How to Become an Optometrist
Optometrist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of Optometrists
Optometrist Salary
Influential Professional Optometrists
Leading Organizations for Optometrists
Top Cities for Optometrist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Optometrist

An optometrist is a doctor who examines patients for various eye diseases or abnormal eye conditions. While in high school, prospective optometric students should concentrate on the basic sciences including chemistry, physics and biology, as well as English and mathematics.

After graduation from high school, achieving a career as an optometrist requires 3 years of pre-optometric study at a college before being able to apply to an accredited optometry school.

Admission into optometry school is competitive and once accepted students face a 4 year program in order to obtain a Doctor of Optometry degree. Students must also successfully pass exams administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.

The arduous training ensures that an optometrist is knowledgeable and ready to perform a variety of techniques on their patients.

The term optometrist is sometimes confused with 'optician' and 'ophthalmologist'. An optician is neither trained nor responsible for any type of eye exam; they help a patient choose eye glass frames and adjust them to fit correctly. An ophthalmologist is the only professional in the field that is licensed to perform eye surgery.

What does an Optometrist do?

An optometrist is a medical doctor who provides vision care to their patients while specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. An optometrist examines a patient's eyes to diagnose such conditions as farsightedness and nearsightedness as well as testing depth and color perception, the focusing ability of a patient and coordination of the eyes.

Optometrists are able to prescribe contact lenses and eyeglasses. They can also test for and diagnose diseases such as glaucoma, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Optometrists can also provide care to patients that have had corrective or other eye surgeries.

Most optometrists choose to have solo private practices as general optometrists. They can also specialize in dealing with the elderly, children, or patients requiring special visual care such as partially-sighted persons.

In a solo practice situation an optometrist may also be responsible for the running of the business in regards to staffing, building a client base and possibly the day-to-day operations of the business. In 2004, the American Optometric Association stated that optometrists worked an average of 49 hours per week while attending to 38 patients in total.

According to the United States Department of Labor, there were over 33,000 optometrists working in the United States in 2006.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Optometrist?

Good vision, a basic interest in science and a desire to help people are integral parts of the job. Becoming an optometrist requires a keen eye for detail along with good manual dexterity.

Optometrists must be well coordinated, quick thinkers and able to pay great attention to detail along with being committed to both learning and continuous skill development.

Patient care and communication is very important as relationships will more than likely be formed on a long term basis. Working as an optometrist can be a rewarding experience as patients are usually very grateful for any help regarding their vision. It should be noted that much of an optometrist's day is spent in the dark while examining patients which can become somewhat monotonous at times.

In the case of a private practice situation, an optometrist needs to be a team player yet be able to manage their own business at the same time. Skills in this area would include management, supervision, dealing with employees on all levels including hiring, firing and training, along with possessing leadership skills in order to motivate and develop the team.

However, with these added responsibilities also comes the opportunity to adapt your practice to fit your own lifestyle. As compared to a regular medical doctor, optometrists are rarely called upon for emergencies, and so regular office hours from Monday to Friday are the norm.

A true desire to help people and enjoyment of working with others will help lead to a successful career in optometry.

How much does an Optometrist make?

An optometrist, like any other professional, makes different salaries depending upon their place of employment, geographical area and applicable skills. The median salary for an optometrist in the United States as of May 2006 was $91,040 annually. The middle 50 percent of American optometrists made between $66,520 and $118,490 in the same year. The maximum attainable salary by an optometrist is estimated at $150,000 with such a salary likely including bonuses and benefits such as social security, 401k, disability, healthcare and pension.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Dr. Louis (Lou) J. Catania is a world renowned optometrist who after 36 years of practicing now travels the world as a lecturer. Dr. Catania was voted as one of the ten most influential optometrists of the 20th century by the Review of Optometry Journal.

Author Dr. Jimmy D. Bartlett is another world renowned optometrist was also voted as one of the ten most influential optometrists of the 20th century by the Review of Optometry Journal. Dr. Bartlett has been foremost in ocular pharmacology and helped to formulate ophthalmic drug delivery sprays for children.

Dr. Kristine M. Eng is a graduate of the University of California's Berkley Optometry school. She followed in her family tradition of doctors and became a third generation optometrist. Dr. Eng has been honored as one of the Fifty Most Influential Women in Optometry by Vision Monday.

Again, in 2006, there were over 33,000 optometrists working in the United States with a projected 36,000 by 2016

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The American Optometric Association (AOA), founded in 1898, has a membership of 36,000 optometrists, students, assistants and technicians in the United States. The AOA states that two-thirds of all primary eye care in the US is provided by doctors of optometry.

The goal of the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is to provide its members with promotion and representation, as well as helping to expand the role of optometry in both primary and secondary eye care.

What are the top cities for Optometrist jobs?

As the healthcare industry continues to expand, there is a consistent demand for optometrists. The states of Ohio, New York and California consistently have a high demand for optometrists while the cities of Dayton, Cincinnati, Syracuse and San Diego are hot spots.

Optometrists from the baby-boomer generation will soon be reaching retirement age and there will be many opportunities for younger optometrists to take over the work or practices from those retiring. The employment outlook for optometrists is expected to grow until the year 2016.

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