Early careers

If you’re looking for a challenging career in healthcare that offers lots of job satisfaction, working in optics may be the answer. As well as treating and caring for eyes, optometry is about using your skills and technical understanding to make a real difference to people’s quality of life.

Working in the optical profession requires a unique blend of technical knowledge and people skills. As an optometrist, you focus on science-led theory and practice, learning about the mechanics of the eye and how to test and manage eye conditions. And you continue to learn after your optometry degree, too. Optometrists and dispensing opticians are continually broadening their expertise by reading the latest research, attending interactive seminars and reading journals. Apart from the technical knowledge you get the opportunity to work with a mix of people and provide excellent patient care, making a difference to communities.

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

Optometrists are skilled healthcare professionals who examine eyesight, prescribes glasses or contact lenses, checks for eye conditions, as well as spot underlying health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. An optometrist could be working for a large chain or smaller independent practice in a hospital or clinic; carrying out research in a lab; or providing sight tests in people’s homes. Read more »

Dispensing opticians (DO) are trained to fit lenses, coatings and frames for patients, using prescriptions written by optometrists and the role requires technical expertise and good customer service skills. They advise patients on various types of lenses and spectacle frames, including advice on style, weight and colour. The majority of dispensing opticians work in either high street optometrists or for independent practices. Read more »

Optical assistants and clinical assistants are the first point of contact when a patient visits a practice. They make sure that any necessary paperwork is completed before a patient sees the optometrist. The support team is highly trained and can advise on suitable spectacle frames and lenses as well as instruct patients on how to use contact lenses safely. In addition, they may also have been trained to perform some clinical tests, but the results will be looked at by the optometrist. Read more »

Ophthalmic Medical Practitioner (OMPs) are registered medical practitioners who have undertaken postgraduate training in ophthalmology. Like optometrists, they examine eyes, test sight, diagnose abnormalities and prescribe suitable corrective lenses. Read more »

A locum is a person who temporarily fulfils the duties of another permanent optometrist or provides extra staffing during busy periods. You can select the days, hours and location of work. You are self-employed and not tied to a practice.

More than 25% of optometrists work primarily as locums – that’s more than twice as many as ten years ago. Locums can enjoy a more flexible work life with attractive financial rewards, and having a range of experience to draw on will give you confidence in new or different workplaces, but may need a little dedicated support at times.

Download the College of Optometrists Working as a locum – guide

A domiciliary optometrist carries out eye examinations in patients’ homes, correctional facilities, care homes and day centres. Your patients may be housebound and suffering from physical disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health issues. You will need to adapt your clinical approach and soft skills to deliver a thorough eye examination in a way that meets the patient’s individual needs.

In the video below Optometrist Zetun Arif discusses a day in the life of a domiciliary optometrist.

You will deal with a variety of clinical cases that you see in practice on a day-to-day basis, from sight tests and contact lens fittings, to dry eye assessments and OCT imaging. The patients you see will present a variety of problems, all requiring different solutions.

In the video below Optometrist Karan Vayas discusses what the multiple setting has to offer.

As with a multiple practice you will encounter a variety of clinical cases on a day-to-day basis in a High Street setting. Working in the independent sector often allows more flexibility on product recommendations and input into how the practice is run.

In the video below Optometrist Gemma Hill discusses the benefits of working in independent practice.

Lecturers teach academic and vocational subjects to undergraduate and postgraduate students. They teach optometry techniques to students and prepare them for their pre-registration year after graduation. Alongside teaching responsibilities, lecturers will usually undertake research within an area of specialist interest. Working in academia is especially rewarding because the impact you have is not only on the patients in clinic, but also on your student optoms during lectures, and in expanding knowledge in the research field.