Optometrists: Job Description & Requirements

Dec 11, 2019

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.

Education Completion of bachelor's degree and 4-year optometry program
Job Skills Management and business skills, plus ability to multitask and delegate
Median Salary (2017)* $110,300
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* Much faster-than-average growth of 18%

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 18% from 2016-2026. The median annual salary for optometrists as of May 2017 was $110,300.

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 $36,250 in 2017 for dispensing opticians, and it predicted much faster-than-average job growth of 15% from 2016 through 2026.


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 12% was projected by the BLS during the 2016-2026 decade for this profession. The job paid an annual median salary of $68,640 in 2017.

Expert Contributor: Kristyn Blandford Kristyn has a master's degree and 11+ years' experience in health-related fields, including administration, client services, and clinical supervision.

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