This is a question I get asked every now and then. It was a more common question to hear during my VCE years though I still get it occasionally, possibly because I look like I should still be in high school despite currently being 26 years old (the benefits of Asian genes).
For those thinking about whether the life of an optometrist is for them, or for those a few years into it and now wondering why they ever sold their soul into optometry in the first place, here are some thoughts on why optometry?
It’s one of the less gross options in healthcare.
What could be less gross than gazing into someone else’s eyes? There are no diseased gums or rotting teeth, half severed limbs that require reattaching, mouldy feet, or hairy backs. All this being said, if you’re just not into eyes then optometry is probably not for you – an example of this is one patient of mine who came into the room and announced she hates optometrists because she feels so disgusted by eyes (why are you here then, lady?).
As much as they say to do something you’re passionate about and not just for the money, being able to actually earn some cash towards that million dollar first home in Melbourne’s ridic housing market would not be such a bad thing. Optometry graduates are known as the second highest paid graduates after dentists. According to PayScale, the median salary for an entry-level optometrist in 2016 is $80, 508 in Australia. Of course this will vary widely with your location (typically higher in rural vs metro), and also tends to be higher if you work in a state or territory without its own optometry school.
If you want to work only part-time or casually (what we call a locum) then optometry is a great option. A lot of practices are looking for only part-time optometrists and so it works out well if there’s somewhere else you’d rather be half the week (such as chilling on a beach) or if you’re a parent with young kids and have to babysit at home a few days (you’re probably wishing you were chilling on the beach). Alternatively, be your own boss and locum – work when you want and when you don’t, don’t.
You could change someone’s life.
At the risk of sounding like a total dork, I honestly love optometry because of the way that it can genuinely improve quality of life (and even save a life). Imagine you were the one who found that basal cell carcinoma on the patient’s eyelid, or seeing a patient reporting recent headaches with no relief from chiropractic and then finding they had papilloedema resulting from a brain tumour (true story!) – or, and this will sound lame to all those fortunate enough to not suffer from dry eye, successfully treating a patient with moderate or severe dry eye so that they can actually function properly throughout the day. Optometry is rewarding!
Of course there are many other good reasons to be an optometrist, such as minimal maths (just addition and subtraction but sometimes I even struggle with that), potential to be involved in missions trips to developing countries, no heavy lifting, plus industry perks like free frames! If you have any questions or anything to add then feel free to leave a comment below.