How to Become an Optometrist

Optometrist istock

Optometrists are healthcare practitioners responsible for examining eyes and other parts of the visual system. They diagnose disorders, such as farsightedness and near shortsightedness, and diseases such as glaucoma, and administer appropriate treatments. If you are passionate about helping other people lead healthier lives and prefer jobs that require advanced qualifications, you could become an optometrist.

What do Optometrists do?

Apart from conducting tests, optometrists also have the following duties;

  • Prescribing medications, eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Providing treatments such as low-vision rehabilitation and vision therapy
  • Counselling patients on cleaning and wearing contact lenses to promote eye health
  • Preparing patients for eye surgeries, as well as providing post-operative consultation and care.

It is essential to note optometrists can specialise their services. For example, some can focus on providing eye care for infants and children and others can concentrate on treating specific conditions, such as low vision.

Work Environment

Most optometrists typically work in stand-alone optometry offices, which operate from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. However, some clients may also schedule evening or weekend appointments. As such, optometrists typically work about 40 hours a week.

Optometrists working in hospitals spend their time in treatment rooms and diagnostic laboratories. They also often visit community clinics and local health centres to provide optometry services.


Optometry is a rewarding career. The following table shows the amount of money aspiring optometrists can expect to make at various career levels.

Job Level


Annual Wage

Private practice trainees


£17,000 - £ 21,000

NHS trainees (Band 4)



Qualified private practice optometrists


£28,000 - £60,000

NHS optometrists on Band 6


£25,783 - £34,530

NHS specialist optometrists on Band 7


Up to £40,000

NHS consultant optometrists on Band 8


Up to £80,000

Source: National Careers Service

Education and Training

To become a qualified optometrist, you must complete the following steps;

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in optometry
  • Complete one year of salaried work placement under a registered optometrist
  • Complete the General Optical Council’s final assessment to secure membership

Some of the top universities in UK offering optometry degrees include;

  • City University London, London
  • University of Manchester, Manchester
  • Plymouth University,
  • Cardiff University, Cardiff

If you are a practicing dispensing optician looking to move into optometry, you would still need complete the steps listed above. However, the University of Bradford offers a career advancement course that enables you to graduate with a degree in optometry after 12 months.

Important Skills and Abilities

To be an effective optometrist, you should have;

  • A high level of attention to detail
  • Strong administrative and organisational skills
  • Excellent speaking skills
  • The ability to accurately follow instructions
  • The ability to manage anxious patients
  • Good eye-hand coordination
  • The ability to understand and interpret scientific and mathematical information

Career Progression

After obtaining the required qualifications, you are ready to begin working as an optometrist. Like other healthcare practitioners, you should focus on updating your knowledge and expanding your skillset. This will not only help you adapt to new treatment instruments and techniques, but also boost your career progression prospects.

You can increase your knowledge by;

  • Pursuing specialist training in therapeutics or contact lens practice, offered by the College of Optometrists
  • Pursuing a master’s degree in optometry.

To continue practising, you will need to renew your registration with the GOC annually.

Employment Opportunities

The employers of optometrists include;

  • NHS eye hospitals
  • Optometry clinics or offices
  • Outpatient care centres
  • Offices of physicians
  • Commercial lens manufacturers

With vast work experience, you can move into self-employment by establishing your own optometry office where you can provide consultation services. Optometrists holding master’s degrees can become university lecturers with the responsibility of instructing optometry students.

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The path to becoming an optometrist and getting on is now clear. Follow it!