Considering a Career in Optometry? Great Choice!

February 20, 2014

If you’d like to work in a profession where no two days are exactly the same and you have the opportunity to impact lives in a positive way, then optometry is the profession for you. Those were just two of the insights shared by Jennifer Smythe, OD, President of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), during her recent appearance on the radio show “I Want to Be a […]”. Dr. Smythe spoke with the show’s host about why she loves optometry as a career. Hear the whole interview at, and discover some of the many things you might find appealing about being an optometrist:

  • I made a real difference today, can’t wait ‘til tomorrow! Optometrists diagnose and treat sight-threatening ocular diseases and conditions, but they also help their patients to maintain healthy eyes for a lifetime of clear vision — and it’s hard to overestimate the value people place on vision. According to a survey of more than 11,000 people in 11 countries commissioned by Bausch + Lomb in 2012, if forced to choose, 68% of people would rather lose one of their limbs and 67% would rather lose 10 years of their life than lose their eyesight. Three quarters of the people interviewed said they would rather have their salary cut in half than experience a permanent 50% decline in their vision. For some real-life examples of how optometrists change lives through vision every day, take a look at ASCO’s new publication “True Stories – What Do Doctors of Optometry Do?” at
  • Wow, I can do that, too? The settings in which you can practice optometry are almost too numerous to list. You can choose to be self-employed or an employee and work in a rural community, suburban area or large city. You can provide general or “family” eye care, seeing patients at all stages of their lives, or you can narrow your focus to an area such as contact lenses, geriatrics, low vision, occupational vision, pediatrics, sports vision or vision therapy. You can practice alone, with a partner or partners, or with other healthcare professionals. Still other opportunities can be found in optometric education, scientific research, the military, public health or other government service, hospitals, clinics, teaching institutions, community health centers and the ophthalmic industry.
  • Yes, I’ll be home for dinner. In most if not all of the settings where you can work as an optometrist, you can establish a flexible full-time or part-time schedule and expect to receive relatively few emergency calls, both of which go a long way toward your ability to have both a respected professional career and a satisfying personal life.
  • Comfortable compensation and a future I can bank on. Optometrist is frequently cited in the mainstream media among the “Best Jobs in America,” “Best Paying Jobs of the Future” and “Best Careers” by such entities as CNNMoney, Kiplinger’s and 24/7 Wall St.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of optometrists is expected to grow 24% percent from 2012 to 2022. This compares favorably with the average growth rate for all occupations, which is projected to be 11%. The growth in optometry will result in approximately 8,100 new jobs over the 10-year period, the BLS notes. The compensation is attractive, too. The latest numbers from the American Optometric Association (AOA) show the average net income for optometrists is $129,385. That jumps to $203,230 for owners of group practices.

“As in any field, compensation in optometry is generally tied to your specific job responsibilities and experience,” says Bill Rabourn, founder and managing principal of Medical Consulting Group in Springfield, Mo. “But I am so pro everything in the business of eye care right now. If you look at all the statistics on the Baby Boomer generation, the aging of the population, the increase in life expectancy and growing awareness about eye health, the opportunity is tremendous. There will continue to be a huge need for vision services.”

Furthermore, Rabourn says, optometry can provide a “really nice” lifestyle in the medical arena. “As long as you are doing what you love in the setting that is right for you, you can hardly go wrong. I would encourage anyone thinking about a career in optometry to pursue it.”