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Career Profile: Optometrist

Why Is Optometry a Job of Tomorrow?
With the increased usage of vision straining computers and other technology, eye care will soar in importance. Employment opportunities for optometrists are forecast to rise 11 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for optometrists is $91,040.

What Does an Optometrist Do?
Optometrists provide vision care to patients. They diagnose vision problems, such as farsightedness, prescribe corrective lens prescriptions when necessary and test color recognition and other vision-related conditions. A number of factors can contribute to vision problems, such as eye strain from using a computer for an extended period of time or a natural loss of clarity from aging. Optometrists work with patients to correct vision with contact lenses or prescriptive glasses. Optometrists also test for conditions such as glaucoma, referring patients suffering from complex eye diseases to other health professionals. They provide care to those who have had eye surgery as well. Specialty fields exist within optometry, including a focus on working with children, the elderly or those who need special vision correction devices beyond glasses. Optometrists may also focus on contact lenses and vision therapy.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become an Optometrist?
Optometrists must have a doctorate level degree in optometry, which takes about four years to complete after earning a bachelor’s degree. Prospective optometry students in the U.S. must earn their degree from one of the 16 colleges recognized by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. Courses taught in optometry school include the study of health and visual science, as well as clinical training in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions. Many optometry graduates spend at least a year in residency after completing their degree program to gain professional work experience and network with other medical professionals. All optometrists must be licensed to practice. To become licensed, optometrists must pass a national certification examination. Once licensed, they must renew every one to three years. Optometrists must also participate in continuing education to be eligible for relicensing.

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