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Thursday, December 4, 2008
Career in Optometry
Numerous jobs in sight
Optometry, a health care profession, is concerned with examination, diagnosis and treatment of eyes with a focus on visual, optical symptoms, refractive errors and their correction, using lenses and other optical aids. Optometrists or optometric physicians are primary eye care and health professionals concerned with vision care. They are experts in determining one's refractive error and prescribing appropriate correction.
They deal with vision screening (eye testing), diagnosis of visual problems, orthoptics and vision training, optometric counselling of patients with partial sight, colour blindness and hereditary vision defects, and designing and fitting of spectacles, contact lenses and low vision aids. They also prescribe vision therapy eye exercises to patients complaining of visual symptoms such as squint.
In India, optometry started in the year 1958, with the establishment of the first school of optometry at Gandhi Eye Hospital, Aligarh. The two-year diploma in optometry course was eventually started at about a dozen institutions across country. But, soon a move was made to transform optometry into clinical technology by the introduction of a two-year diploma in clinical technology in optometry and orthoptics at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.
These courses were later replaced with the three-year BSc (Hons) in ophthalmic techniques at Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Scienes, AIIMS. After several such initiatives, today, courses in this subject are widespread and there are over 40 institutes all over India. Currently there are about 7,000-8,000 optometrists in India and every year nearly 1,000 fresh optometrists enter the industry.
As per WHO's Vision 2020-Right to Sight programme, there is a requirement of 35,000 optometrists to take care of primary health care needs of the Indian population. Thus, there is a great demand for professionals in this field and optometry has become a lucrative profession.
There are various options that exist for a person who has completed a degree or diploma in optometry. One can start with an independent practice, work with companies that manufacture contact lenses or spectacles as part of professional services team (which is a technical team involved in education of eye care practitioners), work with an optical outlet as consultant optometrist, work with an ophthalmologist in a private practice or hospital, become a lecturer in optometry schools and colleges or even undertake research projects.
To become an optometrist, one must have a science background. Most optometry institutes enrol candidates after class XII. The admission process involves a written examination, interview and a panel discussion. Candidates who aspire to become primary health care providers and are keen on serving people are well suited for optometry. Besides, technical knowledge on eyes is also a prerequisite for any candidate. Recruiters and the industry also look for good communication skills, aspirations to grow in life and passion for the profession.
The minimum qualification a recruiter looks for is a Bachelor's degree or diploma course in optometry. A degree from leading optometry institutes is an added advantage that help secure better job opportunities. In fact, internships are another great way of adding to your skills and your resume. Recruiters also look favourably at papers presented in national and international conferences, research studies conducted or projects undertaken at the institute.
The starting salary ranges from Rs 12,000 to 20,000 for a fresh graduate from a good institute. MNCs and big retail chains also offer good salaries. And with experience, one can earn up to Rs 50,000- 60,000 per-month. Besides, in independent practice the sky is the limit.
In all, optometry is a noble eye care profession that is truly rewarding for students looking forward to personal growth, community respect, job flexibility and financial success.