As new graduates, your career path is wide open with an endless amount of options and opportunities. Each type of optometric job has its pros and cons, but I want to share with you what I believe is the truth about corporate optometry.
Here is a little history about me before we begin. Prior to starting optometry school, I worked in a private optometric office doing vision therapy. During optometry school, I worked as a technician in a private practice. After I graduated, I did a residency in vision therapy and rehabilitation in a private practice. When I completed my residency, I jumped full time into another private practice. The thought of corporate optometry never crossed my mind. Not once.
A mere six months after working full time, my private practice love affair ended. I was not happy where I was professionally, so I decided I needed a change. I started at two different corporate optometric jobs to create a full-time schedule. All of my perceived notions about corporate optometry were shattered!
Here are the few things I have learned:
1. The truth about corporate optometry is that opportunities are everywhere!
We can’t deny the fact that there are corporate optometry jobs at almost every corner. VisionWorld, Pearle, Cohen’s, Walmart, Costco, Sears, etc… are EVERYWHERE. We won’t get into the debate if this is a good or bad thing for the profession, but it does afford new graduates an endless amount of job opportunities.
2. The truth about corporate optometry is that you can be a contractor, leaseholder, or an owner!
There are many different options when it comes to corporate optometry. You can be an employee, a contractor, an associate OD, a leaseholder or a franchise depending on your goals. CibaVision did a profile of Corporate Optometric Practice that details the differences of these jobs, and also showcases the differences in corporate vs private practice optometry.
Some highlights from this overview include:
- Employee: Receive salary and benefits from retailer, no practice expenses other than CE & professional fees
- Contractor: Independent practice (rent paid to retailer), revenue based on professional fees only, and staff is usually provided by retailer
- Associate OD: Part time employee for a Franchisee, work on hourly wage (no benefits), no expenses
- Leaseholder: Independent practice (rent paid to retailer), revenue based on professional fees and contact lens sales, hire own staff and pay for equipment
- Franchisee: Own practice (like a private practice OD), must pay franchise fees, will receive manufacturer discounts
Here is a breakdown of the incomes of these different positions:
3. The truth about corporate optometry is that “it’s not where you practice, it’s how you practice”
If you read my article, Top 5 Reasons To Attend COVD, you’ll find I’ve mentioned this before. A colleague that I met for the first time, Dr. Munisha Geiger, dropped this pearl of wisdom on me while we were discussing vision therapy in different modalities of practice. This statement is the solution to shutting down the conversation of whether private practice or corporate optometry is ‘better.’
It doesn’t matter where you practice or what tools/equipment you have, it is about HOW you practice. The doctor in the mall seeing patients every 15 minutes might give a more thorough exam than the doctor who spends an hour talking to his/her patient and vice versa. There should be no judgment or stereotype of places that doctors practice, especially among optometrists! We should all believe in our colleagues’ skills and have faith that they are practicing the best form of optometry, no matter where they practice.
At the end of the day, where and how you practice is your decision. What makes your best friend happy as a practitioner may be quite different than what satisfies you. I think that it is best to leave the preconceptions of certain avenues of practice at the door, and give every opportunity that comes your way as a new graduate a fair chance.
For me, private practice is where my heart is. I am in the process of opening my own vision therapy office with a partner because this mode of practice is what fulfills my core values and my future goals. However, I now value corporate optometry and the doctors that work for them!