Article Date: 9/1/2005

How to Launch Your Career
Finding your first job after graduation doesn't have to be daunting. Good planning and organization can smooth the path to success.
BY KIM ZIEMNIK, Vice President, American Optometric Student Association, THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY CLASS OF 2006

Here's the scenario: You just graduated from optometry school and you're not sure what you're going to do next. You do know you owe more than $100,000 in student loans and you consolidated your way out of a 6-month grace period to lock in a super-low interest rate — and the first payment is due soon. Before you panic, check out the following tips for starting your career.


You can narrow your choices about where to practice by following a few important guidelines.

Work where you want to live. Your passion (or lack thereof) for your community will be readily apparent to your partner(s), your staff and your patients. Participating in local activities sponsored by the Rotary Club, the Parent Teacher Association and other organizations will alert prospective patients to your services.

Do a background check. Learn as much as possible about potential practice communities before making a commitment. Contact the local Chamber of Commerce for information about the economy, real estate and population demographics. Other helpful sources include the Places Rated Almanac and the Rand McNally Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide.

Take a tour. Visit a community at least once before deciding to make it your home. A location that looks great on paper may not accommodate your personal and professional needs.

Crunch the numbers. Calculate the current optometrist-to-population ratio to make sure the community can support your practice. According to "Business Aspects of Optometry,"1 rural areas should have one optometrist for every 4,000 to 6,000 residents. An urban optometrist needs 25,000 to 45,000 residents to keep a practice going. To find out how many active optometrists practice in an area, check the local Yellow Pages.


Even if you think you've found your dream location, ask yourself if this is where you can achieve your personal and professional goals. Will prescriptive laws or procedure limitations prevent you from practicing your preferred type of optometry? You worked hard to earn your Doctor of Optometry degree; you should be free to use your training to your full potential. To learn about prescriptive authorities in your state of choice, click on the "post graduation" link at The table shows the differences in scope of practice by state.


As a newly minted optometrist, your opportunities are endless. Use your skills to help patients and show your practice community the value of our profession. Most importantly, enjoy yourself while doing so. Best of luck in your endeavors.


1. Hisaka C., Classé G, Tai L, et al., eds.: Business Aspects of Optometry. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2004.


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2005