The Struggle to Be an Optometrist
Optometry school is an intense three-year program. The first two years are preclinical, which means that the majority of classes are lecture-based. You will learn about all aspects of optometry, but your time is mostly focused on the anatomy and physiology of the eye. As you can imagine, this can get pretty boring at times! But it’s still very important to succeed in all of these classes. These courses will prepare you for your clinical rotations during your last year in school. During this time you will begin to apply what you learned during the first two years by working on real patients under supervision of more experienced doctors, including learning about eyewear.
Classes will be taught by professors who are experienced optometrists. Although you won’t be able to ask them specific questions about your own future practice, their lectures will help you understand what you’ll experience in real life. You should take notes on everything that they teach because this information will come in handy later on. Clinical rotations are the most important part of your education, so you should take advantage of every opportunity to observe and learn from instructors and other students. This is an opportunity like no other! I suggest making friends with classmates who are also interested in becoming optometrists; these friendships can make things much more interesting during clinicals! Lastly, try to get involved with volunteer opportunities within the department; this is a great way to gain practical experience before graduation day. You can not only get outside work experience but also get some extra clinical hours that could be helpful for applying for residency programs (see below).
Optometry Residency Programs
Residency programs can vary depending on state requirements but they usually last three years (24 months). During this time, residents work full-time at a practice location while being supervised by one or more established doctors. The training program is very intense and focused—just like during optometry school—but it’s a lot more stressful because residents have a lot more responsibility over actual patient care. They must follow procedures just as if they were working at any regular practice without making any mistakes. If they do, they are held responsible for it. It’s the last step before the doctor gets to work independently in their own practice, so it’s extremely important that you follow through with this training program. You will have ample opportunity to learn about eye disease, treatment methods, and other aspects of optometry but what you will do most of all is work on real patients under supervision of an experienced doctor. The goal is to successfully complete your residency training so that you can apply for a license through your state Optometry Board.
The first step after graduating from residency is to apply for licensing with your state board (this usually requires passing an exam). This process can take anywhere from one week to several months depending on how quickly you submit all required documents and what kind of paperwork the board requires from you (some states don’t require exams!). Once you are licensed as an optometrist, it’s time to start looking for a job! I recommend applying at least six months before graduation—especially if there are other candidates who want the same position as you because good jobs aren’t easy to find! Find out where every possible job opening is located and make sure that one or more locations are near your home or school because working away from home isn’t very fun. Make sure everything suits your needs; including pay rate/hourly wage, schedule hours worked per week/monthly salary (if paid monthly), and any benefits included with employment package (i.
Optometry is a great profession, but it’s not for everyone. It requires hard work and dedication to succeed in this field. If you’re interested in becoming an optometrist, I encourage you to try your best in school so that you can secure a good residency program after graduation day. Do well on your licensing exams so that you can get licensed to practice independently! Good luck!