The Burning Question for Optometry New Grads: Part-time or Full-time?

Sit back for a minute and picture yourself a few years from now, O.D. badge and all. By then we’ll no longer be clinicians in training, instead we’ll be practicing optometry in the real world for a living. Now imagine what kind of work environment you see your practicing in. Commercial or private? Bustling city or boonies? Part-time or full-time? These might be some things you want to start planning now.

An increasingly common path that you’ll see a lot of recent optometry new grads taking is accepting several part time job offers and working in between them. Looking at this scenario from the surface, we can deduce that having more than one job also means having more worries. Being the determined optometry students that we are, a little hard work won’t deter us too much, so what’s the worry here? As with any decision, there are both pros and cons to choosing this road.

I’ll admit that this was also my original plan, but as I look a little deeper into the scenario, I’m having second thoughts. Working more jobs will mean a bit more work, but ultimately it should also mean a larger net income. This sounds ideal to an extent, especially when I already know that I’ll be pitching part of each paycheck towards – dare I say it – student loans.

So have I completely kicked this plan to the curb? No, not even close, but I’d like to think that I’ve become more realistic when assessing the scenario. The inconvenient truth is that as young and aspiring optometrists, we sometimes get a bit too ambitious. There are many factors that should be considered before committing to hopping back and forth between several different jobs. Location, job security, and quality of life a few of these things.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Richard Hom, O.D., MPA, owner and author of (All Things about Optometry and Technology), to ask for his opinion on the advantages of part-time vs full-time.

Here’s a quick summary of our conversation, with the full interview down below:

Like we just mentioned, some factors that might influence your decision include family, location, and current finances. Taking these factors into consideration, part-time jobs suddenly become quite appealing on several levels. For one, they offer the flexibility of work hours to fit your busy lifestyle, but it should be noted that Dr. Hom mentions that part-time jobs should be looked as a “temporary fix” rather than a stable source of income for you and your family. He also points out another advantage of part-time: quitting is much easier. So if you’re unsure that a location is fit for you, it would be a lot easier to move on from a part-time position.

Now let’s get to one of the most important parts of your decision – the size of your paycheck. Financially speaking, the impact of losing a day or two of work to unexpected situations has a much more severe impact in a part-time scenario than it does if you were working full-time, Dr. Hom explains. The advantage of having more “job security” alone counts for a lot, but we’re reminded that no job is ever completely risk-free.

Breaking it down numerically, he showed me that part-time jobs usually offer a higher day-rate, but he points out that the non-payroll benefits may even out the playing field. In order for a part-time gig to be “worth it” as compared to a full-time job, the day-rate should be at least 25% higher than the full-time rate (See Dr. Hom’s full analysis below).

We’re all going to be pumped and ready for work life right out of the gate. I get antsy just thinking about it, but as expected, there’s no such thing as an easy decision when it comes to career choices.  Ultimately our decision will depend mostly on where we end up working and what situations are presented to us.

Read below for the full, in-depth interview with Dr. Hom: You mentioned that fill-in gigs are now more common than full time gigs – is there a trend going on? How long as it been happening and is it only with recent graduates?

Dr. Richard Hom: I have noticed that trend, although particularly in highly desirable geographical areas. In these areas, there will always be more job seekers than jobs.  The trend has accelerated in the last five years due to many factors, chief of which is the relative bounty of new graduates. Optometry job trends affect both the new graduates and established employed doctor. There is no doubt that the bulk of available or open jobs are in retail eye care. Either due to store expansion or job turnover, they are constantly advertising for new positions, both urban and rural areas.

OS: What might be some reasons grads feel that working more days per week (through part time gigs) is more financially sound than a full-time job with fewer days? Is there a certain pressure that causes them to think this way?

RH: The major reasons for choosing many different part time fill-in positions is the notion that doing well in a position would mean that a full time position might be offered later on.  While this may be common in many other markets, this isn’t quite so common in optometry where part-time hire for “full-time-later” rarely happens. However, if an employer is prospecting for a new associate, a part time job offer is an excellent model to assess a future full time associate.  Therefore, graduates should take each part time “gig” seriously.

Additionally, part time gigs may actually have a higher “day rate” than a permanent full time position. The difference usually relates to the non-payroll benefits that are available in a full time position and not in a part time position. However, for a part time position to equal a full time, the part time day rate should be at least 25% greater than the full time rate.

OS: This is the one everyone’s going to want to hear: You gave an example saying 5 days of part-time = 3 days of full time. Can you break it down financially into the pros and cons of working multiple part time jobs for optometry new grads? What are some other “things that you lose” as you also mentioned?

RH: This is an example:
a) Part time rate of $350. = After taxes about  $138.00 estimated after taxes
(1) Deduct 13% or so for self-employed tax = $45.50
(2) Deduct Income tax of ~ $150
(2) Deduct Malpractice $1200/250 days in 1 year = $4.80
(3) Deduct 5 days of sick/vacation or CE per year on work days = $7.00
(4) Deduct health insurance (high deductible-individual = $1200
(assuming health 25 years old) = $4.80
(5) Note: Fuel, auto maintenance ( and etc) charges are not being
deducted because it assumes that you are commuting from your home to
the work site.

b) Full time rate of $325 = $204.75
(1) Deduct 7% payroll tax = $22.75
(2) Deduct income tax = -$97.50
c) Part time: 5 x 135= $675
Full time: 3 x 20475= $614

OS: A lot of us signed up for this job because we liked the idea of having flexible work hours and a low-stress work environment. From experience, can you say that working between a couple different offices can be stressful after a while?

RH: I think part time to “survive” rather than to “supplement” a family financial situation are two distinctly differently scenarios. In the former, the loss of even 1 or 2 days would significantly impact the family finances while in the latter, the impact is much less so. With financial security being the primary family stressor, this is the most important part of the argument. Of course, I don’t believe that any job is absolutely secure, but for some states, the full-time employee enjoys certain job and wage/salary rights that a part time employee or contractor will not participate in. For specific requirements, readers should consult their state’s labor and employment laws.

Advantages of a part time job are flexibility of positions and days, notice for quitting a job are much less, and there is a possibility of deducting business-related expenses. The disadvantages are lack of security, being stretched too far and thin if there are more than two positions, and lack of employee rights.

A very sincere thank you to Dr. Hom for his insight.

Scroll to Top