Careers in optometry

Child and doctor in exam room

An optometrist, or Doctor of Optometry (OD), is a healthcare professional who provides Primary Vision Care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of eye disease such as diabetes and hypertension.

With routine hours, few emergencies, and a good income, ODs enjoy a lifelong career with a satisfying lifestyle. Career opportunities include solo, partnership, or group practice, large clinics and hospitals, part-time or full-time, regular practice or specialization.

Optometrists wishing to practice in Canada must hold a Doctor of Optometry degree as well as meet all the requirements of, and be registered by, the professional board(s) in the provinces and territories where they wish to practice.

Fast facts

  • The average Canadian optometrist in practice earns $70,000 – $80,000 per year, excluding benefits
  • How long does an optometrist stay in the career? Typically life-long, until retirement
  • There are approximately 3,000 practising optometrists in Canada
  • The School of Optometry and Vision Science at uWaterloo offers the only English language optometry program in Canada
  • The École d'Optométrie at the Université de Montréal offers the only French language optometry program in Canada
  • Each year, approximately 90 optometrists graduate from Waterloo and about 40 graduate from the Université de Montréal

What does an optometrist do?

A Doctor of Optometry, or optometrist, is a provincially registered, independent, primary health care provider who specializes in the examination, diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of diseases and disorders of the human visual system, the eye, and the associated structures.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you’ve probably experienced an eye examination that measures your overall visual health, administered by your optometrist. However, you might not be aware that certain systemic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, often first appear in the eye. Optometrists diagnose and manage such diseases. They also provide pre- and post-surgical care for various conditions and procedures, including cataracts, refractive laser treatment, and retinal problems.

Along with regular eye examinations, optometrists may also:

  • Prescribe glasses and contact lenses
  • Rehabilitate the visually impaired
  • Diagnose and treat ocular diseases
  • Perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye
  • Evaluate patients’ vision and determine appropriate treatments
  • Treat clarity problems or eye diseases such as glaucoma and ulcers
  • Diagnose complications due to the aging process, accidents, or malfunction

What is the daily routine of an optometrist?

The average optometrist spends 41 hours per week in practice, with 35 hours devoted to patients and the rest to managing the practice. Typically, an average optometric practice handles about 2,800 patient consultations per year. The day-to-day tasks of most optometrist can be quite varied and challenging. Over the course of a day, you might:

  • Remove a foreign body from the cornea
  • Evaluate the vision of a child who is having difficulties in school
  • Manage the care of a contact lens patient
  • Prescribe medication for glaucoma
  • Provide post-operative care after refractive surgery
  • Fit a legally blind patient with a magnifying device that will enable the patient to read

Where do optometrists work?

The majority of optometrists engage in private practice (both solo and group) all across North America. Some optometrists, after further academic and professional training, pursue research and teaching in universities and industry or specialize in a residency program. Some optometrists also interact with various levels of government regarding health care policies.

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