Demand for optometrists continues to increase in the United States. Optometry is an attractive career that will only become better with time as the population ages and more people need to augment their eyesight with corrective lenses.
Becoming an optometrist is difficult, but the rewards are well worth it. Prospective optometrists would be advised to attend a well rated undergraduate school and major in biochemistry, biology, or biomedical engineering. After graduation, aspiring optometrists need to apply to optometry school.
There are 21 accredited optometry schools in the United States. Make sure that you apply to an optometry school that is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE). No other organization is qualified to issue accreditation ratings on optometry schools in the United States.
Getting admitted to optometry school is difficult. Applicants must be very familiar with math and science (particularly the life sciences). Most applicants are rejected, and this is even the case at the least demanding optometry schools.
Once admitted to optometry school, prospective graduates are required to study optometry for four years. Most optometry schools require prospective graduates to also participate in a residency program following graduation which may last from two to four years.
Students in optometry schools are expected to study the anatomy of the human eye, histology, eye pathology; and the use of corrective lenses in correcting myopia, presbyobia, and a variety of other eye conditions. Most students study over 100 hours a week, and optometry school is every bit as competitive as medical school.
After graduation, optometrists from good optometry schools have the opportunity to make up to $150,000 a year. This is, however, not a realistic salary for recent optometry school graduates. Optometrists fresh out of school can expect to make around $90,000 a year. With time and growing experience, most of them can expect to make $120,000 mid-career, and then more towards the end of their career.
There is no doubt that optometry is a well paying profession. In some ways optometrists even come out ahead of medical doctors, because they tend to have far less debt after graduation. Although optometrists do not make as much as medical doctors, the relatively small debt burden of optometry school means that many optometrists can start spending serious money on more than bills much earlier than most medical doctors.
Recent advances in technology are only going to increase the salary of optometrists. If someone wants to get the popular LASIK eye treatment, they must first consult with an optometrist. It is the same situation with the implantation of artificial contact lenses. Before any major surgical work is done on the eye, the prospective patient must be seen first by an optometrist.
Optometrists are also fortunate in that they are in no danger of having their work outsourced. Optometry is a hands-on profession in the literal sense of the word, and there is no danger that optometrists in the United States will one day find their jobs shipped out to China or India. What they do is impossible to outsource and impossible to imitate without serious training. As such, they are ideally positioned to weather negative changes in the national economy.