steska

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hey i was wondering if any of you knew much about being an optometrist in the military, especially the navy or air force. i found out a little at their web sites but it doesnt say much about if a person could choose where they live and practice, how much a captain makes per year, if you can get a guarantee to stay in one location for your mandatory 3 year commitment. seems like it would be a good fit for me but i am wondering about these few things that could make a big difference in my decision.

with what ive heard of saturated ODs in some places and having to deal with starting costs and insurance and the like, it seems like the military would be an excellent way to go.

what do you think?
 

jdpharmd?

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I can only speak for Air Force pharmacy, but I would imagine that it's along the same lines as opt. The good news is that after 20 years, you would get life-long benefits and 1/2 of your salary. You also start as a captain. In my opinion, the bad news is just about EVERYTHING else: Mandatory moving every 2.5/3 years, sometimes out of the country. Starting at a salary less than HALF of what the civillian market pays. The inability to know that you can own a house or send your children to the same school for more than 3 years. The possibility that you'll be jockeying scripts/glasses in a nice town in IRAQ. Sometimes they offer a nice loan repayment, but theyAF is paying about 40k for pharmacists right now. You would be crazy to take less than 85k in the civillian market, and it's not impossible to find 100k+.
 

steska

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thanks for the input

thats kind of what i figured, the only information i could find on it was put out by the air force so of course they glorified everything. the only reason i even would have considered something along those lines is because i work at an optical chain right now and i know thats not the setting i would want to practice optometry in when/if i get to that point. what i really think would be an ideal setting is to work in a group with an opthomalogist, but i am afraid that will be a tough job to find. im having serious second thoughts about what i am doing because of my dislike for the optical chain setting, and the fact that it seems like they are slowly taking over control with their ability to offer $29 promotional eye exams, 2 pairs for $99, etc
 
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polkadot

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I recently spoke with someone applying for the Air Force OD program. Apparently they only do 2-year scholarships and only accepted something like 4 applicants last year. I don't know what the Navy's acceptance rate is.
As for salary (same in all services), an O-3 with less than 2 years service makes $3018.90/month base pay, medical specialty pay (probably around $1000/month), and housing allowance (non-taxable and based on where you live/rank-- an O-3 in DC makes $1635/month). That's about $67.8k annually. That may sound low, but the non-taxable part really makes the salary more competitive. Your entire salary is usually exempt from state taxes and may be non-taxable if you are overseas.
All the services are hiring more non-military doctors/healthcare professionals for their US facilities, so you may be just as likely to be stationed overseas/on a ship (if not more so). If you don't mind the moving/deployments and want to do some traveling, it can be a pretty rewarding lifestyle. There are definite challenges-- family separation, sleeping on a cot/steel rack/the ground, a lot more administrivia/management of personnel.
 

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Tony.

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polkadot said:
There are definite challenges-- family separation, sleeping on a cot/steel rack/the ground, a lot more administrivia/management of personnel.
is there any way to find out the mean/median AGE for OD's in the military (Army/Navy)? just curious....
 

exia80

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visit the millitary residencies forum on SDN. it is geared toward physicians but you can find out about militray life. you can find all the negatives thaty the recruiters wont tell you
 

ArgyllRobertson

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FYI for those interested: (I am a military OD)

Positives of Military service:
-Great scholarships
-decent pay (take home ~$3500 to 4500 per month or more after taxes first 1 to 3 years) translates to approx 60 to 70 thousand dollars net in an "average" location. Could be a little lower or a little higher.
-Full benefits
-3 to 3 1/2 weeks vacation (recruiters won't highlight the fact that weekends have to be taken off as vacation days also so the 30 days claim is VERY misleading. Still, this is very good vacation time for someone just out of school IMHO)
-Holidays off
-Did I mention the vacation and holidays? Best part of deal in my opinion.
-"full scope" practice in my location and in fact in many locations. I see all ages from 2 to 90 with all kinds of problems, including many many emergent problems/acute care. I don't see how this is any different than doing residency, especially with a good senior doc working with you. But you won't get that paper...
-chance to travel around the country/world before you settle down for the next 20 to 30 years in civilian practice. A big positive if you're single or you have an adventurous spouse.
-work m-f with relatively stable hours. Usually no weekends except under extraordinary circumstances. I put in from 45 to 50 hrs/week (doing admin work after hours, etc). That's probably less than I should, but probably equivalent or less than private practice/commercial lease in many cases.
-"respected as doctor" by patients. Most don't care whether you are OD, EyeMD, whatever; just want you to solve their problem or find someone who can. That aspect is extremely rewarding. Very, very few will question your credentials or knowledge (at least openly). This is in stark contrast to my colleagues in commercial optometry (and some quacks in private practice)-according to many of my friends.

Disadvantages:
-lack of control over where you live. Less of a problem for Navy than for Air Force or especially Army, b/c living on ocean beats Where am I, Texas.
-Possibility (relatively low) of being deployed overseas for 6 to 12 months, but CAN happen, especially these past few years.
-Work within large bureaucracy
-Not your own boss
-Expectation of taking on some leadership roles as junior officer. This can be a positive, but I put this in disadvantage category b/c it means extra work beyond clinic. This is work completely unrelated to optometry. Some will revel in this.
-Possibilitiy of being on-call in remote locations. Bases without ophthalmology within local area will rely on you for emergency care. Therefore, that means no leaving the area, drinking, going on that camping trip a big chunk of the time (depending how many ODs at your base). Probably the most underrated negative of optometry, and medical care in general. I don't think people realize how much of a burden being on call (often) truly is. I don't know for a fact how common this is in military optometry - depends completely on where stationed.

Just a heads up.
 
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