How Long Does IT Take to Become an Optometrist?
Do you want to help people with their eye problems? Do you wear glasses or know someone who does? Are you interested in learning about vision issues? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be interested in a career as an optometrist. It takes around eight years to become an optometrist, so read on to find out how to prepare for this career. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Optometrists are physicians that care for your eyes. If you are 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 optometrists will refer you to a ophthalmologist. Optometrists also provide your vision care before and after a surgical procedure and the optometrist may administer prescriptions and vision therapy.
Education and Licensure
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 April 2011 there were 19 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.
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 that you not only know the appropriate information, but that you can correctly perform procedures. Continuing education credits are necessary to renew your license every 1-3 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) reported that optometrists were expected to see a 24% growth in employment from 2008 to 2018 (www.bls.gov). This projection means you may see a much faster than the average growth for optometrists in comparison to other vocations during that decade. 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 2009, the BLS reported that optometrists had an average annual income of $106,960. Optometrists that received the highest pay worked in physician offices with a reported average yearly income of $129,810. The top five paying states for optometrists were Louisiana, Tennessee, Kansas, Washington and Ohio.
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