In the US and Canada, optometrists are considered Doctors of Optometry. They are required to complete medical training as well as the specialized training needed to diagnose illnesses of the eye. Doctors of optometry are able to perform medical procedures including laser treatments. Their medical training also allows them to treat diseases through ingested medications and topical solutions. As a result of their medical training, optometrists who are certified doctors are subject the same laws as other medical doctors when it comes to their practice and their patients.
In other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, those seeking to pursue optometry are not required to undertake medical training. The care they are able to provide their patients is limited to monitoring the health of the eye and providing prescriptions for corrective eyeglasses or bi-weekly contact lenses for comfortable vision. Because they lack medical training they are unable to issue prescriptions for medication in the form of drugs or topical solutions. Furthermore, they do not have the power or training to perform invasive procedures including surgery and laser treatments. If a patient requires such treatment, he or she is referred to an ophthalmologist, a neurologist or a general physician to determine the next course of action.
Education and Practicing Optometry
While some countries are laxer in their legal boundaries concerning the practice of optometry, many nations require up-to-date licensing in order to run an optometry practice. In the US individuals must first complete a Doctor of Optometry degree.
This degree program can typically be completed in five years. Upon successful graduation, the candidate must then pass an examination issued by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry or NBEO. This exam is composed of three parts which include basic science, clinical science, and patient care. After passing the exam an optometrist is officially granted the ability to practice optometry, however, there is still more learning to be done. As with any other medical discipline, there are specialties and sub-categories a newly graduated optometrist will be able to explore. This time of exploration is usually undertaken as a residency.
A residency is a brief period of time during which new optometrists are able to explore and experience the various specialties in the vast field of optometry. This is a time to figure out which specialty is most suitable for them. During this period of discovery, candidates shadow established, veteran optometrists of every specialty they can to determine which area they will pursue during their career. Even after an optometrist has chosen a specialty and begun working in their chosen field, the learning process is still not over. In fact, optometrists will spend a lot of their careers learning new skills and staying informed of the advancements that occur in their field to better their ability to treat their patients.
An Optometrist’s Salary Expectations
Starting out, an optometrist can expect to make a salary of anywhere between $40,000 to 43,000 a year. This figure is, of course, at the lower end of the spectrum. After a few years of practicing optometry salary expectations can rise to between $80,000 to $87,000. At the highest end of the spectrum, an optometrist can expect to make around $130,000. The highest paid optometrists are found in metropolitan areas where the demand for optometry practitioners prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses with blending designs complimenting the natural eye color is much higher than the number of optometrists available.
Taking into consideration the demand for optometrists, the variety of specialties available and the relatively minimal time spent in school, optometry is a very stable career option. Those who enjoy patient care and a constant thirst for knowledge and learning will undoubtedly be satisfied in pursuing optometry.