How To Become an Optometrist In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become optometrists in Australia.


Have you ever wondered what becoming an optometrist in Australia is like? Whether you want to own an optometry practice or see yourself working as a researcher, Australia offers plenty of opportunities to explore the field.


Although optometry may seem daunting, it is a good career choice as it is about making a difference in people's lives and helping them see correctly and clearly.


Optometrists protect and care for eye health and vision. Their patients can primarily benefit from their ability to detect, prevent, and treat eye conditions that may lead to loss of vision and even blindness.


Keep reading if you want to learn the steps of becoming an optometrist in Australia and other critical information. You will learn about optometrist degrees, why you should study optometry, how long it takes to become one, courses, degrees, qualifications, salary, and more.



1. Who Is An Optometrist?


An optometrist is a go-to person for all eye concerns, and they play a crucial role in determining eye problems and deciding the appropriate treatment. They usually work in hospitals, private, or retail settings.


They also form close relationships with different health providers, such as ophthalmologists. Optometrists work closely with them to provide their patients with the best available clinical treatment.


If they have complicated severe eye health cases, they refer such cases to an ophthalmologist. He will then take further steps to treat the issue. Not only that, but they also consult with an ophthalmologist before diagnosing severe eye diseases like glaucoma.


To become an optometrist in Australia, you need to undergo undergraduate education. In addition to that, you can also undertake a postgraduate qualification in optometry.



2. What Does An Optometrist Do?


An optometrist identifies and treats sight problems, examines patients' eyes, and conducts vision tests. Some of their primary work responsibilities include recognising and preventing ongoing eye issues, prescribing treatments, eye therapies, corrective lenses, eye drops, and more.


As optometrists often work in retail and medical settings, they must understand retail and have a certain experience level. Optometrists perform other activities by promoting, selling, and answering questions about specific optical equipment like frames or glass cleaners. 


They also do data and administrative work. They must recognise, analyse, and store patient details correctly, depending on their purchases, ongoing treatments and recoveries.


Higher-level optometrists may manage employees and staff and coordinate with sales representatives to maintain the company's product supply. Optometrists generally practice privately, such as at vision centres and eye offices — they may also teach students at the university.


Here are some other career pathways that you can consider as an optometrist:


  • Own your own optometry business.

  • Participate in international or local eye outreach programs.

  • Try volunteering and working overseas.

  • Work in a hospital or community health centre like with ACCHS (Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services)

  • Work at various universities as a community teacher,

  • Deliver visiting outreach services to underserved communities.

  • Work for several optical companies as an industry representative

  • Follow your passion for academia or vision research.



3. Major Duties and Tasks of an Optometrist


An optometrist's day covers various duties and tasks:


  • Prescribing contact lenses and glasses

  • Treating conditions like retinopathy and glaucoma

  • Providing post - and pre-operative treatment

  • Conducting minor surgical procedures. 


Here are some other tasks and duties performed by an optometrist:


  • Identify the type and the extent of eye or vision problems and other diseases by examining patients' eyes with the help of advanced procedures, instruments, and tests. 

  • Conduct eye testing and screening to determine occupational fitness or fitness to drive. 

  • Handle minor eye conditions by prescribing ocular therapeutic drugs. 

  • Examine patients for symptoms of systemic conditions and eye diseases, including glaucoma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. They may also work with eye surgeons and medical practitioners to co-manage patients. 

  • Undertake retail, managerial, and administrative tasks. 

  • Monitor patients' ocular health and vision using imaging techniques, such as computerised vision tests and digital retinal photography. 

  • Prescribe lenses, glasses, and low vision aids and check suitability. 

  • Receive referrals or refer patients to other health providers and prescribe medications for eye issues. 

  • Diagnose defects of binocular function and eye movement disorders. 

  • Instruct patients on using correct techniques and eye exercises to coordinate eye movements and focus. 

  • Test the function of visual pathways, intraocular pressure, and eye movements, and perform other tests. 

  • Advice on visual health matters like vision care for the elderly, contact lens care, visual ergonomics, optics, and industrial and occupational eye safety.


Note: Optometrists may also have to counsel patients on other health problems like obesity or smoking and tell them how it can affect their ocular health.



4. What Are The Skills Required To Become an Optometrist In Australia?


You need a formal degree to become and understand the technical aspects of an optometrist. Still, you will also need to learn the personal qualities or soft skills required to deal with a wide range of people from different backgrounds. Hence, you must have a caring attitude and excellent written and verbal communication skills.


Now, let us see in detail what attributes you require to become a successful optometrist:


  • Verbal Communication: You must have stellar speaking skills to convey information to your patients. This will further help patients to understand their condition and take necessary measures.


  • Active Listening and Detail-Oriented: Good active listening skills are vital in this job. These skills help you understand what your patients are trying to convey. It also allows you to respond appropriately by prescribing the proper medications and treatment. Optometrists work precisely, so you are required to pay attention to detail.


  • Interpersonal Skills: In addition to possessing strong verbal communication and listening skills, you must be able to interpret your patients' non-verbal signs and instruct and persuade them to take the proper measures.


  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: You must be able to identify problems and then solve them using your critical thinking skills, which may include analysis, interpretation, observation, decision-making, and more.



5. Steps To Become an Optometrist In Australia


You can study optometry at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Both paths require completing your high school degree with a good ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) score.


If you are applying for an undergraduate optometrist degree, you may need to sit and register for UMAT (Undergraduate Medical and Health Sciences Admission Test). Alternatively, if you are already a graduate student, you must take the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test).


Follow the steps below to become an optometrist in Australia:




  • Step 2: Before you apply for optometry courses, it is crucial to check the entrance criteria so that you correctly understand the course requirements. You may find that different optometry schools have other requirements. The graduate pathway takes up to seven years, while the high school pathway takes 3.5 to 5 years. However, it depends on any recognition of prior learning that you may have.


  • Step 3: The national legislation controls optometry practice in Australia. Only registered optometrists can practice optometry. Therefore, you must register with the Optometry Board of Australia once you complete your education.


Note: Optometrists registered with the Optometry Board of Australia can further apply for membership with Optometry Australia. You can contact the relevant division of Optometry Australia as per your state or territory to get further information.



6. Choosing The Best Optometry School In Australia


In becoming an optometrist, it is crucial to know how to choose the right optometry course because something that might be best for someone may not be the best for you. 


So here's what you should consider before taking up an optometry course in Australia:


  • Admission requirements 

  • Program structure and curriculum

  • Program length and degree awarded

  • Faculty composition, student demographics, and faculty tenure

  • Campus setting, geographic location, and facilities

  • The average size of the class and the size of the university

  • Extracurricular and internship opportunities

  • Types of clinical education and training opportunities 

  • Graduate employment rates

  • Cost and financial aid opportunities


Below is a list of the top five Australian optometry schools and the degrees offered by them:


School Name Location Degrees Offered
Deakin University Waurn Ponds, Geelong, AUS Bachelor of Vision Science / Masters of Optometry
University of Melbourne Parkville, Melbourne, AUS Doctor of Optometry
University of New South Wales Kensington Campus, Sydney, AUS Bachelor of Optometry / Bachelor of Science
Flinders University Bedford Park, Adelaide, AUS Bachelor of Medical Science (Vision Science) / Master of Optometry
Queensland University of Technology Kelvin grove, Brisbane, AUS Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Optometry



7. Areas of Specialisation In Optometry


Optometry is already a highly specialised area of work, so only a few specialisation options are available in this field. Most optometrists choose to take up full-time sales positions, and others practise privately or move into management roles. 


Let us have a look at the two most popular specialisations that an optometrist can undertake:



Private Practice


In addition to taking care of daily tasks, an optometrist who moves into private practice is also responsible for managing budgets and staff and handling advertising for their business. 


Not only that, but they also ensure that all the administrative work is completed on time and they stay updated with the latest development in the optometry field.





Since many optometrists work in retail settings, some choose the sales side of the business to deal with clients directly. Usually, sales specialists gain expertise in various styles and brands of contact lenses, glasses, and other optical equipment. 


They also advise customers on what solutions will best suit their requirements. Additionally, they discuss with other optometrists the latest developments and trends in visual aids.



8. How Long Does It Take To Become an Optometrist in Australia?


Depending on your university, becoming an optometrist takes three and a half to seven years. Generally, the high school pathway takes 3.5 to 5 years, whereas the graduate pathway takes around seven years to complete.



9. How Much Do Optometrists Earn In Australia?


The salary of optometrists may vary in Australia, depending on their qualifications, specialisation, and experience. According to PayScale, the average annual optometrist salary in Australia may range between AU$75,000 to AU$108,000. 


Now that you know everything about becoming an optometrist in Australia, you are ready to start your journey.


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