you must complete at least 3 years of undergraduate pre-optometry study. You will take courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and English. Due to the business ownership aspect of the occupation, many students find it helpful to take business and sociology courses.
After you have completed your undergraduate work you must attend an educational institution that offers a Doctor of Optometry degree. Most students must have an undergraduate degree prior to being admitted to a Doctor of Optometry program. The Doctor of Optometry program consists of lecture courses, labs, and clinical coursework. There is also an option to take courses leading to a specialty within the field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that in 2006 approximately 33,000 licensed optometrists worked in the country. Roughly 25 percent were self-employed in private practice. Some optometrists worked for hospitals, clinics, federal government agencies, and optical business chains.
The optometry field is expected to increase by 11 percent from 2006 through 2016. This is considered to be an average growth rate compared with other career fields. The Baby Boomer generation may increase growth in the field due to the tendency for older adults to need assistance with vision care.