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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.

Career Definition of an Optometrist

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.

EducationCompletion of bachelor's degree and 4-year optometry program
Job SkillsManagement and business skills, plus ability to multitask and delegate
Median Salary (2015)*$103,900
Job Outlook (2014-2024)*Much faster-than-average growth of 27%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 27% from 2014-2024. The median annual earnings for optometrists in May 2015 were $103,900.

Alternate Career Options

Other careers to consider in the healthcare field include:

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 $34,840 in 2015 for dispensing opticians, and it predicted much faster-than-average job growth of 24% through 2024.

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. Much faster-than-average employment growth of 17% was projected by the BLS during the 2014-2024 decade for this profession. The job paid an annual median salary of $64,440 in 2015.

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