So you’re thinking about becoming an optometrist. Awesome! I’m going to tell you a little bit about what optometry is, the requirements and qualifications, the career outlook, and how much money you can make.
What is Optometry?
Optometrists are medical doctors that treat patients with vision problems. They use diagnostic instruments such as a slit lamp microscope to examine your eyes and diagnose conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism (a refractive error where the cornea is more curved in one direction than another), cataracts (cloudiness of the lens), glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye), macular degeneration (loss of cells at the center of your retina), diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in your retina from diabetes) etc. They also prescribe glasses or contact lenses for those who need them. In most states optometrists can only prescribe corrective lenses for distance vision; however some states allow them to prescribe contact lenses for nearsightedness or farsightedness too. If an individual has other medical issues related to their eyesight then they will be referred out to ophthalmologists or other specialists depending on their needs. The cool glasses they wear are a tool they use to examine your eyes.
Optometrists also provide vision exams for people who need them (glasses or contacts). They use a chart on the wall called an E chart to measure how well you can see at various distances. If you have trouble seeing the big “E” then you might need glasses or contacts. You can schedule appointments with optometrists to get your eyes examined, and if he/she determines that you need glasses or contacts then they will prescribe them for you. If not, then there is no charge for the exam! It’s really nice because I know it would be hard for me to pay money every time I wanted my eyes checked out just in case I needed glasses!
What do Optometrists Do?
As mentioned above, optometrists specialize in eye care. They diagnose and treat diseases pertaining to your vision such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, cataracts etc (they don’t treat glaucoma yet though – this is one of their main limitations). If an individual has another eye disease they will refer them out to ophthalmologists or other specialists depending on their needs. Optometrists also provide vision exams which include measuring how well someone can see at various distances using a special chart called an E chart as mentioned above.
Optometrists are also in charge of fitting people for glasses and contacts. They use a variety of tests to determine the strength and type of lens you will need. They can fit you for glasses or contacts, but if the problem is severe enough then he/she might refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who will do surgery on your eyes to correct them i.e. laser surgery to correct astigmatism, laser surgery or insert contact lenses into your eyes if they are too dry etc..
Optometrists also provide patient education about eye care and vision problems so that patients know what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and how they can improve their vision problems at home by following their recommendations such as wearing their glasses regularly (if needed), getting regular eye exams, eating healthy foods etc…
How Do You Become an Optometrist?
To become an optometrist you must complete all the requirements listed below:
Undergraduate degree: You must complete a four year undergraduate program where most courses consist of biology, chemistry & physics with lots of anatomy & physiology thrown in there as well. Courses in psychology, sociology, speech pathology and education are also recommended for good measure.
Pre-Optometry courses: You must complete at least one year of pre-optometry courses which consist primarily of biology and physics with some chemistry thrown in there too (a lot of anatomy/physiology content is included as well). Courses in statistics, computer science, accounting and economics are also helpful because they provide a strong background for applying to medical school. You can take pre-optometry courses either during your undergraduate coursework or after you graduate. I would suggest taking them while you’re still an undergraduate because it helps to familiarize yourself with the material you need to study for the entrance exam when you get there. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than taking classes later on.
Optometry is a great career. You meet a lot of people and you help them get their vision problems under control which can have a big impact on their quality of life. The hours are pretty decent too because most days you will be working from 9-5 (although I know for some people it’s more like 10-7). A downside though is that optometrists don’t usually get to do surgery (like ophthalmologists) which can be frustrating depending on how much you enjoy hands on work. Also the pay isn’t really that great i.e., $150,000/year but with some hard work, dedication and perseverance your salary could reach over $250,000/year by the time you’re an experienced professional!
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