More than one-third of respondents to a Women In Optometry Pop-up Poll said that they may have made the wrong career choice. Thirty-seven percent of those who responded to a poll on how they would choose to start their career today said that they would not choose optometry – at all.
Seventeen percent said that they would start their careers by buying into a existing location and 15% said that they’d start as an associate in an optometric practice.
Among those who said that they would not choose optometry again, 63% said that they would choose something altogether different and outside of the medical profession. Thirty-five percent said that they would choose another medical profession. One respondent said that she appreciates the more holistic approach of a doctor of osteopathy, and she wishes she had made that career choice.
The respondents represented all age groups. About 17% of respondents graduated in the past 10 years, and about 25% of respondents graduated 31 to 40 years ago.
The majority of optometrists have worked in multiple locations. Nearly 53% of respondents said that they have worked in at least four different employment settings. These are not simply switching location within the same company but switching employers or moving from an employed to ownership position or vice versa. Only 7% of respondents are in the same optometry-related work situation now as they were when they started.
Respondents to this poll represent a wide variety of practice situations. A plurality, 40%, said that they are employees, Just over one-third said that they are an owner or partner. Ten percent noted that they are independent contractors. About 8% said that they are working a combination of owner and employee positions.
The majority of respondents, nearly 86%, are female ODs. Eight percent said they were ODs, and the remainder are not (or not currently) ODs.
HOW DO 2023 RESULTS COMPARE?
When WO asked this question in early 2017, more than 42% of respondents said that they would not choose optometry as their career. At that time, starting as an associate in an optometric practice was also the second most common response (21%). However, the third most common response then was to start as an in an ophthalmology-owned practice. In the 2023 poll, only 6% of respondents said that they would want to start in an ophthalmology-owned practice.
Another big shift is that in the 2023 poll, about 17% said that they would choose to start their career buying or buying into an existing location. In 2017, fewer than 9% said that would be their career choice.
THE HAPPINESS FACTOR
Happiness took a dip during the pandemic. In 2017 fewer than half, 49% said that they were happier in their careers at that point then they were when they started. Forty-four percent said they were less happy in their careers at that point. In 2023, the happiness score reach the same level that it was in 2017. Then, too, 58% said that they were happier in their careers now than earlier.
ODs who said they were employed were nearly evenly split. About 50 percent each said they were happier now – or less happy now. Among those who said they were owners or partners, 75% said they are happier now. But 25% said they were not. Among independent contractors and those who have multiple roles as employee and partner/owners, slightly more are less happy now than when they started.
Many ODs also wrote in responses that try to get at the “why” behind the questions.
“I have loved this profession and cherish every amazing opportunity I’ve had. However, corporate control, retail and private equity has eroded us as a profession. Lowering criteria for admission, pushing students through school, etc. has diluted the excellence in the profession. I would have opted for family practice or internal medicine rather than be at a crossroads where we may lose the ability to call ourselves ‘doctor’ or ‘physician.’ Sadly, many of us think we did it to ourselves.”
“If starting out today, I would be hesitant to choose optometry due to market pressures and poor ROI. Starting out 30 years ago, I wish that I had chosen the federal employed route initially. I would have a good stable retirement now after 30 years.”
“Not sure I would do this again. There are other more flexible careers out there. Optometry always seems to be the underdog and looked down on. We do it to ourselves, then complain about it. I have had a great career. I just don’t like the changes I see in medicine in general.”
“I thought, and still think, multidisciplinary practice is the best way to go.”
“I bought an existing vision therapy practice after working in two different commercial establishments. If I had it to do over, I would have done a peds/vision therapy residency, then opened my own practice cold.”
“I wished I would have known more about the business side of optometry before having a sublease practice.”
“I love our field and am inspired daily by amazing, supportive women who have pushed me to further myself !”
“I’m neither happier nor less happy than when I first started practicing optometry. I feel that I haven’t found the right fit for the way that I want to practice optometry.”
“If I had it to do over, I would have gone into private practice sooner.”
Read the results from our 2020 poll here.