Career Choice: Optometrists

Career Choice: Optometrists
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    They represent the professionals you will see when matters of the eye come into focus.

    They're known informally as eye doctors, but are formally known as optometrists, individuals that are qualified to diagnose, manage, and treat eye conditions and diseases.

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At your annual eye inspection, optometrists will examine your eyes and visual system, diagnose problems, prescribe corrective lenses, and give treatment. When eye conditions are present, your optometrist may also prescribe therapeutic drugs.

Duties

It is through the annual eye exam where many patients learn about their eye problems or may discover other health issues such as diabetes. Optometrists use instruments and pharmaceutical agents to treat eyes and can detect problems through observation. Abnormalities, such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, strabismus and amblyopia can be diagnosed, with a treatment plan arranged.

Optometrists may prescribe medications, fit patients for glasses, contact lenses or other visual aids, educate and counsel patients, provide vision therapy and remove foreign bodies from the eye. Optometrists may work with ophthalmologists and other medical professionals when surgery is required.

Education

To qualify as an optometrist, a Ph.D. is required. The educational groundwork, however, is laid in high school where students are expected to excel at their studies and achieve excellent grades in biology, chemistry, physiology and other science courses. At the college level, they will pursue a bachelor’s degree, usually in the health science field with pre-optometry courses included.

During the third year of college students should take the Optometry Admissions Test, then apply for admission into a school that is credited by the Council on Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. If accepted, students must complete a four-year program, pass a state board exam and apply for licensure from their state once they receive an O.D. degree. Those optometrists that want to become a specialist may also complete a one-year postgraduate degree program.

Salaries

The average salary for optometrists was $97,820 as of 2012 reports the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in the 10th percentile averaged $52,600 per year, while those in the 25th percentile earned $75,100 per year on average. Salaries in the 50th percentile averaged $97,800 per year. Optometrists in the 75th percentile earned $128,500 per year, while those in the 90th percentile averaged $184,500 according to the BLS.

Salaries for optometrists in Alaska far outstripped the national average and came in well above the next state. Optometrists in Alaska averaged $159,800 per year in 2012 according to the BLS. In Connecticut, the average was $129,900, followed by North Carolina at $119,100. Average salaries in 20 states topped the $100,000 per year threshold.

On the bottom end of the pay range was Idaho where average salaries came in at $70,900 per year according to the BLS. Arkansas at $75,900, Wyoming at $77,500 and Louisiana at $77,600 were also near the bottom.

Job Outlook

The BLS has forecast a 33 percent increase in optometrist positions from 2010 to 2020. That compares to 14 percent for all jobs.

Fueling the rise of new positions is an older populace, one that typically begins to experience sight problems as they age. Add in the rise of diabetes and the need for medical professionals to step in increases.

Competition for medical school is keen and those that successfully complete their schooling, pass their entrance exam and seek employment should find good opportunities especially as older professionals retire.

References

Summary Report for: 29-1041.00 – Optometrists

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Optometrists


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