While the role of an optometry professional remains consistent—to care for the health and condition of eyes—the practice models can differ. Optometry professionals practice in many different kinds of situations and with different types of employers, including hospitals, retail optical settings, and the military.
The arrangements for private practice vs. commercial optometry practitioners vary in terms of several factors. Both modes of practice have their share of pros and cons, and the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating private practice vs. commercial optometry arrangements:
With an independent practice, your salary hinges on volume and you get compensated when bills are made. In a corporate setting, your salary is set by the company. On the other hand, in a private optometry practice, you can write your own ticket in terms of adding products or services.
In a corporate optometry practice, those decisions are dictated by the parent company. There is the possibility of upward mobility, as the ability to increase salary is possible by going into management or working at a district office or headquarters.
If you own an independent practice you have to complete and process paperwork, which can be time-consuming. With corporate optometry, however, the company has someone dedicated to these activities so you can focus primarily on patient care. If you don’t mind this type of clerical work, then an independent practice might be for you. If, however, you don’t want to be bothered by anything outside the scope of formal practice, then you might be better served by going the corporate route.
For those professionals who are unsure about which arrangement is the best, corporate optometry allows you the luxury of time to figure things out. Sometimes recent graduates opt to go with a corporate position first to test the proverbial waters. Others who are more entrepreneurial in nature might feel more at home in independent practice.
Corporate OD jobs allow for ease in severing ties, if necessary. If you decide to pursue a different opportunity, you can make the change easier than with the ties a private practice usually brings. With your own private OD practice, the sky’s virtually the limit! Like any small business, willingness to work hard and sacrifice can be rewarded with financial growth and personal satisfaction.
Most corporate OD professionals have little or no voice when it comes to the staffing decisions. Many times, the staff is supplied by the corporation, which can either be a boon or a burden to the optometrist. In a private OD practice, the optometry professional has agency in hiring and firing personnel.
Each optometrist is different in personality and drive, which determines the preferred mode of practice. Regardless of this variable, the fact remains that the future is bright in terms of the optometry job market. This need will be greater as the general population ages and along with it the prevalence of medical eye conditions rises. The employment outlook for this group projects 24% and 27% increases between 2014 and 2024 for opticians and optometrists, respectively. States with the highest concentrations of optometry opportunities include Delaware and Hawaii.