Optometrists

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Optometrists diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes.

Work Environment: Most optometrists work in stand-alone offices of optometry. Optometrists may also work in doctors’ offices and optical goods stores, and some are self-employed. Most work full time, and some work evenings and weekends to accommodate patients' needs.

How to Become One: Optometrists must complete a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree program and obtain a license to practice in a particular state. O.D. programs take 4 years to complete, and most students have a bachelor’s degree before entering such a program.

Salary: The median annual wage for optometrists is $124,300.

Job Outlook: Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 10 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of optometrists with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as an optometrist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Optometrist Jobs

  • Optometrist - Sublease - Corporate Practice - Long Beach, CA - Corporate practice sublease - Long Beach, CA

    Optometrist - Sublease - Corporate Practice - Long Beach, CA *New grads and experienced doctors are encouraged to apply! We are looking for comprehensive primary eye care specialists who are able to ...

  • Optometrist - Sublease - Corporate Practice - Colton, CA - Corporate practice sublease - Colton, CA

    Optometrist - Sublease - Corporate Practice - Colton, CA *New grads and experienced doctors are encouraged to apply! We are looking for comprehensive primary eye care specialists who are able to see ...

  • Optometrist - Gpac - Dayton, OH

    My client is looking for a highly skilled Optometrist to add to their team and help them continue to grow their practice and outreach. This is a patient-focused practice that believes in treating ...

See all Optometrist jobs

What Optometrists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Duties of Optometrists

Optometrists typically do the following:

  • Perform vision tests and analyze results
  • Diagnose sight problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, and eye diseases, such as glaucoma
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids, and if state law permits, medications
  • Perform minor surgical procedures to correct or treat visual or eye health issues
  • Provide treatments such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation
  • Provide pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery—for example, examining a patient's eyes the day after surgery
  • Evaluate patients for the presence of other diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed
  • Promote eye and general health by counseling patients

Some optometrists spend much of their time providing specialized care, particularly if they are working in a group practice with other optometrists or physicians. For example, some optometrists mostly treat patients with only partial sight, a condition known as low vision. Others may focus on treating infants and children.

Optometrists promote eye health and counsel patients on how general health can affect eyesight. For example, they may counsel patients on how quitting smoking or losing weight can reduce vision problems.

Many optometrists own their practice, and those who do may spend more time on general business activities, such as hiring employees, ordering supplies, and marketing their business.

Optometrists also may work as postsecondary teachers, do research in optometry colleges, or work as consultants in the eye care industry.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery and treat eye diseases in addition to performing eye exams and prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses. For more information on ophthalmologists, see the physicians and surgeons profile. Opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses and, in some states, fill contact lens prescriptions that an optometrist or ophthalmologist has written.

Work Environment for Optometrists[About this section] [To Top]

Optometrists hold about 41,400 jobs. The largest employers of optometrists are as follows:

Offices of optometrists 59%
Offices of physicians 17%
Health and personal care stores 11%
Self-employed workers 5%

Optometrist Work Schedules

Most optometrists work full time. Some work evenings and weekends to accommodate patients' needs.

How to Become an Optometrist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Optometrists near you!

Optometrists must complete a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree program and obtain a license to practice in a particular state. O.D. programs take 4 years to complete, and most students have a bachelor's degree before entering such a program.

Education for Optometrists

Optometrists need an O.D. degree. In 2016, there were 20 accredited O.D. programs in the United States, one of which was in Puerto Rico.

Applicants to O.D. programs must have completed at least 3 years of postsecondary education. Required courses include those in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and math. Most students have a bachelor's degree with a premedical or biological sciences emphasis before enrolling in an O.D. program.

Applicants to O.D. programs must also take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), a computerized exam that tests applicants in four subject areas: science, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.

O.D. programs take 4 years to complete. They combine classroom learning and supervised clinical experience. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the visual system.

After finishing an O.D. degree, some optometrists complete a 1-year residency program to get advanced clinical training in the area in which they wish to specialize. Areas of specialization for residency programs include family practice, low vision rehabilitation, pediatric or geriatric optometry, and ocular disease, among others.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Optometrists

All states require optometrists to be licensed. To get a license, a prospective optometrist must have an O.D. degree from an accredited optometry school and must complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam.

Some states require individuals to pass an additional clinical exam or an exam on laws relating to optometry. All states require optometrists to take continuing education classes and to renew their license periodically. The board of optometry in each state can provide information on licensing requirements.

Optometrists who wish to demonstrate an advanced level of knowledge may choose to become board certified by the American Board of Optometry.

Important Qualities for Optometrists

Decisionmaking skills. Optometrists must evaluate the results of a variety of diagnostic tests and decide on the best course of treatment for a patient.

Detail oriented. Optometrists must ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment and that medications and prescriptions are accurate. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.

Interpersonal skills. Optometrists spend most of their time examining patients, so they must be at ease interacting with patients and must make them feel comfortable during treatment.

Speaking skills. Optometrists must clearly explain eye care instructions to their patients, as well as answer patients' questions.

Optometrist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for optometrists is $124,300. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $192,390.

The median annual wages for optometrists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Offices of physicians $128,390
Health and personal care stores $126,780
Offices of optometrists $106,260

Most optometrists work full time. Some work evenings and weekends to accommodate their patients' needs.

Job Outlook for Optometrists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 10 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,700 openings for optometrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment of Optometrists

Because vision problems tend to occur more frequently later in life, an aging population will lead to demand for optometrists. As people age, they become more susceptible to conditions that impair vision, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, and will need vision care.

The increasing prevalence of refractive errors, particularly myopia, among the general population is another key source of demand for optometrists as they will be needed to diagnose and treat these common eye problems. Moreover, the growing use of electronic devices has translated into an increasing number of individuals experiencing digital eye strain, which may lead to more demand for eye care services. Meanwhile, diabetes has been linked to increased rates of diabetic retinopathy, a condition that affects the blood vessels in the eye and may lead to loss of vision. With diabetes on the rise, optometrists will be needed to monitor, treat, and refer these patients.

Employment projections data for Optometrists, 2021-31
Occupational Title Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31
Percent Numeric
Optometrists 41,400 45,400 10 4,000


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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