Finding an Optometry Job in New York State
As a practicing optometrist in New York for the past two years, I would like to share my advice on how to successfully conduct a targeted job search. Although this article is geared toward getting a job in the upstate, I hope that you will find some of the suggestions useful regardless of where your career goals take you. Let’s start with some great resources available to ODs currently searching for a new job.
- SUNY alumni website
- Vision Expo East
CovalentCareers represents a vital resource to help young graduates find their next optometry job in the state of New York. Not only does CovalentCareers offer a job board for ODs, there are also resources for searching and interviewing for a new job. The site covers everything from personal finances such as loans, to résumé advice, and even assists in determining which type of optometry career path is right for you. Most of these articles are written by young optometrists and therefore are relatable and relevant to new graduates.
One of the greatest benefits of joining professional organizations like the AOA and the NYSOA is that they provide a global network among their members. Therefore, their websites serve as a vital resource for new graduates to find jobs.
The AOA website contains a section under the Optometrists tab dedicated directly to “Careers” under which is a tab entitled “Find A Job”. In this section you can search by “NY” State and find a list of quality optometry practices currently hiring. Furthermore, in the same “Careers” section you have the option of posting your résumé under the “Post Your Résumé” tab which is a great way for any searching practices to identify your interest and qualifications.
The NYSOA website features a similar “Careers” section where you can find a long list of practices across the NY State looking to hire. Both websites are very user friendly and have a list of contacts that can help ensure that you are matched with the right practice. Many new graduates are worried about the cost of membership; however, the AOA and NYSOA substantially discount their membership fees for the first few years out of school.
SUNY College of Optometry also maintains its own “Career Portal” on its main website which is public access. Even if you did not attend this particular school there are many job postings from practices across New York State, not just NYC.
There are at least 17-20 links to optometry job listing websites, the first being AOA/NYSOA. Throughout the year, SUNY College of Optometry frequently holds networking and alumni events which are a great way to meet other optometrists and open your eyes to potential job opportunities (no pun intended).
New graduates often need not try to find reputable headhunters because they will often find you first! Maintaining a profile on a professional website like LinkedIn provides a convenient way for headhunters to consider and contact you for potential matches with their current recruiting assignments.
Headhunters tend to be forward in pursuing promising candidates, which can be advantageous when trying to negotiate a competitive contract. Nonetheless, they are working for a certain employer and can become eager to have new graduates sign on. Working with a headhunter is not for everyone, but in the end, they are committed to finding a good match so that both their client and the new graduate are happy in the long run.
Drug and contact lens representatives are a sometimes overlooked but excellent point of contact and know which practices are looking to hire. Remember, these are the people whose job it is to constantly interact with practices, and they get to know the owners, the staff, and their needs well. Furthermore, they are often reliable resources since they have no conflicts of interest when it comes to hiring new employees.
Last but not least, Vision Expo East is a great way to not only get your CE requirements but also to network and meet optometry professionals from the local area and Upstate NY. At this conference, a networking event is held for residents and students searching for jobs, often in the NY area. Also, many speakers at this event are well connected and could potentially provide information on available optometry jobs in New York.
Salary for an Optometry Job in New York
Based on a 2018 survey of 699 new graduates, CovalentCareers compiled data illustrating the average starting salary nationally compared with optometrists in NY state. The data that is most striking shows that in 2018 the highest percentage of new grads nationally received starting salaries in the $91-100k range, whereas in NY specifically the average starting salary was $111-120k.
In corporate practices, twice as many new graduates reported starting salaries between $111-120k compared to new grads nationally. In private practice settings, both nationally and in NY State, the majority of new grads reported an average starting salary of $91-100k.
You can see more from CovalentCareers' 2019 New Grad Optometrist Report here!
However, almost twice as many new grads earned between $111-120k in NY State as nationally. This data demonstrates that one can expect higher starting salaries in NY State compared to the national average, especially in a corporate setting.
New York Optometry Job Market
Based on recent listings on the websites mentioned earlier in this article, it appears that there are hundreds of current optometry job listings in NY State. Corporate practices located throughout the entire upstate region are especially eager to lure new grads away from the city and therefore often provide some of the most competitive salaries and compensation packages available.
If corporate life just isn’t for you, there is no shortage of private practice optometrists looking to retire and take on a young OD with the potential to buy-in or own the practice in the future. There are also many OD/MD practices looking to hire optometrists to help take the patient load off the ophthalmologists.
Thus many optometrists working in mixed practices are often able to practice full scope within NY State law. With optometrists prohibited from prescribing certain oral medications in NY State at this time, it is also a significant advantage to work at an MD practice where the ophthalmologists can often oversee any oral prescriptions.
Working in an ophthalmology practice can be an amazing experience for any OD. Check out this video interview with Dr. Ben Collins to learn more!
Another option is the pursuit of hospital or VA hospital optometry in NY. Although the starting salary tends to be lower compared to private practice and corporate jobs (under $80k) the benefits, including healthcare and paid time off, are quite lucrative. The hours are desirable and there are no on-call shifts.
Not sure yet what your professional future will hold? Consider working at a private practice part-time and in another setting the rest of the week. Many private practice owners are more than willing to let you start a few days a week, which gives you the opportunity to also explore corporate or hospital optometry so you can make an informed career decision going forward.
Every new graduate is different in what they are looking for in their first job. Whether it is paying off student loans, considering a corporate/hospital setting, or working towards co-ownership of a private practice, there is no shortage of optometry jobs in NY State.
New York Optometry License Requirements
Both op.nysed.gov and NewGradOptometry provide a list of what is required to obtain a NY State professional license, but for convenience the main steps are outlined below:
- Pass NBEO part I, II, III and send scores to NY state
- Form 1: Application for Licensure
- Form 2: Certification of Professional Education which is often filled out by your optometry school’s registrar
- Notarize Form 1 and mail check of $377 for licensure and $60 for DPA
- Complete “Child Abuse Identification Reporting” and “Infection Control and Barrier Precautions” courses. Links to approved courses can be found on op.nysed.gov.
In order to maintain your NY license, you must complete 36 hours of continuing education in a three-year registration period. At least three-quarters of the 36 hours must be “live, in-person” courses. You will automatically receive a renewal form towards the end of the three-year period by mail as NY State still performs licensure the good ol’ fashioned snail-mail way.
Currently, optometrists in New York are not able to prescribe oral medications such as antivirals, antibiotics, etc. One of the many (and most important tasks) of the NYSOA is to continue fighting to keep and expand optometrists’ scope of practice in NY State. As of May 9, 2018, we currently have 95 sponsors in favor of the “Orals Bill” which is the highest number of sponsors in history.
We also have gained full support from ophthalmologists over the past few years. With the passing of this bill, NY State will be on par with the other 48 states that already have instituted this right and hopefully deter new graduates from moving to other states.
Another key legislation on the roster of the NYSOA includes allowing students to participate in clinical rotations in the Upstate NY region. This would provide an excellent opportunity for students to experience life upstate and form connections that may lead to job opportunities after graduation.
How to succeed at a New York Optometry Job
One of the first steps new grads should take when starting their first job in NY State is to join the NYSOA and their local optometry society. Not only does membership provide an excellent resource for networking and getting to know practitioners in your local community, but it is always a great way to obtain CE credits, since local societies often invite speakers once a month (and a delicious free meal is served). As stated earlier, NYSOA highly discounts the membership fee for new graduates, giving no excuse as to why new grads shouldn’t join!
Furthermore, joining the NYSOA is a great way to get involved in political action. Roles range from as large as regional trustee to smaller positions such as a committee member who helps recruit new graduates. Remember, it's up to the new generation of graduates to continue carrying the torch of our predecessors and fighting for our rights as optometrists.
There are many ways to obtain your live, in-person CE credits. One of the best attended CE conferences in the upstate region is the annual Primary Eye Care/Low Vision Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. Not only are you able to get up to 24 hours of COPE-approved CE in a 3-day period, but Saratoga Springs is a lively town with an interesting culture and quaint shops.
The NYSOA is also planning to transform its annual meeting in 2020 from a small, business-focused meeting to a yearly, weekend-long conference in an effort to encourage new grads from both upstate and downstate New York to come together and support the NYSOA while obtaining CE credits.
This is another great opportunity for networking and finding potential optometry jobs in NY. And of course, if you are looking for an exciting weekend in the Big Apple, there is always Vision Expo East that takes place every year around the end of March.
Marketing Yourself for a New York Optometry Job
With the growing number of optometry schools throughout the country, there are more new grad optometrists than ever before. In order to obtain a competitive, desirable position you need to establish the credentials of a competitive, desirable candidate! Opportunities include completing a residency in a specific field, gaining your fellowship, and/or attaining board certification. Often VA hospitals prefer to hire someone who is residency-trained in a VA setting.
When marketing yourself, it goes without saying one must maintain their professionalism on all social media platforms. LinkedIn is a great professional site to showcase your credentials and accomplishments and provides a means to connect you to headhunters and other optometrists throughout the country. It may also be helpful to create a business card; you never know when opportunity knocks, so always be prepared to answer!
You can make a name for yourself by building up your professional brand. Take some tips from the pros on how to build your brand today!
Now more than ever, technology taking over the role of the “refractionist;" it's imperative that new graduates master a specialty. Whether that be fitting complex lenses such as scleral or ortho-k, providing myopia control to young children, or even excelling in ocular disease, employers are more likely to choose a candidate who brings a unique, irreplaceable specialty to the practice. Especially in more rural areas such as Upstate NY, having a unique specialty will have patients seeking you out!
How to Relocate to NY for an Optometry Job
One of the most challenging parts about starting a new job is finding a place to live, especially if it's in a new location. Below is a list of some resources to help when apartment/house hunting:
- Facebook groups/housing
- Local realtors
It's best to start as early as possible when looking for a new apartment or even visiting the area of few times and asking locals for recommendations about safe areas for young professionals. If possible, speak to other young professionals in the area to get an idea of where the best places are to look for housing. Local realtors can be a bit more expensive, but they generally know the area well and are often the first to find out about housing availability.
Prices for apartments are much cheaper in Upstate New York compared to downstate. A 2-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood averages from $800-1,500 per month.
Pro tip: With long winters it is advantageous to find a place with a garage if possible, to protect your car. Try to avoid “absentee” landlords who often do not live in the area since it may be hard to receive fast maintenance/repairs!
The OD’s Guide to Living in New York State
Life in Upstate NY features many redeeming qualities. In exchange for the hustle and bustle of a large city, you get a friendly, close-knit community and some of the best outdoor parks in the nation. From hiking through Appalachian foot trails, to sipping wine on the Finger Lakes, and skiing in the Catskills, there is no shortage of activities year-round.
If you are more of an indoor person, come and enjoy the excellent theaters and comedy clubs throughout the larger cities. Below are links to websites showcasing some of what Upstate NY has to offer!
- Things to do in Upstate New York
- The Most Incredible Hikes in Upstate New York
- Summer bucket list for Upstate NY: 45 fun things you must do before fall
- The Finger Lakes
- Ithaca State Theater