Health Care Careers - Optometrist

When people have problems with their vision, they may go to see an optometrist. Optometrists, also referred to as doctors of optometry, examine patients' vision and treat any eye infections or diseases. During an eye examination, optometrists give patients different tests using instruments or merely observing a patient's eyes. They test for sharpness of vision, depth perception, color perception, and ability to focus. Once the tests are complete, optometrists review the test results and prescribe treatment. Most times, optometrists prescribe corrective lenses, such as glasses or contact lenses, for vision problems. Sometimes, they use vision therapy to treat a problem. If an infection or disease is present, optometrists prescribe medication. Optometrists do not, however, perform eye surgery on patients. This job is performed by ophthalmologists, physicians who specialize in eye health and can perform surgery on the eyes.

According to the American Optometric Association, two-thirds of all optometrists have their own private practice. This means they are not only treating patients, but they are also running a business. Running a business usually involves hiring people, taking care of the finances, finding new patients, updating equipment, and investing in new technology. There is a growing trend among optometrists to work together, sharing a practice with one or more optometrists. This allows the optometrists to share the responsibilities of running a business or to have the flexibility to work in other environments, such as clinics or vision care centers.

There are other career options for optometrists who do not open a private practice. Some optometrists choose to specialize in other areas of the field. They may work specifically with children or the elderly, or they may focus on improving the vision of people working in certain environments who are vulnerable to eye problems on the job. Some optometrists even specialize in sports vision, helping athletes with any vision problems. In addition, optometrists may also work in hospitals, at HMOs, or for ophthalmologists. A smaller number of optometrists choose to work as consultants for insurance companies or other companies, conduct research, or teach.

Training to Be an Optometrist

In order to become an optometrist, one must receive a doctor of optometry from an optometry school that is accredited by the Council on Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. A person must have a bachelor's degree (four-year college degree) from a college or university in order to apply to an optometry program. Optometry schools accept students who have studied math and science in college and who have passed the Optometry Admission Test.

A student in an optometry program, which lasts four years, will do classroom and laboratory work as well as have practical training. After completing optometry school, it's necessary to take another examination given by the state in which the school is located in order to receive a license to practice optometry. Optometrists must continue their education so that they can renew their license every one to three years. If optometrists wish to specialize in other areas, teach, or conduct research, postgraduate work is necessary.

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