Optometry focuses on anatomy and research related to the human eye. Many optometrists work in private practice, but jobs are also available in hospitals and eye clinics. Read on to learn more about the field of optometry, employment outlook, potential salary and education requirements.
Is Optometry for Me?
Optometry is a medical field that concentrates on the comprehensive study of the human eye. Preparing for a career in optometry requires a lengthy education process that includes a bachelor's degree and a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree program. Optometrists must also pass licensing examinations to practice in any U.S. state.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), optometrists should have business sense, manual dexterity and the ability to interact with clients (www.bls.gov). They diagnose vision problems, including near-sightedness, far-sightedness and eye diseases.
According to the BLS, about 33,100 individuals worked as optometrists in 2012, and about 11% of them were self-employed. The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022, employment of optometrists would increase by 24%. According to the BLS, job opportunities should be exceptional for optometrists because there is a relatively small number of optometry graduates every year and the demand for optometrists is greater. However, admission into the O.D. program is competitive. As of May 2013, optometrists made a median annual salary of $101,290, according to the BLS.
How Can I Become an Optometrist?
Before admission to optometry school, students must complete a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. You can complete a bachelor's degree program that meets the pre-optometry requirements, which includes coursework in psychology, human anatomy, biology, chemistry, calculus, public speaking and business management. If your undergraduate degree doesn't meet admissions requirements, you can pursue a master's degree in vision science. The training you complete can also prepare you for the optometry admissions test, which is required by some optometry schools.
Coursework for the O.D. degree program includes neuroanatomy, visualization processes and medical laboratory procedures, as well as coursework on contact lenses, ophthalmic lasers and surgery. You'll explore different eye diseases, such as glaucoma, study surgical procedures and gain hands-on experience through clinical practicums. You'll also gain insight into caring for the eyes of children and the elderly.
Before you can begin practicing, you must pass both a National Board of Examiners in Optometry examination and a clinical exam to earn your licensure. You'll need to renew your license every one to three years. If you want to teach optometry at a university or go into optometric research, you must also complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in vision science, physiological optics or public health, according to the BLS.