Optometrists examine clients' eyes to diagnose and provide solutions for vision problems. They also diagnose, monitor and manage eye diseases such as cataracts.
Optometrists with one to two years’ experience usually earn
$60K-$80K per year
Optometrists with three to five years’ experience usually earn
$80K-$120K per year
Source: NZ Association of Optometrists, 2017.
Pay for optometrists varies depending on experience and where they work.
- Optometrists with one to two years' experience usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.
- Optometrists with three to five years' experience can earn from $80,000 to $120,000.
Optometrists who run their own optometry practice can earn more than this.
Source: NZ Association of Optometrists, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Optometrists may do some or all of the following:
- examine eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases
- provide solutions to vision problems, including prescribing glasses and contact lenses
- monitor or manage eye diseases, such as allergies, cataracts and glaucoma
- prescribe medicines to treat eye diseases
- prescribe and fit glasses, contact lenses and other visual aids
- advise clients on eyewear products, such as frames
- advise on computer set-up and lighting in workplaces
- run their own business.
Skills and knowledge
Optometrists need to have knowledge of:
- the structure of the eye and how vision works
- eye problems and diseases
- lenses, contact lenses and frames for glasses
- eye examination equipment.
Those running their own practice will need business management skills.
- usually work regular business hours
- work in clinical rooms, retail optical chains, private practices, hospitals and educational institutes.
What's the job really like?
Care and attention needed with each client
"Every eye test is like detective work. If a person can't see, you have to ask why. And you need to test people to make sure that their eyes are healthy. There are sneaky things that you miss if you're not careful, like glaucoma. If you don't look for the signs, like pressure inside the eye, you could actually misdiagnose glaucoma."
Delving into the eye to solve problems
"The best thing is being able to treat red-eye problems, a condition I see regularly. This can involve removing foreign objects from the eye, or treating more serious cases like inflammation inside the eye and corneal ulcers."
Communication is key
"You've got to be a people person to do this job. If you don't make people understand what they need to improve their vision, then they're going to walk out of here none the wiser. When we get it right, people walk out of here with the right glasses and say 'Wow, this is so amazing'."
To become an optometrist you must:
- complete the five-year Bachelor of Optometry (BOptom) at the University of Auckland
- be registered with the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board
- hold a current Annual Practising Certificate.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, maths and English.
Optometrists need to be:
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- patient and understanding
- able to work with a wide range of clients
- good communicators and listeners.
Useful experience for optometrists includes:
- work in the health sector
- work as an assistant to an optometrist
- business management experience
- scientific or medical research.
Optometrists need to be registered with the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board, and hold an Annual Practising Certificate.
- Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board website - how to register as an optometrist
- Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board website - information about Annual Practising Certificates
Find out more about training
- NZ Association of Optometrists (NZAO)
- (04) 473 2322 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzao.co.nz
- Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board
- (04) 474 0705 - email@example.com - www.opticiansboard.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Range of factors contribute to rising demand for optometrists
There is a rising demand for optometrists due to:
- growing demand from an ageing population, as people's eyesight tends to get worse as they age
- an increase in awareness in the general population of the importance of eye health and seeking professional help
- some qualified New Zealand optometrists moving overseas, where they often get better pay
- a shortage of optometrists in hospitals and interdisciplinary environments
- more people having chronic conditions that affect the eyes, such as diabetes.
To increase your chances of getting an entry-level optometrist role, get some work experience in the industry while you are studying and approach employers directly.
According to the Census, 726 optometrists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Optometrists work in a range of private businesses
There are about 730 practising optometrists in New Zealand. Optometrists mainly work in private optometry practices, corporate retail chains and specialist eye clinics. They may set up their own practice or become partners at existing practices.
- Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission research, August 2017.
- Firth, G, council member, New Zealand Association of Optometrists, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, August 2017.
- Parslow, V, practicum placement coordinator, School of Optometry and Vision Science, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, August 2017.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Optometrists may progress into management positions or set up their own practices. They may also take up academic positions in teaching or research, or work in the optical industry as suppliers of optical equipment.
Optometrists can specialise in a range of areas including contact lenses, diabetic management, geriatric and low vision, binocular vision, and children's eye care.
Last updated 17 September 2020