Pros and Cons of Optometry

Is a career in optometry right for you? Read through this list of the pros and cons of optometry to find out!

PROS

  1. Excellent work-life balance. With some exceptions, optometrists enjoy a 40-hour work week with no on-call assignments or late-night shifts. Most optometrists I shadowed are active in their communities and enjoy personal hobbies with their families and friends.
  2. Clean, well-structured, and comfortable work environment. Fortunately for optometrists, they can practice healthcare without much exposure to bodily fluids or highly contagious microbes.
  3. Possibility of being your own boss. As an optometrist, you have the option of possibly starting your own private practice. As the owner or co-owner, you can control your hours, office functions, scheduling, etc.
  4. More time interacting with patients. Routine eye exams can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes per patient. Because of this, optometrists tend to develop long-term relationships with their patients.
  5. Relatively low stress job. A quick Google search will reveal that optometry consistently ranks among low-stress professions. Limited emergencies, repetitive nature of the job, and a safe work environment keep the stress level down at many optometry offices.
  6. Combination of routine and pathological cases. While the bread-and-butter of optometry is routine refraction exams, there are also enough pathologies that get thrown in the mix to keep it interesting. Ocular manifestations of diabetes, eye infections, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, glaucoma, among others are some of the most common medical cases that optometrists see.
  7. Opportunity to serve the less privileged through vision screenings. Whether through a mission trip abroad or a local vision screening, optometrists can provide much-needed eye care services to the less fortunate.
  8. Serve as the gateway to the healthcare system. Many people do not visit their medical doctors unless they feel something wrong. As a result, optometrists are often the first to diagnose patients with underlying systemic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol. In response, optometrists refer the patient to a primary care physician, serving as a first line of defense in today’s health care team. (Recently, there has been some research suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease may soon be diagnosed by a retinal exam.)
  9. Experience tangible results immediately. Optometrists enjoy the benefit of seeing the fruit of their labor almost immediately. They see excitement and smile on a patient’s face whenever they share the gift of vision.
  10. Far-reaching positive impact on a patient’s life. While an improved vision may be the immediate result of an optometrist’s job, its impact goes far beyond the four corners of the exam room. A child formerly misdiagnosed with ADHD may go home and begin performing better in school. A professional athlete may begin seeing improvements in his/her game. A seemingly harmless eye glass visit may turn into a life-saving medical exam for a mother with an optic nerve tumor. The positive impact of optometry is far-reaching.

CONS

  1. Over-saturation in certain US cities. Now, this can be the subject of a debate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for optometrists is expected to grow 17% from 2016-2026. In contrast, there seems to be negativity online regarding the job market, especially among young optometrists. This issue will be discussed in greater detail in a later blog post. For now, however, it is safe to say that certain US cities are more densely populated with optometrists than others.
  2. High tuition costs. Unfortunately, annual tuition (excluding housing and other fees) for most optometry schools is around $40K a year. As a result, most optometry students graduate with more than $200K in student debt.
  3. Relatively lower pay compared to other doctorate professions. If your goal is to become rich, then you may want to reconsider being an optometrist. While optometrists enjoy a comfortable salary, their pay is lower than other doctorate professions, such as dentistry or medicine.
  4. Competition from big corporations and online retailers. Starting and owning a private practice is more difficult nowadays because there is significant competition from major corporations and online retailers. Albeit lower in quality, the cheaper costs of their glasses can often attract your patients away from your optical.
  5. Pressure from telemedicine. Technology can now update a person’s prescription with nothing more than a computer access and a previous prescription.
  6. Patients may sometimes dismiss you and prefer seeing an ophthalmologist. While it rarely happens, patients sometimes refuse to see an optometrist and prefer seeing an ophthalmologist instead. However, this typically only happens in an ophthalmology-optometry group practice.
  7. Patients can sometimes be difficult. Patient interaction is one of the most rewarding aspects of practicing optometry. In the same way, they can also be the cause of frustration among optometrists.

Without a doubt, optometry is an attractive profession. However, just like with any profession, it has its own share of problems. I hope that the list above will help you gauge whether or not optometry will be a good fit for you. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!

 

12 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Optometry

  1. I thought that it made sense when you said that becoming an optometrist can be beneficial in that you can use your knowledge to help underprivileged citizens. I have been trying to think of ways to help society will my talents but I haven’t been sure what would be best. I will be sure to become an optometrist so that I can do good for people who can’t afford help.

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  2. Hi Ashley, thank you for reading my post! Yes, free eye care service is desperately needed, especially in underserved areas. It could mean getting a better chance at employment for some people or even as simple as getting to read a Bible for others. You can change lives as an optometrist just by giving glasses. How much more with other skills, such as diagnosing and treating eye disease, providing vision therapy, giving specialty contact lenses for people with irregular corneas, among others!

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  3. Hi, Thank you so much for the pros and cons list of the optometry profession! Is there any advice on how to get volunteer opportunities advice online because I seem to not find any optometrist willing to take student interest in shadow or volunteer in their clinic. I tried many clinics

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    1. Hello! You can definitely take advantage of social media. For instance, you can go on Facebook and join groups such as ODs on Facebook, Corporate Optometry, etc. Sometimes they post internship/job opportunities on there. There are also professional Instagram profiles by optometrists. It won’t hurt messaging them and asking if they’re looking for an intern. Also, if you’re attending college that has a pre-optometry club, they sometimes post local job/internship opportunities on their Facebook page as well. Good luck!

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  4. I like that you said that optometry is a low-stress profession. My daughter has been telling me that she’s having trouble seeing the board in school, so we’ve been looking more into optometry. After reading this article, it seems as if being an optometrist is pretty cool. I’ll be sure to find one that is qualified to help my daughter.

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    1. You will have optics in optometry school but it’s actually not too bad. There will also be math but only basic math.

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  5. I like how optometrists can develop long-term relationships with their patients. I’d like to go to the same person for years to come. That way I never have to worry about switching my information over.

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  6. I’ve been looking into some careers and optometry really caught my eye and this article helped in so many ways I’m still in my second year of high school I was wondering what could help me pave my way into the future of becoming an optometrist such as things like subjects I should focus more on

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    1. That’s great to hear! I would say focus on doing well in school (especially your science classes). I recommend shadowing several optometrists when you get the chance. Finally, focus on balance: get good grades but don’t forget to volunteer, do extracurriculars, and to have fun.

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