Optometry is a health care profession. Optometrists care for their patients’ vision in the same way that medical practitioners care for their patient’s general health. An optometrist’s skill is based on an intimate knowledge of the workings of the eye and visual system. A variety of complex techniques and instruments complement an understanding of the patient’s needs. An optometric examination begins with the optometrist taking a detailed case history, to determine what visual problems the patient may be experiencing, as well as other relevant information about their health and visual needs. The optometrist then performs a series of tests, some of which are carried out routinely and others when indicated by the patient’s case history and the results of other tests. The consultation concludes with the optometrist’s diagnosis of the patient’s problem, explaining the diagnosis to the patient and deciding on appropriate treatment. Treatments can include prescribing suitable spectacles, contact lenses or eye exercises, or simply giving advice on lighting, visual habits or other issues. An important part of an optometrist’s work is the detection and diagnosis of eye disease. When an optometrist detects a visual complaint which requires medical or surgical treatment the patient may be referred to a general medical practitioner or an ophthalmologist. Some optometrists develop special interests in a particular aspect of vision care, including:
  • contact lens practice
  • low vision
  • sports vision
  • children’s vision
  • consulting in industry

Caring for people’s vision through a career in optometry is rewarding. Most new graduates work initially as employees of optometrists in private practice, with large optical chains, in public clinics and occasionally with ophthalmologists. Many graduates aim to eventually become privately practising optometrists.

Optometrists in private practice enjoy:

  • great satisfaction in helping their patients overcome vision problems
  • a responsible position in the community as a health professional
  • the opportunity to be self-employed, either as a partner or a sole practitioner
  • substantial monetary remuneration, particularly where they own or part-own a practice
  • dealing directly with people for most of their working day
  • comfortable working conditions
  • the ability to attend congresses to interact with peers and learn about new developments in the profession
  • the ability to work as an optometrist in many overseas countries
  • the chance to help the less fortunate with participation in eye outreach programs
  • Optometry graduates also have the opportunity to involve themselves in activities outside private practice such as vision research, teaching and administration and working for various professional organisations in the industry.

A good optometrist will enjoy working with people of all ages and have a genuine desire to help their patients.

A strong academic background is needed, as optometry courses are challenging and generally have limited places.

Once in practice, optometrists need to have an interest in continued learning and professional development. This should include clinical knowledge to help in patient care and practice management to further develop business acumen.

Where optometrists work

Most Malaysian optometrists are either self-employed or work for other optometrists in private practice. Optometric practices are like those of doctors or dentists and are usually located in office-type premises in or near shopping areas.

Sometimes optometrists work outside their practices, for example visiting homes of bedridden or house-bound patients, acting as a consultant to firms or factories at their premises, or working at health care institutions such as hospitals, community health centres or special clinics.

A small number of optometrists do not enter private practice after completing their course but continue their studies through research and teaching. These optometrists are called vision scientists and usually obtain higher qualifications such as a master’s degree or a Ph.D.

Association of Malaysian Optometrists is the professional association of Malaysian optometrists. The Association operates on a national scale and is concerned with the well-being of both its members (optometrists) and the general public. It aims to successfully establish young men and women in the optometric profession and maintain high standards of practice. Association of Malaysian Optometrists is vitally interested in stimulating the growth and development of the profession into the future.

Medical practitioners who specialise in the treatment of eye disease and surgery are known as ophthalmologists. They may also be called eye specialists, eye surgeons or eye doctors. Optometrists refer patients needing surgery or treatment of some eye diseases to ophthalmologists.