If you know your professional options, you can plan your career course now.
For more than 50 years, optometry was a profession of solo, private practitioners. Today, young doctors of optometry have a slew of practice options, including group or independent practice, corporate and retail practice, HMOs and more. The key for an optometry student nearing graduation is to be informed of these options and make a practical decision about what will satisfy you personally and professionally.
Independent/owner practice: Many students and new doctors of optometry want to start their own practice or buy into an existing practice. If you’re entrepreneurial and have an interest in business practices, this may be a good option for you.
Partnership: Working in a partnership has become the most common form of group practice. Two or more doctors of optometry (and sometimes ophthalmologists) are joint practice owners, although not necessarily equal owners. Doctors share resources, profits and losses.
Group practice: Three or more doctors of optometry work together under a prearranged agreement. Doctors combine forces (not necessarily ownership) to share or access benefits, such as volume purchasing and multidisciplinary referrals.
Shared-expense arrangement: Two or more doctors of optometry share office space while maintaining the autonomy of their practices. Each doctor owns his or her own practice while sharing fixed overhead expenses, but profits are not shared.
Independent Doctor adjacent to an optical: Your business entity is separate from the optical store but in the same building, usually with a separate entrance. You typically pay rent to the optical corporation but your equipment, patient records, and other assets belong to your practice.
Franchise owner: Several national eye care corporations offer franchises. You purchase the franchise and operate it under guidelines established and set by the corporation.
Associateship: For many graduating doctors of optometry, becoming an associate is a practical option and often leads to partnership. As an associate, you work on a salaried basis, often with production-based bonuses available.
Government/military: All U.S. military branches use health care professionals. Plus, there are opportunities in government hospitals and clinics, such as those operated by U.S. Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Public Health Service.
HMO: A health maintenance organization provides health care services for patients paying a fixed, prepaid amount. Doctors of optometry may work full time as salaried employees in an HMO facility, or part-time, contracting to deliver services while maintaining a private practice.
Academia: An option sometimes overlooked by doctors of optometry is working in an academic institution like an optometry college or another institution of higher education. Academic positions are typically salaried with benefits included.
Private Equity Employment: Many private practices have sold their assets to a management corporation, and optometrists are contracted employees of the larger doctor-owned entity. The practice atmosphere is similar to private practice settings.
Ophthalmologist/medical clinic: Employer-employee relationships between ophthalmologists and doctors of optometry are becoming more frequent. The doctor of optometry becomes a partner or owns a portion of the practice. Additionally, a group of
doctors of optometry may employ an ophthalmologist.
Industry: Working in industry affords the opportunity to research and develop new products and services. Doctors of optometry who work in industry have numerous other options, including marketing, administration, professional relations and clinical practice.
Once you’ve decided which path within optometry you’d like to take, you can search for your perfect career fit in AOAExcel’s Career Center. You can post your resume allowing employers to reach out to you directly, and you can search open positions.
Young doctors: Find your career fit.
Looking for a new optometric career opportunity? Doctors of optometry, including recent graduates from the class of 2020, can search open positions and connect with employers in the AOAExcel Career Center.
Learn how you can apply or nominate a doctor of optometry for the 2024 AOA Leadership Institute.