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Optometry Career

Career Description

An Optometrist examines people’s eyes to diagnose vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, and they test patients’ depth and color perception and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. Optometrists may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, or they may prescribe or provide other treatments, such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation.

Common Work Tasks

  • Test for glaucoma and other eye diseases and diagnose conditions caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, referring patients to other health practitioners as needed
  • Administer drugs to patients to aid in the diagnosis of vision problems and to treat eye diseases
  • Provide preoperative and postoperative care to cataract patients, as well as to patients who have had laser vision correction or other eye surgery
  • Develop and implement ways to protect workers’  eyes from on-the-job strain or injury
  • Teach optometry, perform research, or consult
  • Develop a patient base, hire employees, keep paper and electronic records, and order equipment and supplies
  • Examine eyes, using observation, instruments and pharmaceutical agents, to determine visual acuity and perception, focus and coordination and to diagnose diseases and other abnormalities such as glaucoma or color blindness
  • Analyze test results and develop a treatment plan
  • Prescribe, supply, fit and adjust eyeglasses,  contact lenses and other vision aids
  • Educate and counsel patients on contact lens care, visual hygiene, lighting arrangements and safety factors

Other Job Titles

Optometrists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Doctors of Optometry
  • ODs
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Dispensing Opticians

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Optometrists need a Doctor of Optometry degree, which requires the completion of a 4-year program at an accredited optometry school. Requirements for admission to optometry schools include college courses in English, mathematics, physics,  chemistry, and biology. Because a strong background in science is important,  many applicants to optometry school major in a science, such as biology or chemistry as undergraduates. Others major in another subject and take many science courses offering laboratory experience.

Certification and Licensure
All States and the District of Columbia require that optometrists be licensed. Applicants for a license must have a Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited optometry school and must pass both a written National Board examination and a National, regional, or State clinical examination. The written and clinical examinations of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry usually are taken during the student’s academic career. Many States also require applicants to pass an examination on relevant State laws. Licenses must be renewed every 1 to 3 years and, in all States, continuing education credits are needed for renewal.

  Business ability, self-discipline, and the ability to deal tactfully with patients are important for success. The work of optometrists also requires attention to detail and manual dexterity.


The median annual salary for an Optometrist is $94,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $145,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $48,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of optometrists are:

  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners - $98,210
  • Offices of Physicians- $121,480
  • Health and Personal Care Stores - $103,780
  • Outpatient Care Centers - $102,870
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $103,140

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 3,700
  • Employment 2006 : 33,000
  • Employment 2016:  36,000
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