Optometrist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Optometrists Career Video

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dotOptometrists care for people's eyes. They are health-care experts who diagnose, manage and treat diseases and conditions of the human eye and vision.

These "eye doctors" evaluate a patient's vision by conducting a series of examinations and tests. If problems are discovered, an optometrist will prescribe medication, surgery or corrective eyewear, such as glasses or contact lenses, to try to correct the vision.

"You really have to put your problem-solving skills to work to diagnose a vision disorder, because as experience has taught me, the solution is rarely obvious," says Illinois optometrist David Goss.

dotOptometrists work in a variety of settings. Most have private practices, in which they run their own office and care for their own patients. Another option is working at public clinics, funded by public organizations, where patients visit on a drop-in basis.

A smaller area of employment in this field is optical research. In this area, optometrists research new methods of evaluating, treating and discovering eye problems.

dotOptometrists can specialize in a number of areas. For example, some optometrists may specialize in the prescription of contact lenses, studying and prescribing the right fit and strength of the lenses.

  • Environmental eye care focuses on eye care conditions at work. Optometrists in this area help devise ways to avoid vision injuries in the workplace.
  • Vision rehabilitation is a specialty used to help people with impaired vision. Vision rehabilitation optometrists use sophisticated equipment and their specialized training to help people with poor vision see better.
  • Pediatric optometrists are specialists in dealing with the vision problems of children. It's their job to help children overcome problems with focusing, perception and eye coordination.
  • Sports vision is a relatively small area of optometry. Experts in this area help athletes improve their athletic performance through vision training devices, and often work as consultants for professional sports teams.

dotMost optometrists work an eight-hour day. Most of the day is spent with patients, although there are some administrative duties, says optometrist Peter Rozanec.

dotYou need good all-round physical abilities for this field. A person who uses a wheelchair could do this job, although it is rare.

An optometrist needs to see a patient to examine them, and be able to hear what the patient says, notes Rozanec. The doctor also needs good manual dexterity in order to examine eyes and sweep out foreign matter in them.

dotNo matter what kind of optometry you choose, listening skills are important.

"Patients are usually the best experts on their own eyes. The best way for me to start an eye exam on a patient is to give myself a 'listening exam' -- to sit down and let the patient tell me why they're at my office," says optometrist Richard Allen.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Care for people's eyes and vision

  • Good technical and communication skills are needed
  • Most optometrists have private practices
  • An undergraduate degree followed by four years in an optometry program is the standard education