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For your eyes only

If your mission is to help others with their vision, then optometry is the career for you, says Jayanta Goswami.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 13:29 IST
Jayanta Goswami

The statistics are alarming. According to reports, every third blind person in the world is an Indian and millions of others suffer from defective vision. If you’re keen to work towards alleviating human suffering, a career as an optometrist will be just right for you.

In India, the demand for qualified optometrists is expected to rise sharply in the coming years. A recent survey has shown that the population to optometrist ratio in India is two lakh to one whereas in developed countries like the US and European countries, it is 10,000 to one. Industry estimates in India predict a requirement of over two lakh institutionally-qualified optometrists as opposed to the current availability of a meagre 5,000.

Paramedical experts play a significant role in helping doctors diagnose a disease to effectively treat patients. Their role is diagnostic as well as therapeutic. Medical lab technicians, X-Ray technologists, food service workers, emergency medical technicians, dental mechanics, pharmacists, physiotherapists and optometrists are counted as paramedics.

According to Dr S P S Grewal, CEO of the Grewal Eye Institute, which offers the region’s first four-year, full-time professional BSc (Hons) degree programme in optometry and ophthalmic techniques in Chandigarh, there are tremendous opportunities for optometrists today. Optometrists are required to perform regular eye examinations, practice orthoptics, public health optometry, offer counselling services and low-vision aids, assess and diagnose systemic diseases, refer patients to appropriate specialists and act as primary eye care providers.

“We foresee a trained medical manpower crunch in the times to come in India, especially in eye care. An institutionally-qualified optometrist has an important role to play when it comes to eye care,” says Grewal.An optometrist can take up jobs in hospitals or clinics as assistants toophthalmologists. S/he can also work in private optical set-ups or set up independent practice.

After taking a BSc degree, students can opt for MOpt, MPhil, MS or PhD programmes in India or abroad. In addition to this, in the US, students can also pursue an OD (doctor of optometry) programme from any of 18 accredited US universities,” Dr Grewal adds.

“The scope of work for an optometrist in Delhi is enormous. With new hospitals coming up in the city and optical chains opening shops here, optometrists are much in demand. However, the competition is tough. And to stay in the reckoning, an optometrist must constantly upgrade his knowledge,” says Bhavneet S Vohra, a Delhi-based optometrist.

With inputs from Pranab Ghosh, in Delhi


Optometry is a science that is associated with the structure,

working and function of the human eye. This healthcare profession is related to the examination, correct diagnosis and proper treatment of the eyes. It deals with optical symptoms, using lenses and other optical aids, refractive errors and their correction. An optometrist is a doctor of optometry (O.D.), and not a medical doctor. He or she will work through various vision therapies to treat abnormalities, and can prescribe drugs for the eyes. If surgery is required, the patient is sent to an ophthalmologist (M.D.). In USA, optometry is the sixth most sought-after profession. And, in the Gulf countries like Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Qatar etc., no optical outlet is licensed to operate without a qualified optometrist. Even retail supermarkets and duty-free shops must have a qualified optometrist if they sell eye-wear. The scope in places like the US, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Middle East is tremendous

9.00 a.m: Reports for duty Starts doing work (examining patients) in the OPD by preparing patients for the ophthalmologist to see

11.30 a.m: Tea break

12.00 noon: Conducts special diagnostic procedures like visual fields, OCT, FFA and electrophysiology tests, etc

2.00 p.m to 2.30 p.m: Lunch break

2.30 p.m to 5.00 p.m: Assists the ophthalmologist in the O.T in surgical procedures like lasik etc

5.00 p.m to 6.00 p.m: Checks mails, replies to e-mails and browses through websites for the latest in optometry

6.00 p.m: Leaves for home

7.00 p.m to 9.00 p.m: Pursues hobbies, socialises

10.00 p.m: Updates himself on the latest in optical trends, contact lenses and eyewear

In India, the current pay scale for institutionally qualified optometrists is around Rs 2.5 lakh pa to Rs 6 lakh pa, according to their experience. They can also start their own venture

One should be willing to serve people. The job of an optometrist involves working with lenses, which requires a high level of accuracy and precision. So, one should be able to perform tasks with clockwork precision. One should be a hardworking person. Since the job of an optometrist requires that one has to work in a team with ophthalmologists and other technicians, team spirit is of utmost importance. One should have a scientific bent of mind

How do i get there?
One should have completed 10+2 (science stream) with at least 50 per cent marks in physics, chemistry, biology/mathematics and english taken together in order to do a Bachelor’s degree in clinical optometry. The eligibility criteria for pursuing a diploma course in optometry are a pass in Class X or Class XII. Those who have completed a diploma course in clinical optometry are eligible to get direct admission to the third year of the degree course in optometry

Institutes & urls
. Dr. Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi-110029
. Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 202002 (U.P.)
. Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital, Hyderabad (A.P.)
. Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, Guwahati-32 (Assam )
. Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh 786002 (Assam)
. Patna Medical College, Patna 800004 ( Bihar )
. Grewal Eye Institute, Chandigarh
. Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College, Pune-411043
. Manipal College of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal University, EMail

Pros & Cons
Secure job and income
. Recession-proof profession
. Option to choose one’s own timings, work on part-time basis if one has to study further or if life situations demand
. Institutionally qualified optometrists are indispensable,whether it is a small, medium or large size eye hospital/institution
. Need to be aware about institutionally qualified optometrists
. Need for proper legislation and government recognition

There are good optometrists in the city

Bhavneet S Vohra speaks on the need for optometrists to get an edge over the competition

Is any formal education required to be an optometrist?
A person opting for optometry has to take up science, with biology, at the plus-two level.After Class XII, he should take an entrance test leading to either a degree or a diploma in optometry.For a degree, he needs to do a three-four year course while a diploma course will take one-two years to complete. One can also study for a Master’s degree.

How much can one earn?
The earning potential varies from one sector to another. If one is employed in a government hospital, initially, one would earn anything between Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 a month, which can go up to Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 a month after two-three years’ experience.

In private hospitals and optical chain shops, one would earn Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 initially, which can increase to Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 after two-three years of experience.

Does Delhi have good optometrists?
Yes, there are many capable optometrists in the city. But there’s no reason for youngsters to worry because there is a growing demand for more optometrists. However, one has to maintain a high level of competence at work, as there’s tough competition in this profession and one has to maintain that edge.

What challenges does the profession offer?
An optometrist is more into advising a patient about eye care – he may prescribe contact lenses or suggest exercises for eye muscles or a squint or prescribe spectacles. He cannot, however, prescribe any medication. If a person comes to him with an eye problem, he is authorised to administer first aid but he still needs to direct the patient to an ophthalmologist. However, to provide the required first aid or prescribe spectacles an optometrist must be aware of the technological innovations in the field of speciality eyecare. And this is no doubt a challenge. Therefore, to keep himself updated an optometrist must attend several seminars and workshops organised by industry bodies or other competent authorities from time to time.

Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh