Becoming an optometrist is a fascinating career choice, and it can make a huge difference to people’s lives. An optometrist can detect key health problems by looking at the health of someone’s eyes, as well as recognising vision problems. By looking at someone’s eye health, you can even alert patients to life changing illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure or even a brain tumour. In this respect, an optometrist is a very respected career, with cutting-edge technology and skills to help people. If you think you’d like to work in the eye care industry, optometry could be a very interesting path for you.
What is an optometrist?
An optometrist is a type of eye care practitioner, relating to services for the eyes or vision. They are primary health care specialists who can examine the eyes in order to detect any vision or health problems; you will probably know them as opticians.
Someone working in optometry can make health assessments, offer advice, prescribe lenses or refer patients for further treatment. A role in optometry usually involves using instruments to test and measure a patient’s vision, in order to make a diagnosis and supply the right lenses.
How do you get into a career in optometry?
To be able to train as an optometrist, you need to study an optometry course at university. Along with your degree, you will need to participate in an assessed clinical training year in practice before being able to register.
Ideally, you need a BSc degree in optometry. To gain entry to a course of this kind, you usually need a minimum of 5 GCSEs and 3 A levels, with at least 2 in science-based subjects. However, it can vary with each course so it is important to check.
You must complete a year’s pre-registration, paid work placement with a registered optometrist, as well as passing the final assessment for the General Optical Council.
All optometrists in the UK must be registered to the General Optical Council. Once you are registered, you can complete further qualifications in more specialist areas.
What other areas of eye health care can you work in?
If you know you want to work in the eye health care industry, but aren’t sure whether optometry is the right choice, there a number of other areas you can look into. You could become a dispensing optician; this is someone who is trained purely to offer advice and fit and supply spectacle frames and lenses, depending on the person’s lifestyle and needs.
You may choose to become an ophthalmic medical practitioner. This role involves being a medical practitioner who has postgraduate training in ophthalmology. They can also examine eyes, test sight and diagnose any problems.
Lastly, you may choose to go the extra mile and be an ophthalmologist. This is a surgical specialist who is medically qualified and usually works in an eye hospital or hospital eye departments.