If you’re interested in an in-demand and highly rewarding eye care career, consider becoming an orthoptist. Approximately 56,000 orthoptists were employed in the US in 2016, and the BLS predicts this eye care job will grow 10%–14% through 2026. Learn more about orthoptists and decide whether this career is right for you.
Orthoptists are eye care professionals that diagnose and non-surgically treat visual system disorders including issues related to binocular vision, ocular motility, eye movement, amblyopia, diplopia, heterophoria, and strabismus. Examples of the nonsurgical interventions orthoptists provide include corrective lenses, patches, drops, fusion exercises, and stereograms.
Orthoptists commonly work in pediatric and neuro-ophthalmology settings. They may also pursue eye care careers in teaching, fellowship instruction, and research.
You may be asking yourself, “Is an orthoptist a doctor?” Technically, no. Orthoptists are allied health providers that work under the supervision of and alongside ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. Orthoptists are highly trained members of an eye care team and can be thought of as somewhat akin to physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
Orthoptists are required to earn a bachelor’s degree (ideally majoring in a medical science-related area) and complete a two-year orthoptic fellowship with an American Orthoptic Council (AOC) accredited organization.
The AOC, founded in 1935, awards the national orthoptist certification via written and oral/practical exams. After successfully passing both exams, an orthoptist may use the “C.O.” designation after their name and is required to complete continuing education to maintain their credential. Presently there are no state licensing programs for orthoptists.
In addition to the education and training outlined above, there are a number of soft skills – non-technical qualifications – an orthoptist should have in order to have a successful eye care career:
Orthoptist salary ranges vary slightly by source, averaging out to ~$67,500:
Compared to the wages of other eye care professionals, orthoptist salaries are relatively high, falling behind ophthalmologists and optometrists according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.