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How to Become an Optometrist

Starting a career in optometry means dedicating yourself to the care and preservation of people's vision. As an optometrist, your role is crucial in maintaining eye health and improving visual acuity for patients. But what does it take to transition from being interested in this field to becoming a professional optometrist? Let's delve into how you can transform your passion for eye care into a successful career in optometry. From educational prerequisites to licensure, we'll cover everything you need to know to embark on this rewarding journey.

Optometrists and What They Do

An optometrist is a healthcare professional specialising in eye care, vision health, and the diagnosis and management of eye diseases. They conduct comprehensive eye exams, prescribe corrective lenses, and provide treatment for various eye conditions. Optometrists typically work in various settings, including:

  1. High Street Optometry Practices: These are private practices located on high streets or in shopping centres where optometrists provide routine eye exams, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and offer advice on eye health.
  2. Hospital Eye Departments: Many optometrists work within hospital eye departments, where they deal with more complex eye conditions and collaborate closely with ophthalmologists and other healthcare professionals.
  3. Community Health Clinics: Optometrists also work in community health clinics, providing eye care services to underserved populations.
  4. Specialist Clinics: Some optometrists work in specialised clinics focusing on areas such as low vision, paediatric optometry, or contact lenses.
  5. Corporate Settings: Optometrists may be employed by large optical retail chains or corporate healthcare providers.
  6. Educational Institutions: Some optometrists work in educational settings, such as universities or colleges, where they may teach optometry students or conduct research.

Educational Pathway to Becoming an Optometrist

1. Get a Degree in Optometry

Students are typically required to have completed certain A levels to apply for an optometry degree program.  You must have a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, and physics. This will provide you with the necessary background knowledge for understanding the complexities of the human eye and vision system. Gaining admission to an optometry degree programme involves meeting several important requirements:

  • A-level Results: Strong grades in relevant A-level subjects are essential. Universities typically look for high scores in science-related subjects.
  • UCAS Application: Submission of a detailed UCAS application, including personal statements and reference letters highlighting your interest in optometry and any relevant experience.
  • Interviews: Some universities may require an interview as part of the admissions process to assess your suitability for the programme.

The optometry degree programme in the UK usually lasts three to four years and covers a range of subjects, including:

  • Visual Optics: Study of how light interacts with the eye.
  • Ocular Anatomy and Physiology: Detailed understanding of the structure and function of the eye.
  • Clinical Optometry: Practical skills in eye examinations, diagnosis, and treatment of eye conditions.
  • Pharmacology: Understanding of medications used in the treatment of eye diseases.

2. Pre-Registration Period

After completing an optometry degree, you must undertake a pre-registration period. This involves working under the supervision of a qualified optometrist to gain practical experience and further develop your clinical skills. During this period, you will:

  • Complete a Logbook: Document your practical experience and competencies.
  • Attend Assessment Visits: Regular assessments by a College of Optometrists assessor to ensure you meet the required standards.
  • Pass the Scheme for Registration: Final assessment involving written and practical exams to demonstrate your readiness to practice independently.

Register with the GOC

Start Practising

Once you have successfully registered with the General Optical Council (GOC), you are officially recognised as a qualified optometrist and can begin your professional practice. This is an exciting milestone in your career, marking the transition from student to practitioner. At this stage, you can start practicing in various settings, such as high street optometry practices, hospitals, community health clinics, or specialised clinics.

To support your career launch, Verovian Optical Agency is here to help you find the perfect placement. We connect newly qualified optometrists with opportunities that match their skills and career aspirations. Whether you're looking for a position in a bustling urban practice or a quieter community setting, we have a network of employers eager to welcome talented professionals like you.

Starting your practice involves more than just finding a job; it's about establishing yourself in the field. As you begin your career, focus on building strong patient relationships, honing your clinical skills, and staying abreast of industry developments. Verovian Optical Agency provides resources and support to help you navigate these early stages, offering guidance on everything from professional development to best practices in patient care.

Develop Essential Skills

Here are some of the key skills required to become an optometrist:

  1. Clinical Competence: Proficiency in conducting comprehensive eye examinations, diagnosing eye conditions, and prescribing appropriate treatments or corrective measures.
  2. Communication: Effective communication with patients to explain diagnoses, treatment plans, and the importance of eye care practices.
  3. Critical Thinking: Ability to analyse symptoms, test results, and patient history to reach accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions.
  4. Empathy and Patient Care: Compassionate interaction with patients, understanding their concerns, and providing emotional support during treatment.
  5. Attention to Detail: Thoroughness in examining patients' eyes and recording accurate medical histories.
  6. Professionalism and Ethics: Adherence to ethical standards, confidentiality, and professionalism in all interactions and practices.
  7. Technical Skills: Competence in using advanced optometric equipment and technology for accurate assessments and measurements.
  8. Continuous Learning: Commitment to staying updated with advancements in optometry, attending professional development courses, and participating in ongoing education to maintain competence.

Career Advancement for Optometrists 

Optometry offers a flexible career structure, allowing movement between sectors and the ability to combine various roles. Career advancement within corporate practice can involve promotion within clinical and/or management structures, with potential transfers between practices aiding in progression.

You may also consider specialising in areas like peadiatric optometry or ocular disease management, obtaining independent prescribing qualifications, and moving into leadership roles within practices or larger optical chains. You can also pursue academic and research positions, contribute as industry consultants, and engage in public health initiatives. Opportunities for continuous professional development, participation in professional associations, and entrepreneurial ventures such as opening private practices further enhance career prospects. With diverse paths available, you can significantly impact the field and achieve professional growth and fulfilment.

Salary Expectation 


As we conclude this comprehensive exploration of the steps to becoming an optometrist, it's clear that the journey is one of commitment, education, and a deep-seated desire to enhance the visual health of the community. Optometry is not just about prescribing glasses or contact lenses; it's about enriching lives through improved sight.

To all aspiring optometrists out there, remember that your path is not just shaped by knowledge and clinical expertise, but also by the compassion and empathy you show to each patient. With each eye examination and each interaction, you have the opportunity to make a profound difference.

Whether you're at the beginning of your educational journey, preparing for your pre-registration period, or ready to step into the world of professional practice, the future of eye care is bright with promise. Embrace the challenges and rewards that come with this noble profession, and take pride in the knowledge that you are a vital part of a community dedicated to safeguarding one of our most precious senses.

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