Career development

A newly qualified optometrist will earn around £25,000 – although this will vary from region to region. There are exciting opportunities for those working in high street optometrists who may wish to manage a branch of a national chain, or even own their own practice. There are excellent career paths for those working in clinical roles or in research in the public or private sector. You may decide that you want to specialise in a certain area such as contact lens practice or move into the academic world, perhaps as a tutor or lecturer.

Download the College of Optometrists Look to the future – careers in optometry

All registered optometrists are required to keep their knowledge and skills up to date by obtaining a set number of CET (continuing education and training) points each year by reading papers, interacting with others and attending workshops and presentations.

The Association of Optometrists undertooks a survey of recruitment, retention and career aspirations of the optometry workforce.

Headline findings from the survey include:

  • Like other health professions, optometry is becoming more female and more Asian
  • The workforce values flexibility. Over a quarter of respondents work solely as locums, and flexible working is the most important motive for this
  • While support, equipment and good training are key things that attract young optometrists, established optometrists rate culture and values highly, along with flexibility and convenience
  • The majority of respondents intend to stay in the profession for at least five years/until they retire
  • Around a quarter of respondents are interested in running a business. 16% want to be independent business owners, 7% want to be JVPs/franchisees and 2% employed managers
  • Just under a quarter of employers/managers reported that they had an optometrist vacancy
  • Employers reported some successful recruitment techniques, but the survey evidence that many optometrists either can’t or don’t want to move location, confirms the concerns of many employers who struggle to find suitable candidates for optometry roles

Download Optometrists’ Futures Survey Report

Independent Prescribing enables optometrists to clinically assess a patient, establish a diagnosis, determine the clinical management required and prescribe where necessary.

Once qualified you may prescribe any licensed medicine (except for controlled drugs or medicines for parenteral (injected) administration) for conditions affecting the eye, and the tissues surrounding the eye, within your recognised area of expertise and competence.

You will be able to prescribe privately and, where suitable arrangements have been made, write an NHS prescription.

To qualify in Independent Prescribing you must:

  • be a registered optometrist
  • have been practising in the UK and registered with the GOC for two full years before beginning the clinical placement
  • train in competencies which focus on the consultation, prescribing effectively and prescribing in context.

Regulations around the Independent Prescribing qualification as a whole are detailed in the General Optical Council Independent Prescribing Handbook.

There are currently five universities offering courses in Independent Prescribing. Contact them directly to find out more.

Aston University
Independent Prescribing course for optometrists 
For more information, contact or visit

City University of London
Independent Prescribing for optometrists
For more information, contact Michelle Hennelly at or visit

Cardiff University
Independent Prescribing for optometrists
For more information, contact or visit

Glasgow Caledonian University
Independent Prescribing for optometrists
For more information, contact or visit

University of Hertfordshire
Independent Prescribing for optometrists
For more information, contact Colin Davidson at or visit

Ulster University
Independent Prescribing course for optometrists
For more information, contact Julie McClelland at or visit;