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I got my degree Doctor of Optometry in 2020 after six years in university. 🙌
In this article, I'd like to share with you the things you should know. And at the end of this article, you will know why I ended up in this profession. 😉
If you've just finished senior high school and choosing a college course program, then this page is definitely for you!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent companies and institutions I have worked with in any way.
The things that you should know
1. The demand for optometrists is high.
There is a rough number of ~200 optometry graduates every year in the Philippines. 50% of those graduates fly overseas for better job opportunities, 25% go back to the provinces, and the remaining 25% go to malls (which have a lot of optical retails as well).
In fact, the demand is so high that even professionals have enrolled in optometry as their second course because the market is so profitable. 🤑
2. There are maths in optometry.
Some of my friends felt scammed into thinking that optometry did not require maths at all. Unfortunately, you have to study the maths of the profession.
To understand how lenses work, you need to study the physics of light (optics). This realm is composed of algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. Not to worry, you only need to learn the basics and practice solving problems. You can study them in a more in-depth manner should you want to proceed with a specialty after the licensure exam.
There is no need to be very much stressed about it because on the job, it's technically just basic algebra.
3. As a student, the expenses can be high. 💸
As an optometrist, you would need to have tools to examine your patients. And those tools don't come in cheap. 😢 They cost in the thousands unless they're hand-me-downs from relatives and friends. 😅
Not to mention that tuition is very much expensive. There are only 8 schools in the country that offer optometry as a program, and to continue their quality services and academes, schools will have to come up with a reasonable price for that.
Fortunately, there are scholarships that you could apply to for financial aid. Other than being an academic scholar, you can apply to certain companies like Essilor (see more, do more).
For more details, you may want to contact your local Dean. 😉
4. There is a discreet dispute between ophthalmologists and optometrists.
People, in general, don't know who an optometrist is or what he/she does. But they do know who an ophthalmologist is. So when optometrists start explaining who they really are and what they do, people consider them as almost-an-ophthalmologist-but-still-optimist 🙃.
In your clinic days, you'll be asked to handle patients (under the supervision of a licensed optometrist, of course). You'll often get questions from the elderly asking when the surgery will begin for their developing cataracts. (That's okay, I got that most of the time.)
I never got to know the real reason for the dispute here in the Philippines, but I think it's because the titles create confusion among the public and the over-promotion of the professions overstep the boundaries between the two.
Each profession has its own strengths and cons, and they took different paths through sweat and tears to get to where they are. I believe that transparency and good communication are a way to solve this chronic dispute. Optometrists and ophthalmologists should work hand-in-hand in serving the public's eye health, not solely for profit.
5. There are protocols that you'll need to unlearn when you've finished college.
I suppose this is universal because technology has replaced most of the manual calculations we have to make in this field of work. You will learn a lot of things in school to pass and get that license. Just stick with the foundations and you can create your own techniques from there.
One of the things that you may need to unlearn is the 21-visual-tests steps. You'll be doing this for each patient, you may find this ridiculous because most patients do not come in prepared for such a comprehensive exam and they only want to be able to see things clearly with prescriptive glasses. The 21-step-eye-exam can be exhausting for patients, resulting in a decreased number of examinations (and sales).
Most optical clinics have managed to cut the eye exam to just 7 steps, making it less stressful for both the optometrist and the patient; the 21-step-test is only performed when necessary.
6. STEM students are at an advantage in optometry schools.
Unfortunately, I could not explain this one in-depth because I never got into senior high (that's right, I went straight to college after junior high because that's what awesome people do).
But I think this one should be addressed before enrolling.
The only difference between non-STEM and STEM graduates is the number of subjects in your first two years in college (a.k.a. Pre-proper years).
Non-STEM students have additional subjects related to science and maths.
If you're a non-STEM student, don't let that discourage you. They're just a handful of subjects. You may need to exert an extra hour or two studying because you'll have more units in your curriculum. But after two years, you'll be on equal grounds with the STEM students in terms of subject units.
Why I chose optometry
Because my family has a lineage of optometrists. 🕶 My great-grandmother worked as an optometrist, she had owned and managed a clinic under the name GNC Acebedo Optical in Olongapo, Zambales. My grandmother, would eventually resume her mother's business and establish a number of branches in Metro Manila. My parents never became optometrists, at some point they considered it. They only got to manage a branch in Pasig.
For anyone entering the industry, it's less difficult to establish a business when you have an established network through family, relatives, or friends -- especially in the provinces. I've known a number of my optometrist friends who had established their own clinic in a location where the market is potentially high but weren't able to maintain their business in the long run.
If you don't have your own establishment, you'd be working in someone else's. The most common place to practice optometry is in the mall where the foot traffic could be ridiculously high.
Both career paths, whether as a clinic owner or an optometrist in an optical chain store, the financial security can be well-founded.
So, in all honesty, why did I choose optometry?
My family chose it for me. I wasn't sure of what I wanted to get in college (I think it's rare for any 16-year-old getting into college to know what he/she wants to take.)
Regardless, I took it.
And I never enjoyed it until my third year, when I helped a friend of mine see clearly for the first time after a long time. It made me feel so worthy that I had helped improve someone's quality of life because of my craft.
Do you think optometry is for you? Let me know! 😁