Comparing Optometrists to Pharmacists
Optometrists and pharmacists are licensed professionals that focus on optical health and providing medicines to patients, respectively. While they are both involved in helping meet people's healthcare needs, they each have very different responsibilities and education backgrounds. Learn about these professionals as well as the differences in the money they earn and the job outlook in their fields.
|Job Title||Educational Requirements||Median Salary (2016)*||Job Growth (2016-2026)*|
|Optometrists||Doctoral or professional degree||$106,140||17%|
|Pharmacists||Doctoral or professional degree||$122,230||6%|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Responsibilities of Optometrists vs. Pharmacists
Optometrists and pharmacists are both licensed to work in the healthcare field and may consult with doctors as part of their daily responsibilities. Additionally, both may work in their own offices or pharmacies, allowing them more autonomy. The former, however, focuses on the health of people's eyes and their visual abilities. The latter focuses on dispensing medications to patients.
To accurately define issues with sight, optometrists receive special training in ocular physiology and geometric optics. Their major task is analyzing results from vision tests to determine the need for glasses or contacts. Sometimes, they may aid patients who have had laser therapy to correct their vision and track their healing. Additionally, they may prescribe eye drops for infections or other damage to the cornea they detect during an examination. Crossed eyes or lazy eyes can also be treated by rehabilitative exercises suggested by an optometrist. Finally, these eye doctors can determine the health of the eyes and optic nerves to detect other health issues, such as high blood pressure.
Job responsibilities of an optometrist include:
- Previewing a patient's file to compare old prescriptions to track changes in visual acuity
- Measuring the patient's face and eyes for corrective lenses
- Utilizing practices, such as topography, to diagnose corneal diseases
- Diagnosing glaucoma and astigmatisms
Pharmacists work with doctors and other healthcare providers to ensure patients are getting the correct number and dosage of medications. Some may actually assist a doctor in choosing the correct medication to treat a patient. Their main focus, however, is filling prescription medication orders. This can include ensuring medications will not interact in a harmful way by checking and updating patient files, as well as educating the patient on how and when to take their medications. Informing a patient about the possible side effects is also a duty given to these professionals. On the logistical side of things, pharmacists supervise pharmacy technicians, track inventory, and fill out insurance forms.
Job responsibilities of a pharmacist include:
- Labeling pharmaceuticals according to procedure
- Administering flu shots and other immunizations
- Offering generic brand options to keep costs down for patients
- Advising patients on over-the-counter medications, such as cold and cough syrup, and medical equipment, such as blood-sugar testers
If you're interested in a career as an optometrist, you may also consider a position as an ophthalmologist, since both focus on improving a patient's sight. Additionally, if you're curious about a career as a pharmacist, you could research a job as a pharmacologist, as both work with medications.