How Long Does IT Take to Become an Optometrist?

Optometrists are eye care experts, and they help people prevent and manage eye problems. It takes around eight years to become an optometrist - read on to find out how to prepare for this career. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Optometrists are physicians that care for your eyes. If you're having a vision problem, an optometrist will examine your eyes and provide you with a diagnosis. In some cases, an optometrist may prescribe corrective lenses to treat your vision problem. If you have an eye disease, such as glaucoma, your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist. Optometrists also provide your vision care before and after a surgical procedure, and the optometrist may administer prescriptions and vision therapy.

Education

If you want to become an optometrist, you'll need about eight years of education. Depending on how fast you work, you might be able to graduate sooner if you take on additional credit hours or complete coursework during the summer. A bachelor's degree in an appropriate subject, like chemistry or biology, is the first step. Under normal circumstances, this degree takes four years to acquire.

After that, you'll begin your optometry program. This program lasts four years and results in a Doctor of Optometry degree. As of November 2013, there were 23 schools accredited by the American Optometric Association, the accrediting body for optometry schools (www.aoa.org). Classes you're expected to complete in these programs include applied ocular anatomy, geometric and theoretical optics, vision science, and ocular physiology.

Licensing

In order to start working, you'll need to be licensed by your state. You must provide proof that you graduated from an accredited school with a Doctor of Optometry degree, and you'll need to pass a state and national examination. The exam includes written and clinical portions to ensure you not only know the appropriate information, but that you can correctly perform procedures. Continuing education credits are necessary to renew your license every one to three years.

Internship and Work Experience

While not a requirement, you may want to acquire some work experience before or directly after graduation. Residency programs provide an opportunity to obtain some real work experience. Normally requiring a year to complete, a residency program can give you access to special training and experience in area of optometry like family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, rehabilitation, and ocular disease.

Job Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported that optometrists were expected to see 24% growth in employment opportunities from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than average. As the population grows and ages, a rise in demand for vision care is expected. Additionally, the BLS projected that increased job growth might be driven by more health insurance companies including vision care in their health plans.

In May 2012, the BLS reported that optometrists had an average annual income of $109,810. Optometrists that received the highest pay worked in physician offices, with a reported average yearly income of $127,380. The top five paying states for optometrists were Alaska, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Dakota, and South Carolina.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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