Optometrists are doctors who specialize in eye care treatment. They conduct eye exams to detect such vision problems as farsightedness or nearsightedness, and prescribe corrective lenses such as glasses or contacts. Optometrists also examine patients for eye injuries, disorders and diseases such as glaucoma. According to May 2012 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they also earned an average annual wage of $109,810, making optometry both a lucrative and a high-demand career.
BLS Outlook Data
Through 2020, job growth for the average U.S. occupation will increase by 14.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, demand for optometrists will increase by 33 percent during the same time frame. Optometry is a small field with only 34,200 optometrists, so a 33 percent increase will add 11,300 new jobs to the market by 2020.
Reasons for Demand
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry reports that there is a demand for optometrists to provide preventative and corrective eye care. Also, an aging population will create more demand for vision care, and this trend will span the next several decades. In addition, as optometrists reach retirement age, these vacancies will create job openings. Yet another factor fueling demand for optometrists is an increase in the number of insurance plans that provide vision care coverage.
Job Outlook Comparisons
When comparing the job outlook for optometrists to other health care professions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for chiropractors to increase by 28 percent through 2020. Pharmacists will experience a 25 percent growth rate, while physicians and surgeons can expect to see a 24 percent increase in new jobs. For dentists, the growth rate is 21 percent, while podiatrists will see a 20 percent increase. Comparing optometry to other nonmedical professions, civil engineers will experience a 19 percent growth rate, while lawyers will only see a 10 percent increase in demand for their services.
Where Optometrists Work
More than 50 percent of optometrists work in stand-alone optometry offices. Another 13 percent work in physicians’ offices, while 8 percent are employed in health and personal care stores and 2 percent work in outpatient care centers. Optometrists also work in hospitals. At least 22 percent of optometrists are self-employed. From a geographical standpoint, the states employing the most optometrists are California, New York, Texas, Illinois and Florida.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupation Employment and Wages, May 2012, Optometrists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Optometrists
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Optometrists Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Health Care Occupations
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Optometrists Work Environment
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