Fact Checked

How Do I Become an Independent Optometrist?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

In order to become an independent optometrist, you must usually have both an optometry degree and any required practice licenses, as well as some sort of business acumen or practice plan. Independent optometry practice is usually about more than just seeing patients. Doctors must have the skills to attract and keep clientele and must be able to manage a business so that it is profitable. Some of this can be learned in optometry school, but a lot of it must be honed through individual research or experience.

The very first thing you must do to become an independent optometrist is to earn a doctor of optometry, or OD, degree. This usually involves enrolling in an OD program at an accredited university and completing all required classes, labs, and practicum seminars. Optometry school is where you will learn all about healthcare of the eyes. You will learn how to correct vision, identify basic eye health, and diagnose different eye diseases. All of these skills are essential in order to become an independent optometrist.

An optometrist examines a patient's eyes.
An optometrist examines a patient's eyes.

Many jurisdictions also require that optometrists be licensed before they can practice. You must pass any and all of your locality's licensing exams before you can become an independent optometrist. Keeping up with your credentials, which sometimes involves additional training, may also be required.

Most of the time, any licensed optometrist can set up shop as an independent provider. It is usually a good idea to research your jurisdiction’s practice regulations before investing in a private venture, however, as some localities place traineeship requirements on newly licensed doctors. In these places, you may have to work under a more senior optometrist or within a multi-doctor practice for a certain number of years before striking out on your own.

Optometrists specialize in eye care.
Optometrists specialize in eye care.

Simply being qualified to become an independent optometrist is only part of the battle. Next steps involve finding an office space, renting or purchasing equipment, and hiring staff as needed. Attracting clientele and advertising your services is important, too.

There is usually a lot of business that goes into running an independent optometry office. In addition to mastering how to run a practice in terms of space and personnel, you will likely also need to make decisions about payment processing, insurance claims handling, and referrals. Sometimes this information can be learned in a formal business training program, but it is usually possible to teach it to yourself, as well.

Reading books about or authored by independent optometrists is a good way to get a sense of what to look out for. It can also be valuable to interview or meet with doctors who are pursuing this path. The career center at your optometry school is often the best place to get started making these connections.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • An optometrist examines a patient's eyes.
      By: daniel rajszczak
      An optometrist examines a patient's eyes.
    • Optometrists specialize in eye care.
      By: blueringmedia
      Optometrists specialize in eye care.