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Careers in Optometry

Optometry is a dynamic and challenging career that allows you to help people, achieve personal growth, earn community respect, have job flexibility, and reach financial success.

Nature of Work

Over half of the people in the United States wear some type of vision correction - either glasses or contact lenses, and optometrists (also known as OD's) provide the care for the majority of these Americans. As a primary eye care provider, a doctor of optometry examines, diagnoses, treats, and manages diseases and disorders of the visual system.

Optometrists diagnose and manage conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, retinal disorders, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia. OD's prescribe medications to treat eye diseases or eye injuries. They also design and fit glasses, contact lenses, low vision devices, and practice vision therapy to achieve maximum visual performance for patients. As primary eye care providers, OD's are an integral part of the health care team and an entry point into the health care system. Optometrists are skilled in the co-management of surgical care that affects the eye health and vision of their patients and are an excellent source of appropriate referral to other health care professionals.

Career Opportunities

In 1998, there were 38,000 jobs for optometrists in the United States. This number is greater than the number of practicing optometrists in the US-showing the need for OD's in all types of practices and all locations in the United States. The employment of OD's is expected to grow at a steady rate through 2008, in response to the growing vision care needs of the aging baby boomer population. The demand for optometric services will increase as the population of the United States ages. Cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration all increase in frequency as patient's age.

Optometrists may work in a variety of different environments, including private practice, multidisciplinary medical practices, hospitals, teaching institutions, research facilities, community health centers, and in the ophthalmic industry. Other optometrists may choose careers in the military, public health, or government health service. According to the American Optometric Associations statistics, two-thirds of all OD's are in private practice. Optometrist may specialize in family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, vision therapy, contact lenses, hospital care, or eye disease.

Education and Training

Optometrists are required to complete a four-year post-graduate program to earn their Doctor of Optometry degree. This four-year program includes classroom and clinical training in geometric, physical, physiological, and ophthalmic optics. The study of ocular disease, ocular pharmacology, ocular anatomy, neuroanatomy, and physiology are also key components in the optometric curriculum. Since OD's are members of the primary health care team, optometric education always includes a thorough study of human anatomy, general pharmacology, pathology, biochemistry, statistics, and epidemiology.

At this time, there are seventeen U.S. colleges of optometry that are accredited by the Council in Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. After graduation from an accredited optometry school, optometrists must successfully complete national and state board examinations to become licensed to practice.

Pursuing an Optometric Career

Colleges of optometry require an excellent college grade point average, a solid performance on the Optometric Admissions Test, and completion of accredited college courses in basic sciences, mathematics, and psychology. Competition for admission to one of the seventeen schools of optometry is intense with, only the top applicants gaining admission. For more information about one of the optometry colleges in Texas, please contact the University of Houston College of Optometry:

The University of Houston College of Optometry
The University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204-6052
(713) 743-2040

Or, the following sites for more optometry career information:

The American Optometric Association
Educational Services
243 N. Lindberg Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63141-7881

Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
6110 Executive Blvd. Suite 510
Rockville, MD 20852