Optometrists 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.
Optometrists 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
Optometrists 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
- 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.
Most optometrists work an eight-hour day. Most of the day is spent with
patients, although there are some administrative duties, says optometrist
You 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.
No 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.