Exploring this Job

It is difficult for students to gain any direct experience on a part-time basis in optometry. The first opportunities afforded students generally come in the clinical phases of their training program. Interested students, however, can visit an optometrist's office and talk to an experienced optometrist. Part-time or summer work for a vision care business or in an optometrist's practice will also expose you to the work environment and routines.

The Job

Optometrists are primarily concerned with examining eyes and performing other services to safeguard and improve vision. To do this, they use special tests and instruments to identify and evaluate eye health, including visual acuity, depth and color perception, and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. They prescribe what should be done to correct vision problems, which may include prescriptions for eyeglasses, contact lenses, vision therapy, or therapeutic drugs. They diagnose eye diseases caused by systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Optometrists refer these patients to other specialists.

Optometrists are one of three professional groups involved in treatment of the eyes. Ophthalmologists are licensed physicians with specialized training in medical and surgical care of the eyes. They prescribe drugs, perform minor and major surgery, diagnose and treat eye diseases, and prescribe lenses and exercises. Opticians use the prescriptions provided by ophthalmologists and optometrists to grind lenses, assemble the eyeglasses, and fit and adjust lenses and frames.

Some optometry specialties include work with the elderly, children, or visually impaired individuals who need specialized vision devices, treatment of workplace injuries, contact lenses, sports vision assistance, or vision therapy. Some optometrists teach optometry, conduct research, or specialize in consultations.

Most optometrists are in general practice. Those who have private practices must also handle the business aspects of running an office, such as developing a patient base, hiring employees, keeping records, and ordering equipment and supplies. Optometrists who operate franchise vision care businesses may also have some of these duties.