Optometrist: Executive Summary

Optometrist. Ophthalmologist. Optician. Many people confuse them.

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Optometrist. Ophthalmologist. Optician. Many people confuse them, but a career as an optometrist offers unmistakable advantages. Optometrists on average earn more than twice as much as opticians (the people who grind lenses and fit you for glasses). And optometrists get to do most of what ophthalmologists do, without the medical degree: diagnose and treat eye diseases, perform minor surgery (in some states), and of course fit people for glasses and contact lenses. Yet the required training is years shorter than it is for an ophthalmologist: a four-year, post-bachelor's program.

With so many aging boomers in need of vision care, the job prospects are strong. Laser surgery that corrects vision problems has slightly diminished demand for optometrists, but in the future that's likely to be outweighed by demographic trends and other factors. There's also a lot of satisfaction in this career, since most vision problems can be corrected with lenses or relatively minor surgery.

Because the job is so appealing, it can be tough to land a spot in optometry school. Most optometrists are self-employed, so it helps if you have an entrepreneurial bent and a knack for smart marketing approaches, like conducting free vision screenings in shopping malls.

Median Pay

National: $99,700. More pay data by metropolitan area

(Data provided by PayScale.com)

Training

The American Optometric Association publishes links to the websites of all the accredited optometry schools in the United States and Canada.

Smart Specialty

Pediatric Optometry. The eye problems of children are generally among the most remediable. And the American Optometric Association projects high growth in this niche.

Other Resources