“Optometrists are in demand!”
― Sheri Beveridge, Account Executive/Recruiter with ETS Vision
“In the last three years, the number of practice opportunities listed on our career site on an annualized basis has increased 200%.”
― Lisa Wade, OD, Director of the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence at Southern College of Optometry
“There are a lot of settings that are really welcoming new grads. Five or six years ago we weren’t seeing that as much. So it’s a really great time to be coming out of optometry school.”
― Laurie Ballow, Product Manager with iHire
“We have been placing optometrists for over 30 years and this is the best market we have seen for optometrists to find positions in every sector.”
― Lauren Simon, Owner/Recruiter with The Eye Group
If you’re looking for an update on the optometric job market, who better to ask than the people who spend their days connecting ODs with opportunities? Eye on Optometry recently checked in with four professionals in the know. Along with their general assessments presented above, they provided additional insights into current dynamics that are having an impact on the number and types of positions available to optometrists.
By all accounts, the number of available jobs for optometrists is on the rise. Laurie Ballow is a Product Manager with iHire, a network of job search websites aimed at streamlining the hiring process. She notes, “We have 56 industry-specific communities, and the optometry site is among the busiest. It’s consistently in the top 10% or 15% based on number of jobs posted, number of candidates visiting and returning, and the general activity on the site.” Also online is the placement website of the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence at Southern College of Optometry (SCO). The site accepts listings for optometric opportunities from all types of providers, which can be viewed only by students and alumni of the college. Currently, more than 1,200 opportunities are registered at the site. “With only 132 graduates, we couldn’t possibly fulfill all of the open positions,” says Center Director Lisa Wade, OD.
More People Need More Eye Care, and Other Shifts in the Landscape
The most obvious reason for an increasing number of optometric practice opportunities, which is the same reason for growth throughout health care, is the aging of the population. In a nutshell, more people need more eye care. That said, Dr. Wade points to other factors. “The increase in practice opportunities is multi-factorial and involves, for example, an aging population, an increased scope of optometric practice, a significant number of ODs reaching retirement age, eyewear as fashion, and more individuals having third-party insurance coverage for eye care and eyewear.”
In a few settings where optometrists practice, increased hiring activity has been particularly noticeable. Sheri Beveridge is an Account Executive/Recruiter with ETS Vision, a vision-only search firm that supports practices hiring optometrists and ophthalmologists. She reports that compared with 10 years ago, more ophthalmology practices are hiring optometrists. “Adding ODs to the practice allows ophthalmologists to provide patients with a “one stop,” so to speak, for primary eye care, medical, surgical and post-surgical care,” she explains. Lauren Simon, as part of The Eye Group, which recruits exclusively in optometry and ophthalmology, has also observed this trend. “There’s a strong need in the ophthalmology sector, where optometrists can complement the practice and improve productivity and efficiency and can also assist in networking with area optometrists.”
Simon mentions another change factor, too: consolidation in the optometric industry. “Consolidation has accelerated as eyecare corporations continue to purchase optometry practices, and we’re seeing related consolidation in the optical industry as well,” she says. “As a result, there’s a strong need for ODs to perform eye exams in these settings. Consolidation will likely continue for at least the next five years, sustaining an increase in job openings in corporate settings.” Adds Beveridge, “Corporate pharmacies are another entity seeking out optometrists. Some are adding hearing centers and optometrists with opticals along with their walk-in clinics.”
Private Practice and Ownership Options Endure
Alongside a growing number of corporate positions, jobs in private optometry practices and optometric practice ownership are apparently alive and well. In fact, explains Beveridge, they’re currently getting a boost as optometrists of the Baby Boom generation aim to retire or transition out. “Lots of doctors are looking for people to take over their practices and that will continue for several years,” she says. Perhaps reflecting this situation, private practice opportunities are a fixture on SCO’s job placement site. The vast majority of our students, more than 80%, pursue opportunities in private practice, most with opportunities for equity or outright purchase,” Dr. Wade says.
A New Practice Setting Emerges
A new phenomenon affecting the OD job market is the entrance of private equity into ophthalmology and optometry. Private equity firms, essentially groups of investors, have been investing in or purchasing private practices with increasing frequency. The goal is to increase their profitability through organic growth and acquisition of other practices, creating a large regional or national business entity, which is eventually sold for a return on said investment. “I don’t know if this is occurring in optometry to the extent that it’s occurring in ophthalmology, but we’re definitely seeing it,” Beveridge says. “Private equity organizations are increasingly in the mix of potential employers of optometrists.” Simon mentions the same development, commenting “The private equity strategy is another manifestation of consolidation of traditionally independently owned doctor practices, which has been occurring in many medical specialties.”
Where Do You Want to Be?
“There are a lot of great opportunities for optometrists,” Beveridge continues, “a lot of different ways to practice, to earn a good living, and have a desirable quality of life.” Figuring out where you want to work requires figuring out your priorities, she says. “Where do you want to live? Do you eventually want to be a practice partner or owner, or would you prefer not to deal with the business side of practice? What skills do you want to use? What kinds of patients do you want to work with, and how many patients are you comfortable seeing in a day? What work/life balance are you looking for? Will you only be happy with a specific schedule?”
Along the same lines, says The Eye Group’s Simon, “Typically, the three factors most important to optometrists as they search for a job are location, income and practice style.” If one of those factors is more of a priority for you than the others, some trade-offs may be necessary. For example, if you need to be in a specific area of the country, you may have to compromise on your practice type. Or, if compensation is your main priority, you may have to work a different schedule than you would prefer, i.e., weekends, or opt for a more rural than metro location. The bottom line, says iHire’s Ballow, is to find a practice culture that’s a good fit for you. She puts it like this: “You want your choice to feel right.”
Don’t Miss ASCO’s New Online Career Center
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry now offers a new Career Center resource (https://careers.optometriceducation.org/), hosted by Boxwood.
The new ASCO Career Center will help streamline your hiring process with:
Unmatched exposure for job listings – Your job post will appear on ASCO Career Center, but you now have the option of selecting The National Healthcare Network (NHCN), in which your job post will not only appear on ASCO Career Center but will automatically be distributed and displayed on 28 association healthcare career centers, creating MORE EXPOSURE!
Easy online job management – You can enter job descriptions, check the status of postings, renew or discontinue postings, and even make payments online.
Resume searching access – With a paid job listing, you can search the resume database and use an automatic notification system to receive email notifications when new resumes match your criteria.
Company awareness – Along with each job posting, you can include information about your individual company and a link to your web site.