Optometry: Modes Of Practice

What can I do as an Optometrist?

That answer is actually quite complex. There are many opportunities available to Optometrists that extend far beyond what most students are familiar with which often includes private practice and retail settings. As the scope of Optometry continues to grow, so do the types of careers Optometrists can choose to follow. In this article, I will explore some of the vast settings Optometrists can choose to work in and what types of careers are available to Optometrists.

Solo Private Practice

Solo private practice consists of an Optometrist who wishes to begin his/her own practice and provides primary care to his/her patients. Private practice is not limited to primary care, and often times, private practices may specialize in certain areas. Some specialty private practices include but are not limited to: contact lens, low vision, geriatrics, pediatrics, vision therapy, binocular vision, sports vision, and ocular disease. Although a residency may help establish an Optometrist as a “specialist,” residencies are in fact not required to become a specialist in a particular aspect of Optometry. Optometrists become specialists in certain fields after they have had enough exposure in a particular subset of Optometry. This exposure can be acquired either by coursework, continuing education, or simply ample experience to feel confident enough in their abilities to consider themselves specialists. (Picture thanks to Dr. Joel Kestenbaum)

Group Practice

Similar to private practice, group practice consists of several Optometrists working together in order to provide primary care or specialty care to a specific subset of the population.

Retail Optometry

An increasing form of employment, many Optometrists now seek careers within retail centers such as Walmart, Costco, Pearle Vision, Davis Vision, America’s Best, etc. The terms of employment can become quite complex as the Optometrists may simply choose to rent space from the center, or become an employee of the retail center. Often times, this form of employment is sought because it frees Optometrists from the extensive costs to establish a private practice of their own.

Ophthalmological Settings

Similar to group practice, in this type of setting, the Optometrist works together with other Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in what is usually more of a medical setting. The Optometrist often performs pre and post-surgical clinical care and administers other types of testing based on the patient and procedure.

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs)

In this type of setting, the Optometrist, working with many other types of primary healthcare providers will provide care to members of the specific HMO and is free from any of the business aspects in providing care. The testing and procedures performed by the Optometrist are usually dictated by the HMO within this type of practice.

Veterans Administration (VA) and Military

Optometrists have the opportunity to join the military and become officers within the armed forces while working with other types of healthcare professionals in hospitals or clinical settings. It is important to note that the Optometrist does not need to join the military to work in VA hospitals although some do.


Research and Academics

Optometrists can seek careers in research and academics, which often requires additional advanced degrees such as M.S., Ph.D. and/or residencies. The Optometrist can choose to teach various subjects extending from ocular anatomy to clinical care.

This article merely scratches the surface of the types of practices, settings, and careers available to Optometrists. Optometrists are not limited to choosing only one path. Many Optometrists pursue multiple paths and integrate them. It all comes down to what the Optometrist prefers, and part of discovering what type of setting one desire involves experiencing all that Optometry has to offer.

Best Regards,
Antonio Chirumbolo

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