Ophthalmology and Optometry Jobs

An optometrist, also known as a doctor of optometry or OD for short, is a physician who provides general vision care and treats problems of the eye. An ophthalmologist is much like an optometrist but, unlike ODs, ophthalmologists are licensed to perform eye surgery. Like many other medical jobs, the demand for qualified optometrists is expected to grow in coming years, thanks to an aging population.

Job Description: A Day in the Life of an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist

The majority of optometrists and ophthalmologists work in a private practice, which means they have fairly regular hours.

On an average day, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will see patients for checkups, testing the patients’ depth and color perception, eye coordination, and focus, as well as checking for diseases like glaucoma. An optometrist or ophthalmologist may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct vision, antibiotics or other drugs to treat an infection, or suggest surgery to correct a more serious problem, such as a cataract.

While an ophthalmologist is licensed to perform such surgical procedures, optometrists are not. However in many cases, an optometrist will still provide pre- and post-operative care.

General Requirements and Training

In order to become an optometrist, you must graduate from an accredited optometry school.

Admission to optometry school is competitive and applicants must have completed at least three years of undergraduate study, preferably in a science, prior to applying. The Doctor of Optometry degree takes four years to complete, and graduates must pass the exam of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry in order to become licensed to practice.

Ophthalmologist must undergo a longer training period; the entire process can take about ten years. After completing an undergraduate degree, preferably in the sciences, future ophthalmologists must apply to medical school, where they can choose to specialize in eye surgery. Medical school is followed by a one-year internship with an ophthalmologist, followed by a three-year surgical residency program. Ophthalmologists become licensed by the American Board of Ophthalmology.

Salary, Benefits, and Opportunities for Advancement

Ophthalmologists earn significantly more than optometrists.

Salary.com reports the mid-50% earnings range of an optometrist to be $97,600 to $121,423, compared to $220,773 to $317,230 for ophthalmologists.

According to Payscale.com, an optometrist with one to four years experience earns $71,145 to $92,112, increasing to $81,376 to $130,556 after twenty years on the job. An ophthalmologist on the other hand earns $114,000 to $193,551 with one to four years experience, and $175,000 to $354,930 after twenty years experience.


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