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.
Clean, well-structured, and comfortable work environment. Fortunately for optometrists, they can practice healthcare without much exposure to bodily fluids or highly contagious microbes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pressure from telemedicine. Technology can now update a person’s prescription with nothing more than a computer access and a previous prescription.
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.
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."
Although I have no experience as an Optometrist, however, I did a research on the topic and found a wonderful article for your consideration. I wish you much success on your journey. Best of luck to you!
• LOW STRESS - - The job is repetitive with few surprises in a stable work environment. Compared to other medical specialties it is a nice lifestyle. Optometry is frequently on a list of highest paid low stress jobs. While it may not be ‘stressful’ in the traditional sense, the repetitive nature of it and lack of challenge may get to you!
• WORK LIFE BALANCE - - While Optometrists may on occasion have to work long hours, they will not have to do any night shifts or on calls.
You will work regular hours and will rarely have to deal with emergencies. They also have the ability to decide how much they take on.
• CHANCE TO GIVE BACK - - You will have the chance to help the less fortunate with their sight whether it is through local clinic, or a volunteering trip to a less privileged country.
• TANGIBLE RESULTS - - Unlike other medical specialties where you do not see the results of your treatment, optometrists get to see the reaction of their patients when their eyesight is improved immediately.
• YOU CAN QUALIFY RELATIVELY QUICKLY - - Compared to other medical professions, you can be qualified to practice in approx. 4-5 years.
• PAY - - The pay is not as lucrative as other medical specialties. You will still be well paid, but if you want to become rich.
• NO CAREER PROGRESSION - - Once you graduate, you are an optometrist. It is difficult to do anything else with that degree. There's not much variety in the work.
• IT CAN BE BORING - - It is a very repetitive job. In university, you may hear about lots of rare conditions but in reality a lot of your day is routine eye exams and recommending lenses/glasses. A lot of your day is spent on your own. If you are the type of person that get bored easily, Optometry is not the career for you.
• REPUTATION - - Most people will not see Optometrists as medical professionals. 90% of Optometrists work in a retail setting where they are expected to sell glasses or contact lenses.
• WEEKEND WORKING - - Due to the pressure to sell glasses and lenses, most employers will want you to work Saturdays, and maybe even Sundays. You also will not get paid any extra for working weekends or bank holidays.
• COMPETITION - - If you want to go out on your own and open your own shop you will face stiff competition from big corporations and online retailers.
• PATIENTS/CUSTOMERS - - Your patients are also your customers and will treat you as such. Doctors don’t sell their patients anything, whereas Optometrists need to be salespeople too.
• SALES PRESSURE - - The majority of the revenue you bring is in is not from your services i.e. eye exams, it’s from the goods you sell i.e. glasses, lenses, etc. You will have targets to sell a high percentage of your patient’s lenses and glasses per day. This can be incredibly hard to do.
Sheila recommends the following next steps: