Optometrists held about 41,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of optometrists were as follows:
|Offices of optometrists||59%|
|Offices of physicians||17|
|Health and personal care stores||11|
Most optometrists work full time. Some work evenings and weekends to accommodate patients’ needs.
Optometrists typically need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree and a license to practice in a particular state. O.D. programs take 4 years to complete, and most students have a bachelor’s degree before entering such a program.
Optometrists typically need an O.D. degree. Applicants to these programs must have completed at least 3 years of postsecondary education. However, applicants to O.D. programs typically have earned a bachelor’s degree in a premedical field such as biology or physical science.
Applicants to O.D. programs also must take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), a computerized exam that tests applicants in four subject areas: science, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.
O.D. programs take 4 years to complete. They combine classroom learning and supervised clinical experience. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the visual system.
After finishing an O.D. degree, some optometrists complete a 1-year residency program to get advanced clinical training in the area in which they wish to specialize. Areas of specialization for residency programs include family practice, low vision rehabilitation, pediatric or geriatric optometry, and ocular disease, among others.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require optometrists to be licensed. To get a license, a prospective optometrist must have an O.D. degree from an accredited optometry school and must complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam.
Some states require individuals to pass an additional clinical exam or an exam on laws relating to optometry. All states require optometrists to take continuing education classes and to renew their license periodically. The board of optometry in each state can provide information on licensing requirements.
Optometrists who wish to demonstrate an advanced level of knowledge may choose to become board certified by the American Board of Optometry.
Optometrists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as an optometrist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Optometrists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Decision-making skills. Optometrists must be able to evaluate the results of a variety of diagnostic tests and decide on the best course of treatment for a patient.
Interpersonal skills. Because they spend much of their time examining patients, optometrists must be able to help their patients feel at ease.
Speaking skills. Optometrists must be able to clearly explain eyecare instructions to their patients, as well as answer patients’ questions.
The median annual wage for optometrists was $124,300 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $192,390.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for optometrists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Offices of physicians||$128,390|
|Health and personal care stores||126,780|
|Offices of optometrists||106,260|
Most optometrists work full time. Some work evenings and weekends to accommodate their patients’ needs.
Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.
About 1,700 openings for optometrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Because vision problems tend to occur more frequently later in life, an aging population will lead to demand for optometrists. As people age, they become more susceptible to developing diseases that impair vision, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, and will need vision care.
The increasing prevalence of refractive errors, particularly myopia, among the general population is another key source of demand for optometrists as they will be needed to diagnose and treat these common eye problems. Moreover, the growing use of electronic devices has translated into an increasing number of individuals experiencing digital eye strain, which may lead to more demand for eye care services. Meanwhile, diabetes has been linked to increased rates of diabetic retinopathy, a condition that affects the blood vessels in the eye and may lead to loss of vision. With diabetes on the rise, optometrists will be needed to monitor, treat, and refer these patients.
For more information about optometry, visit
American Optometric Association
For more information about optometrists, including a list of accredited optometric programs, visit
Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
For information on specific admission requirements and sources of financial aid, contact the admissions officers of individual optometry schools.
For more information about the national board exam, visit
National Boards of Examiners in Optometry
For more information about board certification, visit