Become an Optometrist in Canada in 5 Steps

There are several reasons so many people consider optometry a career in Canada.

When it is time to get their eyes checked, people want to make sure they are seeing the right eye care professional for their needs. Let us guide you on all the steps you need to become an optometrist in Canada.

There are several reasons so many people consider optometry a career in Canada. These include its high wages and salaries, good job prospects, in-demand by Canadian employers, and more.

With the rapid development of new technologies and the rising use of instruments such as the ophthalmoscope which is used for examining the interior structures of the eye, especially the retina, optometry has become a growing profession that has advanced drastically over the past several decades.

The process of becoming an optometrist demands higher education, formal training, and the acquisition of essential soft skills.

Understanding how to become an optometrist in Canada can help you prepare for a career in this field. In this article, we discuss who an optometrist is, the steps for becoming an optometrist, and outline essential skills you may require to succeed in this career.

Who is an optometrist?

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor.

An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of college.

They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.

What are the duties of an optometrist?

Generally speaking, an optometrist performs a wide of responsibilities. They are responsible to:

  • Perform thorough routine eye inspections.
  • Identify the patient’s visual alertness, the field of vision, and hand-eye coordination.
  • Diagnose sight problems, such as nearsightedness and color blindness.
  • Prescribe corrective lenses and medications.
  • Maintain accurate medical files for all patients.
  • Promote eye health by teaching patients about proper eye care techniques.
  • Identify and assess eye defects and diseases such as diabetes and liver failure.
  • Record all diagnosis and treatment plans including transfers and therapeutic prescriptions.

Additionally, the work of an optometrist also includes:

  • examining patients’ eyes and conducting diagnostic tests to assess ocular health and determine the nature and extent of vision problems and abnormalities;
  • testing visual function using specialized instruments and equipment for measuring visual acuity and refractive error, the function of visual pathways, visual fields, eye movements, freedom of vision, and intraocular pressure;
  • detecting, diagnosing, and managing eye disease, including prescribing medications for the treatment of eye disease;
  • consulting with and referring patients to ophthalmologists or other health professionals if additional medical treatment is necessary;
  • detecting and diagnosing eye movement disorders and defects of binocular function, and planning and managing treatment programs, including counseling patients in eye exercises to coordinate movement and focusing of eyes;
  • prescribing corrective eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other vision aids, and checking optical devices for performance, safety, comfort, and lifestyle;
  • advising on visual health matters such as contact lens care, vision care for the elderly, optics, visual ergonomics, and occupational and industrial eye safety.

Why is optometry a good career?

Pursuing a career in optometry could end up a wise and rewarding job choice. Here are some reasons to consider a career in optometry:

Career Opportunities

Doctors of Optometry are in high demand. Going forward, the need for this profession is only going to keep growing as the population of aging people increases.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, optometry will grow by about 27 percent, or 11,000 new jobs, from 2014 to 2024. This is higher than the average job growth expected across all industries.

In addition to need, there are other things that a career in optometry has to offer. First, you can participate in interdisciplinary care with other healthcare providers. This allows you to take part in a holistic care regime through the practice of primary optometry.

Various Specialties

If you so choose, you can select the route of research. This will allow for the exploration of new diagnoses, treatments, and cures for eye conditions and diseases.

Opportunities for your specific practice are much more extensive than in other types of medical professions. Within optometry, you have the option of pediatric, geriatric, low vision, contact lenses, vision rehabilitation, ocular disease, and disabilities.

Job Satisfaction

Optometrists love their jobs, in general, due to their ability to make the lives of their patients better while maintaining a work-life balance. We can improve lives and see immediate satisfaction when a patient puts on glasses for the first time.

In addition, most optometrists can choose a flexible work schedule based on their needs while receiving minimal emergency care requests.

If you are thinking about a career in optometry, then learn more about what optometrists do and how you can get started with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.

Our doctors will show you what you can expect and how they have improved their lives and the lives of their patients by choosing optometry.

Benefits of becoming an Optometrist

The benefits of being an optometrist include:

1. Money

A typical optometrist’s yearly income is well above the national average.  If you’re looking for a career that gives you the opportunity to own a home, raise a family, travel, drive a nice car, etc., then becoming an optometrist can offer you those opportunities.

2. Schedule Flexibility

Optometrists have the ability to craft the work schedule that suits their needs and lifestyle the most.

For Optometrists to whom their work schedule is of utmost importance, they will actually make a work schedule before even looking for a job and then find positions that fit that schedule.

3. Many Different Modes of Practice

Optometrists are not limited to a single type of work environment. There are many to choose from depending on your personal preference.

How to Immigrate to Canada as an Optometrist

Become an optometrist in Canada in 5 steps

Here is a comprehensive step on how to become an optometrist.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming an optometrist is completing a bachelor’s degree in university preferably with a focus on biological sciences or pre-med significance. Students must complete a series of pre-requisite courses in their degree with a focus on math and sciences.

Students must also complete the degree with at least a B average or higher depending on the school’s competitive averages.

Step 2: Pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

The OAT is administered by the Association Of Schools And Colleges Of Optometry. The process is similar to taking the MCAT to get into medical school. Before applying to an optometry program, you must complete this computerized, multiple-choice exam that tests four main areas:

  • Physics
  • Survey Of Natural Sciences
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Other application components include:

  • Two confidential assessment forms (references)
  • English language requirements
  • Canadian citizenship and Police Records Check
  • Volunteer experience
  • Awards both academic and non-academic
  • School interviews

Step 3: Enroll in a Doctor Of Optometry Program

To become an optometrist, you must complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry (O.D) degree.  This degree combines in-class learning as well as supervised clinical experience. In Canada,  the Doctor of Optometry degree is only offered at the University of Waterloo in Ontario

Step 4: Pass the NBEO exam

After completing your doctorate degree, you must take and pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam.

Step 5: Get Licensed

Once you have completed and passed the NBEO exam, you can take an additional year to complete a one-year residency program to get advanced clinical residency training in your area of specialization. Once that is complete, you are ready to embark on your career as an optometrist!

Top skills needed to become an optometrist

To work as an optometrist, there are certain skills you must possess, These skills include:

1. Active listening and detail orientation

The importance of excellent listening skills cannot be emphasized enough. These skills will allow you to understand what your patients are telling you so you can respond appropriately with the proper treatment and medications.

2. Verbal Communication

You will have to convey information to your patients clearly. Stellar speaking skills will make that possible.

3. Interpersonal skills

In addition to strong listening and verbal communication skills, you must be able to “read” your patients’ non-verbal signals, as well as persuade and instruct them.

4. Critical thinking and problem-solving

You must be able to identify problems and then use your critical thinking skills to solve them.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much money do optometrists in Canada make per year?

The average salary for an Optometrist is $106,955 per year in Canada.

Do you have to get an undergraduate degree in math or science before applying to optometry school?

No, you do not. You have the option to pursue your undergraduate degree in whatever you choose including art, business, and other degrees offered at your university as long as you take the required prerequisite courses to apply to optometry school.

How many years does it take to become an optometrist in Canada?

A total of 8-9 years of schooling and practicum is required to become an optometrist. This includes four years of an undergraduate degree, four years of a doctorate degree, and a one-year residency program.

Is optometrist in demand in Canada?

Optometrists are in high demand in all 11 of Canada’s provinces and territories, and as a highly-skilled professional, you can expect to earn between $59000 and $92400 per year.

What are the benefits of being an optometrist?

The benefits of being an optometrist include health and life insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement benefits.

Conclusion

Optometrists play an important role in providing eye care to patients. We hope that this article will be of an advantage to you in knowing how to become an optometrist in Canada.