If you are interested in the eyes and visual systems, then learning how to become an optometrist might the right career path for you.
This article will guide you through the stages of becoming an optometrist, from what undergraduate degree you need, what the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is all about, and more on how to become an optometrist.
What Is an Optometrist?
An optometrist is an eye specialist. This is who checks your vision to make sure you can see; optometrists also check your eyes for signs of disease, injury, and abnormalities. Also, optometrists provide prescription glasses or prescribed, corrective contact lenses.
What Does an Optometrist Do?
An optometrist has a license to practice and does tests on patients to check for visual impairment and eye diseases by using specialized equipment. They also do fittings and can perform minor surgery (although it is usually an ophthalmologist who does this).
An optometrist also does pre- and post-operative care on those patients and evaluates if they may have another underlying disease so they can refer them to another medical professional.
Essential Optometrist Skills
Testing and Evaluation
You will need to have attention to detail when it comes to analyzing a patient. An optometrist is regularly doing tests, evaluating their patients, keeping records, and making informed decisions on healthcare needs.
You will also need to work well with people, as optometrists are consistently working with colleagues and patients. Having an eye examination can be nerve-wracking for some people; a great optometrist can put their patient at ease and make them feel more comfortable during the examination.
Desire to Improve People’s Lives
Sight is a very important sense for people’s daily lives. If the idea of helping someone regain some of their vision is exciting to you, then this could be the perfect career.
Training and Learning
You’ll need a college degree, then you’ll complete the OAT test and move on to optometry school to get an OD degree. But the learning doesn’t stop when you get your license to practice, as you’ll always want to be learning about new technological advancements in your field.
Optometrist Salaries and Job Outlook
According to Salary.com, the average optometrist salary in 2020 is $126,470, with the lowest 10 percent making around $98,792. US News has named it one of the best jobs, with a 0.1 percent unemployment rate and a wonderful work-life balance.
How to Become an Optometrist: A Step by Step Guide
After just three steps and eight to nine years of work, starting from your bachelor’s degree, you can become a fully licensed optometrist.
Step 1: Bachelor’s Degree in Science
To get into a bachelor’s degree program, you need to check the college you want to go to and its website for what subjects and grades to aim for. Once you are in an accredited college, you should pursue one of the sciences: physics, biology, or chemistry.
Try to add extracurricular activities that show you are keen to become an optometrist. Different optometry schools will require different things, but it’s a good idea to volunteer or intern with an optometrist while studying.
Gaining your bachelor’s degree will usually take four years and will prepare you for the next steps: your Optometry Admissions Test and optometry school.
Step 2: OAT Test
You need to pass the Optometry Admissions Test to get into optometry school. You can take the test while still completing your undergrad degree. The OAT will be based on four topics: natural sciences, physics, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. The great thing about the OAT is that you can take the computerized test as many times as you need, leaving about 90 days between each try.
Step 3: Optometry School
Once you’ve gained both your bachelor’s degree and passed your OAT test, it’s time to complete an optometry program. You can find accredited optometry schools in the United States on ASCO, the Associations of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. You’ll take lectures, gain experience, and do clinical training to prepare for your career as an optometrist.
What you’ll be studying depends on which course you choose. Here is a quick look at some comparisons of schools for optometry from Covalent Careers and you can check each of their courses on their websites.
Once you have your OD degree, the last step needed is to get your license. This usually involves another exam (or more than one depending on what your state requires) and once you pass that, you are fully licensed to practice optometry.
Should you Become an Optometrist in 2020?
If you have a real passion for learning about vision, with the intention to help people with theirs, then this could be the perfect fit. The job prospects for an optometrist are expected to grow by 10 percent in the next 10 years according to collegegrad.com, which is faster than average because of the aging population.
It depends on which one you are applying for, but many of them consider an overall undergraduate with a 75 percent average. (But the higher, the better your chances.)
If you are highly organized, great with math and science, and you are fascinated with eyes and vision, then it could be.
Other than becoming an optometrist who works for either institutions or private practice, you can become a vision science researcher.
According to the ASCO, it is further training in clinical study where you can focus on a specialty. The minimum is a year for residency and the different specialties you can do are:
• Pediatric Optometry
• Cornea and Contact Lenses
• Vision Rehabilitation
• Ocular Disease
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