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How to Become an Optometrist

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Many young people find the career of an optometrist very satisfying. If this profession is what you have set as your 'Career Goal'; read up to know the role, and what it takes to become one.
An optometrist is a professional who examines people's eyes for any vision defects, as well as for the presence of underlying medical conditions.
These professionals are different from ophthalmologists who are essentially eye doctors. One can become an ophthalmologist after acquiring a doctor's degree, and then specializing in eye care and surgery. An optometrist, on the other hand, is not an eye doctor, and hence, cannot give medications or perform surgeries.

Job Description

An optometrist's job is to assist people in order to maintain good sight. They work either in collaboration with a general physician or in optic shops. Some may even practice on their own.
They are trained to perform basic and comprehensive eye examinations which include checking the eyesight of an individual, and also checking for certain medical conditions like diabetes, glaucoma, etc.
Optometrists can treat minor infections or other such problems. However, they are not trained to treat serious eye problems. In such cases, they recommend an ophthalmologist or a specialist in the field. The required personnel skills for an optometrist are attention to detail, good observation, and ability to interact with patients.
On an average, they work for about 40 hours a week. Although working hours are often fixed, they might have to bend their timings a little to accommodate the customer's schedule. The best thing about an optometrist is that you will have very few emergency calls. The salary range may be between about USD 77,900 and USD 144,300 a year.

How to Become an Optometrist

Optometry is a four-year degree course with an exhausting syllabus and training. You will have to complete a course in English, physics, chemistry, maths, and biology at high school level, before you consider getting admitted to an optometry school.
The requirements to become an optometrist vary for every optometry school, hence, check the requirements for getting admitted to an optometry school in your respective state. Some schools demand 3 years of college education, while others do not admit you unless you have an undergraduate degree.
People with a science major find it easier to get admitted in an optometry school. Consider specializing in chemistry or biology to elevate your chances of getting admitted to an optometry school. If you are not a science major, then you might benefit from taking certain laboratory-based courses.
You may also think about taking voluntary optometry classes or internship programs. All optometry aspirants are required to take an Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) to become eligible for getting admission to an optometry school. You may take this test more than once to improve your score, if you are not satisfied.
Good scores will get you admitted to an accredited university which offers a 4-year Doctor of Optometry program. During these four years, you will be studying a wide range of topics from biology and biochemistry to math and clinical science. The syllabus is exhaustive and demanding.
Students of optometry also learn optic science and vision science. There are several theory, practical, and laboratory courses in the syllabus. Students also receive a hands-on training in optometry during their course. In short, this program is only for those who are serious about making a career as an optometrist.
After successful completion of the course, you may be eligible to get a job as a qualified optometrist. If you wish to practice privately, you have to take a test for getting the required license. Licensed optometrist have better career prospects with excellent earnings. You may take up a job in teaching or research after completing graduation in optometry.
Thus, optometrists have a rewarding career, both in terms of job satisfaction, and finance. You will be getting to help people from various backgrounds. However, be prepared to undergo a rigorous training and exhaustive syllabus, if you really wish to excel academically.