After graduating from an accredited optometry school, optometrists can either start off their career right away by opening a practice, joining a practice, or applying for open positions in different industries, or they can apply for an optometric residency. Residencies are planned programs for post-optometry school education that are generally 12 months in length, usually starting July of every year, and are affiliated with one of the accredited optometry schools. Residencies are similar to an intern position where the individual is taught and gains experience through various means from their peers. A residency consists of a planned program of hands on work and study that is supervised by an experienced worker. Supervisors can be optometrists, ophthalmologists, physicians, and a number of other positions who can direct the resident. There are usually a mix of other instructional methods including self-learning, seminars, didactic activities, and research projects.
The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education accredits residencies and there are over 150 accredited programs with over 300 positions. A residency is like a job, and the resident generally works normal hours depending on the particular setting, gets a salary or stipend, has holidays and personal time off, and benefits like health insurance. Depending on the residency, residents are expected to work 40 hours a week and with possible emergency on-call situations. The salary or stipend usually ranges from $22,000 to $37,000 and compensation is unique from place to place. However, residents are still undergoing training and participate in didactic lectures, classroom teaching, self study, research, and with the possibility of a thesis or paper.
Types of Optometry Residencies
Residency programs are classified into one of 10 categories depending on their core program and clinical education. The classification signifies the primary focus of the residency, but that does not mean other topics will not be taught during the period. See our list of Optometry Residency Programs. The following list is the titles of the categories set by the ASCO.
Benefits of a Residency
There are plenty of advantages to be gained by getting into a residency position, and one of these is continued training, especially in a specific area. Other advantages for optometrists by partaking in a residency are:
For optometrists who feel they are not ready to enter the real world setting, this extra training will provide the necessary confidence and skills. Some residencies require participants to write a paper to be published in an ophthalmic journal, some require clinical teaching, and some require research projects. This additional training provides the optometrist an extra bonus on their resume, as many companies in all industries like to hire individuals who have proven themselves in a real world setting and have pushed to enhance their professionalism which a residency does. Hospitals, research firms, colleges and universities, and eye care related firms like contact lens companies, consider residency a factor for their potential employees.
Disadvantage of A Residency
The three main disadvantages of a residency are:
Joining a residency is not the path for all optometry school graduates as some optometrists are ready to jump right into their careers. Those that are ready to enter the field and are not ready to increase their knowledge in a specialty, generally want to start their career by finding an open position or opening their own private practice. These individuals are not wrong in their choice and can train further in the future with continuing education or other processes. A residency does not pay as much as an optometrist could be getting, and even though student loans can be deferred, some optometrists would rather start making good money to pay their bills. Finding a residency may be hard for some optometrists because of the locations available, and many after completing their Doctor of Optometry degree want to move to certain locations that do not offer residencies. Relocating or commuting to the residency is enough to turn away some potential applicants.
Applying for Residency
Applying for a residency program can take several steps; submitting applications and material to the affiliated school and program coordinator of the residency program, and to the Optometric Residency Matching Service (ORMS), which has standardized the application process and does the matching of the applicants to the positions through rankings. Each residency and optometry schools have different requirements but the majority require an application, current curriculum vitae, optometry school transcripts, NBEO transcripts, and letters of recommendation that need to be submitted by the deadline, which is February 1st for the majority of programs. Visit the http://www.optometryresident.org to apply for a residency along with visiting the affiliated school.