Optometrists, doctors of optometry, or ODs, are the main providers of vision care. They diagnose vision problems and test patients' depth and color perception and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. Optometrists may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, or they may provide specialized treatments like vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation. Optometrists also test for eye diseases and diagnose conditions caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They can prescribe medication to treat vision problems or eye diseases, and some provide preoperative and postoperative care to cataract and laser eye surgery patients.
A career as an optometrist can offer a great deal of freedom than other professions, since often they are independent practitioners. Work hours are often regular and reasonable and the job is not physically demanding.
Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists. Ophthalmologists are physicians who have graduated from medical school and have completed a residency in ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists perform eye surgery, as well as diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. Like optometrists, they also examine eyes and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Most optometrists are general practitioners in either an independent or group practice. Private practitioners would also be responsible for the business aspects of running an office and hiring personnel. Other places for employment would include hospitals, in the public health sector like community health centers, military organizations like the Department of Veteran Affairs, the corporate/industrial environment, and even in research and teaching.
Exposure to the Field, Shadowing, and Volunteering
Schools of optometry encourage prospective students to spend time shadowing or volunteering with a Doctor of Optometry. Not only will this experience confirm one’s decision in this career but it will also increase one’s knowledge of the profession. In addition to strong academic performance, students who display a sincere disposition to serving others and who have skills in interpersonal communication will be considered a well-rounded candidate. Thus participating in community service projects that serve to help others, vision-related or not, is recommended.
Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) http://www.opted.org
American Optometric Association (AOA) http://www.aoa.org/
Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS) www.optomcas.org