A medical career dealing with the treatment of eyes and vision is the career of an optometrist. If you’re interested in this type of career, it’s a good idea to know how to become an optometrist.
There are many options in the medical field. If you know you want to go into medicine, maybe becoming an optometrist makes sense. Let’s look at the job duties and how to become an optometrist to make your decision easier.
Job Duties of an Optometrist
As an optometrist, your job will have to do with treating the eyes and vision of your patients. You will treat eye injuries, prescribe correctional lenses, and diagnose eye-related diseases. You will likely work in a private practice setting. Some of the main job duties include:
- Performing regular eye exams for patients
- Performing patient vision tests
- Diagnosing common eye issues and diseases including cataracts and nearsightedness
- Treating vision issues
- Prescribing corrective lenses including contacts and glasses
- Addressing and treating eye-related medical emergencies
- Providing referrals to local hospitals for more advanced procedures
You will spend most of your days performing eye exams and vision tests. These tests will help to determine the type of glasses or contacts you might prescribe to the patient.
How to Become an Optometrist in 7 Steps
Step #1 – Complete High School
Since becoming an optometrist will require college, you need to complete high school. You want to do very well in high school and finish with a high GPA. High SAT and ACT scores can also be very helpful.
Getting into a good bachelor’s degree program is important. This will help to ensure you’re prepared for the next step. Make sure you do very well in high school and take AP courses, when possible.
Step #2 – Get a Bachelor’s Degree
Before you can apply to an optometry program, you will need to get a bachelor’s degree. This degree should be in pre-medicine or biology. Make sure you keep your GPA up, as it will help when it comes to getting into an optometry program.
Step #3 – Pass the Optometry Admission Test
You will need to pass the Optometry Admission Test before you can get into an optometry program. This computerized exam will test your knowledge in the areas of physics, reading comprehension, science, and quantitative reasoning. It’s best to score as high as possible on this test.
Step #4 – Get Your Doctoral Degree
After passing the Optometry Admission Test, you will need to spend four years in a Doctor of Optometry Program. this program will include coursework in physiology, visual science, advanced anatomy, optics, and how to diagnose and treat eye disorders and diseases.
Step #5 – Complete Your Residency
After earning your doctoral degree, you will likely want to complete a residency. It’s not required for optometrists. However, a year of clinical training can help you land a job after completing your education.
Step #6 – Become Licensed
You will need to pass all the sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry Exam to get your license. This is a four-part exam and required to be proactive as an optometrist in the United States.
In some states, you will also need to pass an additional exam on medical ethics and a clinical exam. Every few years, you will need to complete continuing education courses to renew your license, as well.
Step #7 – Earn Certifications
You can earn certifications to help improve your job opportunities. The American Board of Optometry offers a certification, which includes passing an exam.
Common Skills Needed to Be an Optometrist
If you want to become an optometrist, you will need specific skills. Some of the skills you will need outside of the medical training and education you will receive include:
- Problem Solving– You will need to solve the problems of your patients. They may have symptoms and complaints you need to listen to before coming to a conclusion. Good problem-solving skills will help you be a successful optometrist.
- Communication Skills– Working with patients and other medical caregivers requires you to be a good communicator. You will need to come up with treatment plans and clearly explain them to your patients. Communication skills are vital to this career.
- Listening Skills– You will need to listen to the symptoms of your patients to help diagnose them. This will help ensure you know what’s going on with your patients, as well. With good listening skills, you can be accurate and effective in coming up with the right treatment plan.
- Interpersonal Skills– You will need to interpret many nonverbal cues from your patients, as well. Earning the trust of your patients is very important or they will likely not take you seriously. Good interpersonal skills will help you do just that.
Becoming an optometrist will require many skills. These four skills will be necessary if you want the best chances for success.
Frequently Asked Questions About Being an Optometrist
How much can I make as an optometrist?
Any type of doctor will make a large salary and an optometrist is no different. According to Indeed.com, you will likely make an average salary of around $285K per year. This salary can be higher with more experience or if you work in the right location.
Some of the top employers will pay well above $500K per year for an optometrist. Chicago is the highest-paying city with Omaha, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Philadelphia all paying above the national average, as well.
What type of benefits does an optometrist receive?
If you become an optometrist and you work for an employer, you’ll receive a nice benefits package. It will likely include health insurance with dental and vision insurance. Most employers will also provide paid time off, a 410(k) with matching, disability insurance, AD&D insurance, and a flexible schedule. You may also get relocation assistance, a store discount, and mileage reimbursement.
Is this a high-demand career?
Currently, this career is expected to grow by about 10% over the next ten years. This is about twice as fast as the average of all occupations in the United States.
Where will I work as an optometrist?
Most commonly, optometrists will work in a private clinic. This type of clinic will likely specialize in eye care. You may also work in a physician’s office, for the military, in a health and personal care store, or as a self-employed practitioner.
How many hours will I work as an optometrist?
It’s common for an optometrist to work full-time. You will usually work regular business hours similar to 9-to-5, but you may work some overtime, as well. Some optometrists will work a shorter day on Saturday and may work some evening hours, as well.
How long will it take me to become an optometrist?
You will need to complete high school and a bachelor’s degree before you can start your education towards becoming an optometrist. An optometry program will last four years, after your undergraduate work. Once you complete this program and pass the Optometry Admission Test, you will be a Doctor of Optometry.
Some optometrists will complete a one-year residency, as well. Typically, it will take about 8 to 10 years to become an optometrist, after high school.
What is the difference between an optician and an optometrist?
An optician doesn’t have the same advanced education as an optometrist. If you become an optician, you cannot offer medical care, while an optometrist can. As an optician, you only need a two-year associate’s degree and an apprenticeship.
Opticians can repair classes, check lens prescriptions, order glasses and contacts for patients, and take facial measurements. They typically assist an optometrist or work at an optical store in a retail environment.
What’s the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist?
The biggest difference between these two careers is an ophthalmologist has an M.D. and can provide additional services for patients. As an ophthalmologist, you will be a medical doctor with the ability to assess the needs of a patient needing surgery and even perform the surgery.
An optometrist doesn’t perform surgery on patients. Both must be licensed and both are considered to be doctors.
What type of professional organization should an optometrist join?
There are several options for optometrists when it comes to professional organizations. The two most common are the World Council of Optometry and the American Optometric Association.
What are some of the other positions found in an optical office?
Along with the optometrist, you may find several other types of workers in an optical office. There will likely be all or at least some of the following:
- Optical assistant
- Optometric technician
- Ophthalmic assistant
- Office manager
These are just some of the possible positions found in an optical office. Other support staff may also be found within the office.
If you’re looking for a unique career in the medical field, becoming an optometrist might be for you. This type of doctor is someone that specializes in eye and vision care. You will work with patients and reap many great rewards including a high salary.