USA Career Guide- Optometrists

Education  and License of Optometrists

Optometrists need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Applicants to O.D. programs must have completed at least 3 years of postsecondary education, including coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and mathematics. In practice, most students get a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a Doctor of Optometry program. Applicants must also take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) to apply to O.D. programs.
Doctor of Optometry programs take 4 years to complete. After finishing the O.D., some optometrists do a 1-year residency program to get advanced clinical training in a specialty. Specialty areas for residency programs include family practice, primary eye care, pediatric or geriatric optometry, vision therapy and rehabilitation, cornea and contact lenses, refractive and ocular surgery, low vision rehabilitation, ocular disease, and community health optometry.


All states require optometrists to be licensed. To get a license, a prospective optometrist must have an O.D. from an accredited optometry school and must complete all sections of the National Boards in Optometry. Some states require an additional exam. Many states require optometrists to take continuing education and renew their license periodically.

Pay of Optometrists

according to BLS the median annual wage of optometrists was $94,990 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,630, and the top 10 percent earned $166,400 or more.

Job Prospects of Optometrists

Employment of optometrists is expected to grow by 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The new opportunities would be created by establishment of new offices, the inclusion of optometrists in interdisciplinary practices, and the growth of group practices, in addition to the expanding scope of care provided by optometrists. There has also been an increase in the number of corporate optometry locations, which has created demand for optometrists. Because the number of optometrists is limited by the number of accredited optometry schools, licensed optometrists should expect good job prospects. In addition, a large number of currently practicing optometrists is expected to retire over the coming decade, creating opportunities for new optometrists.

Industrial Overview of  Optometrists

Optometrists held about 34,200 jobs in 2010. About half of optometrists work in stand-alone offices of optometry.
As shown in the following tabulation, 50 percent of optometrists were employed in offices of optometrists in 2010:
Offices of optometrists    50%
Offices of physicians    13
Health and personal care stores    8
Outpatient care centers    2
About 22 percent of optometrists were self-employed in 2010.

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
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