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Optometrists: Job Description & Requirements

Learn all about what an optometrist does. Explore the training and skills requirements, while you find out the salary expectation and employment outlook, to decide if this career is for you.

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Career Definition

Optometrists are the most common source of vision care in the U.S. health care system. They are responsible for examining patients, diagnosing eye and vision problems, testing patients' depth and color perception, and testing patients' ability to coordinate and focus their eyes. Optometrists also prescribe contact lenses and glasses, treat eye problems like glaucoma, refer patients to other doctors, and also are often in charge of managing personnel and office affairs.

How to Become an Optometrist

Educational Requirements

If you're interested in becoming an optometrist, you'll first need to complete a 4-year bachelor's program, preferably in a relevant or related field like biology, chemistry, or physiology. You'll need a bachelor's degree to apply for optometry programs, which are rather competitive. Optometry programs typically take an additional four years to complete; upon completion you must meet national and your state's licensing requirements in order to become a practicing optometrist.

Skills Required

Because many optometrists own and operate their own practices, it's important for them to have good business, accounting and managerial skills. Being able to multitask, delegate and communicate effectively is critical for having a successful career as an optometrist.

Employment and Economic Outlook

The employment outlook for optometrists is very good; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, is projecting that employment in the field will grow 24% from 2012-2022. The median annual earnings for optometrists in May 2012 were $97,820.

Alternate Career Options

Dispensing Optician

Some enter this profession with a high school diploma and learn while on the job, although others earn associate's degrees or certificates in postsecondary institutions. Dispensing opticians fit customers with contact lenses and eyeglasses. The BLS reported an annual median income of $33,330 in 2012 for dispensing opticians, and it predicted much faster-than-average job growth of 23% through 2022.

Chiropractor

By earning a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and state licensing, chiropractors offer services to patients with problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system by using spinal adjustments and manipulations. Faster-than-average employment growth of 15% was projected by the BLS during the 2012-2022 decade for this profession. The job paid an annual median salary of $66,160 in 2012.

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