There are approximately 42,100 licensed optometrists working in the United States. Most are employed in private practice, but others work in health clinics, hospitals, outpatient care centers, health and personal care stores, the armed forces, and schools and colleges of optometry.
There are several ways of entering the field of optometry once an individual has a license to practice. Most optometrists set up their own practices or purchase an established practice. Other beginners serve as associates to established optometrists until they gain enough experience and financial resources to establish their own practices. Some work in health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Optometrists also can start their careers at government-supported clinics or in the armed forces. Some students of optometry earn their doctorates and go directly into research and teaching in schools and colleges of optometry.
Optometrists may advance in their profession by specializing in one area. They can also advance from the position of associate optometrist to establish their own practice.
Optometrists in good standing are eligible for membership in the American Optometric Association, which is the major professional organization for optometrists. Optometrists who meet stringent requirements are also eligible for membership in the American Academy of Optometry. Optometrists also hold membership in state and local optometric societies.
Using your network of contacts, arrange to visit an optometrist's office and talk to the doctor about his or her work.
If possible arrange to work part time or for a summer in an optometrist's office to find out more about the business.
In school take courses in math, science, and business—the latter to prepare for the probability that you will need some business skills to run or oversee your practice.