What Is a Day In the Life of An Optometrist Like?

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Oct 12, 2018

Oct 12, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

There are approximately 41,000 optometrists in the United States.

You're probably reading this article because you're interested in adding yourself to the ranks.

In this article, we'll go over what an optometrist does and what a day in his or her life looks like.

In the United States, an optometrist is defined as a physician, and they have earned the title of Doctor of Optometry. As such, they can prescribe oral medication in 48 out of 50 states.

They can prescribe topical eye drops in all 50 states.

In Oklahoma, Kentucky and Louisiana, they can perform some surgical procedures.

Let's get started in answering the question, "What does an optometrist do?"

What Does an Optometrist Do?

An optometrist, in the United States, is a Doctor of Optometry. In many other countries, an optometrist does not have the title of doctor and therefore, is not one. This means in some countries, they cannot prescribe any medication.

In most cases, optometrists treat individuals who need glasses and contact lenses. They spend most of their time fitting and testing individuals for eyewear.

They may also refer patients to another doctor for further treatment.

They can also diagnose and help manage diseases of the eye. Although they cannot perform surgery, except in the three aforementioned states, they perform very elementary procedures. This might include removing a contact lens from someone's eye or removing dirt or debris.

They can also give injections in and around the eye in most states.

Read more here for some basic information on how to care for your vision. This is something that will definitely be part of your work as an optometrist.

What Education Does an Optometrist Have?

An optometrist receives a four-year college bachelor's degree first. The individual who wishes to attend optometry school may gain a degree in pre-med, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry or other related subjects.

Once completed, he or she will attend optometry school. The school must be one of the 17 accredited institutions in order to practice as an optometrist. Before attending, he or she must score well on the OCAT, or Optometry College Aptitude Test.

Optometry school is a four-year program. At the end, he or she will have earned the title Doctor of Optometry, or DO.

After completion of school, they are required to complete a one to two-year fellowship or residency. During this time, they will be supervised by a senior optometrist. They may decide to specialize in a certain area, such as disease or treating children.

They must also complete a test, just like other doctors, that licenses them to practice optometry in his or her state.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like for an Early Career Optometrist?

At the beginning of an optometrist's career or during a fellowship, he or she may be employed by a hospital or another doctor's office. During this time, they will have all of their cases observed by a senior member of staff.

In the early career, they may see a wide variety of patients during the day in order to gain exposure to as many issues as possible that they may face during their career.

They will usually work a 9 to 5, or other similar hours. In some cases, optometrists will be employed by a larger chain of stores, and they will only work during the hours the store is open.

Most early career optometrists do not teach or manage other optometrists. They also typically do not deal in after-hours emergencies.

What Does an Average Day Look Like for an Established Optometrist?

An established optometrist typically also works within the confines of a 9 to 5 position. He or she spends about 37 hours per week inside their office.

At this point in their career, they may continue to work at a chain or other store. They may also establish their own practice. If this is the case, part of their day may be taken up by the management duties of the practice. While they will usually hire people to help with the day-to-day running of the practice, they will also have some management and other duties to take care of.

On average, they see 60 to 63 patients per week. They may see walk-ins or emergency patients as well, but this is usually done during office hours. Most optometrists head home around 5 or 6pm in the evening.

Much of the day consists of fitting patients for glasses or contact lenses and examining their eyes. Some of the day will consist of the pre-operative and post-operative care of individuals who will have or have had eye surgery. One of the most common surgeries they care for is cataracts. While they will not perform the surgery themselves in most states, they will help with case management.

Some of the day may also consist of helping manage optometrists who are currently doing their residency.

What Other Opportunities Are There for Optometrists?

If seeing patients isn't really your thing, there are other things you can do within the field. Some optometrists decide to dedicate themselves purely to research. In this track, they will research eye diseases and new technology to help cure them. They will also research technology insofar as related to glasses and contacts and other forms of vision correction.

Optometrists can also go back to school and obtain an MA or a PhD. Afterwards, many then decide to use their knowledge to train the next generation of optometrists. They can oversee new doctors doing their fellowships, or teach at one of the 17 accredited optometry schools in the United States.

Is Optometry For Me?

Now that we've answered the question as to what does an optometrist do, it's time to ask yourself if this is a career you are interested in pursuing. If so, it is suggested that you find out more about it, and perhaps discuss the field with working optometrists or a career counselor. This can help you get a better feel for whether this career path would be a good fit for you.

For more information about job searching and other advice, visit our blog.