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At a Glance

  • Treat vision problems and eye diseases
  • Prescribe contact lenses, glasses, and vision therapy
  • Have a license
  • Training usually lasts eight to nine years after high school

Career summary

Optometrists examine patients' eyes to diagnose vision problems. They prescribe corrective lenses or other treatments.

Optometrists may also be called optometric physicians.

Optometrists use instruments, eye drops, and observation to determine the health of patients' eyes. They test for problems such as:

Optometrists also test depth perception and eye coordination. For patients who have vision problems, optometrists use special equipment to determine which corrective lenses or medication to use. After reviewing test results, optometrists put together a treatment plan that might include:

Optometrists explain treatment plans to patients and answer their questions. They teach patients about proper lighting, care of glasses and contact lenses, and general eye safety and health. They provide care before and after surgery. They also document their observations and test results in patients' charts.

Optometrists may consult with and refer patients to other health care workers if additional treatment is needed. Sometimes they refer patients to ophthalmologists (doctors who perform eye surgery). They also may refer patients to opticians who fill orders for eyeglasses and contact lens.

Some optometrists specialize in one area, such as contact lenses or vision therapy. Some specialize in working with one type of patient, such as children or the elderly.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to optometrists.

Common work activities

Optometrists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, optometrists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Optometrists frequently:

It is important for optometrists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for optometrists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Optometrists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an optometrist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Optometry programs take four years to complete and grant a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Optometry training programs include classroom and laboratory study. You take courses in pharmacology, optics, biochemistry, and systemic disease. You also receive clinical training in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders.

Most people who enter optometry programs have at least a bachelor's degree. Regardless of your major, you should take college courses in English, math, physics, chemistry, and biology.

Optometrists who wish to teach or do research need a master's or doctoral (PhD) degree.

Work experience

Optometrists who want to specialize in an area of optometry need additional training. This means you spend one year in a clinical residency program after graduating from optometry school.

On-the-job training

New optometrists may receive up to six months of training (although less is common) at their place of employment. This means you may spend time learning about specifics such as equipment, paperwork, and other office procedures.

Military training

The military does not provide the initial training to become an optometrist. However, it can provide work experience to those who have a Doctor of Optometry degree.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Optometrists need a strong background in science and math. Try to take math through Trigonometry and science through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many optometrists are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many optometrists begin work in a group practice or clinic. Employers prefer to hire optometrists who already have their license. Employers look for optometrists who are able to relate to a variety of people.

Some employers will hire optometrists who do not have any experience. Other employers prefer to hire optometrists who have one or two years of experience.

Some employers require applicants to have completed a residency program. Employers also look for applicants who have a high grade point average and have done well on their national and state licensing exams. When hiring experienced workers, employers indicate that the willingness to learn new clinical procedures is important, since procedures vary from employer to employer.


Volunteer or summer work in a vision screening program is excellent experience. Observe an optometrist at her or his place of work or get a job in an optometrist's office to see what this work is like on a daily basis. An extra internship can be helpful when applying for competitive positions or a desirable area of practice.

Costs to workers

Establishing a private practice is expensive. Other expenses include national professional association dues. The cost of uniforms varies depending on one's personal preferences.

#updated 7/8/08 lh. Checked info 3/18/09, cj.


To be a practicing optometrist in Washington State, one must be licensed by the State Optometry Examining Committee. Licensing requirements include:

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Health Professions Quality Assurance Division
Board of Optometry (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504

For information on the national examination contact:

The National Board of Examiners in Optometry (external link)
200 South College Street, #2010
Charlotte, SC 28202


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Costs of establishing a practice are high and earnings are usually low during the first years. Income increases as the practice grows.

Optometrists (SOC 29-1041)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $37.56 $44.57 $54.43 $64.81 $87.07
Monthly $6,509 $7,724 $9,433 $11,232 $15,089
Yearly $78,130 $92,700 $113,220 $134,810 $181,100
    Bellingham Hourly $37.89 $49.43 $63.65 $89.79 $98.39
Monthly $6,566 $8,566 $11,031 $15,561 $17,051
Yearly $78,797 $102,801 $132,388 $186,760 $204,651
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $35.90 $43.41 $54.28 $82.74 $95.46
Monthly $6,221 $7,523 $9,407 $14,339 $16,543
Yearly $74,674 $90,308 $112,901 $172,082 $198,555
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $26.25 $27.57 $29.80 $40.44 $53.51
Monthly $4,549 $4,778 $5,164 $7,008 $9,273
Yearly $54,591 $57,360 $61,975 $84,123 $111,298
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $40.22 $45.70 $53.07 $87.90 (1)
Monthly $6,970 $7,920 $9,197 $15,233 (1)
Yearly $83,653 $95,052 $110,389 $182,850 (1)
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $22.26 $46.94 $55.51 $61.99 $85.72
Monthly $3,858 $8,135 $9,620 $10,743 $14,855
Yearly $46,310 $97,642 $115,461 $128,951 $178,295
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $40.38 $45.13 $54.03 $62.70 $76.96
Monthly $6,998 $7,821 $9,363 $10,866 $13,337
Yearly $83,987 $93,885 $112,387 $130,426 $160,080
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $17.07 $52.79 $61.33 $75.93 $84.50
Monthly $2,958 $9,149 $10,628 $13,159 $14,644
Yearly $35,509 $109,819 $127,561 $157,943 $175,742
    Vancouver Hourly $32.98 $42.01 $47.70 $54.34 $61.92
Monthly $5,715 $7,280 $8,266 $9,417 $10,731
Yearly $68,600 $87,378 $99,205 $113,030 $128,798
    Yakima Hourly $35.90 $51.99 $61.13 $75.69 $90.96
Monthly $6,221 $9,010 $10,594 $13,117 $15,763
Yearly $74,675 $108,139 $127,148 $157,429 $189,185
United States Hourly $27.64 $41.47 $53.75 $65.22 $90.46
Monthly $4,790 $7,187 $9,315 $11,303 $15,677
Yearly $57,480 $86,260 $111,790 $135,660 $188,160

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The optometrist's reputation and ability to attract new clients also affect wages.

Optometrists who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan. Those who are self-employed must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

State Outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Optometrists (SOC 29-1041)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 864 35.2% 16.1% 90
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 45 6.7% 13.4% 2
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 21 42.9% 8.6% 2
    Benton and Franklin Counties 56 41.1% 15.0% 6
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 42 38.1% 11.9% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 66 30.3% 15.2% 6
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 44 40.9% 14.1% 5
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 40 40.0% 14.6% 5
    King County 327 35.5% 19.6% 34
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 46 39.1% 13.8% 5
    Pierce County 60 26.7% 15.2% 5
    Snohomish County 72 36.1% 12.4% 8
    Spokane County 37 29.7% 13.9% 3
United States 42,100 9.5% 5.2% 1,700

National employment

About 11% of optometrists are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be strong as the population grows and ages and the demand for vision care expands. The baby boomers are now middle aged and many of them will experience vision difficulties. In addition, as adults live longer they experience more eye problems, such as cataracts.

More employees have vision care as part of their health insurance. And due to new federal health care laws, more people have health coverage.

This is a small occupation and few new jobs open. However, there are only a few optometry training programs and graduates should be able to find jobs. Those who are board-certified will have the best job prospects.

Other resources

American Academy of Optometry (external link)
2909 Fairgreen Street
Orlando, FL 32803
American Optometric Association (external link)
243 North Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63141
American Optometric Student Association (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Optometrist (external link)
Optometric Physicians of Washington (external link)
PO Box 1610
Woodenville, WA 98072-1610
Optometry Career Guide (external link) (PDF file)
(Association of Schools and College of Optometry)
Optometry students.com (external link)
From the American Optometric Association
The Student Doctor Network (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster