Optometry residencies are voluntary (meaning that they are not required for licensing) and are often used by optometrists that would like to specialize in an area such as sports vision, pediatrics, etc.
As far as the outlook of optometry over the next 5 to 10 years, I don't think too much will change. There will probably be fewer private practices opening up and more commercial practices (chain optical stores). I also think that pre- and post-operative corrective surgery will be a growth area for optometrists.
As is the case with other health fields (Nurse Practicitioner is one I can think of right away) the national optometry associations will try to bring about legislation expanding the scope of practice for optometrists while the AMA will fight it. Some states still do not allow optometrists to prescribe medication.
Just like almost everything else today, optometry ain't what it used to be.
NLS, There are residencies available in disease, contact lenses, low vision, peds, etc... Most students don't do a residency, but many do. It is usually a one-year residency, not like med school.
Yes, some optometrists work in hospitals, though most do not. Some have their own private practice, some work for chains, some for OMDs, some for HMO's, some teach, some do research, some do a little bit of everything etc...
Where do I see the profession going? Well, like all health professions, a big increase in patients is expected soon with the baby-boomers getting old. If you think about how far opt has come in the last 10 years, who knows about the future? Maybe opts will be able to prescribe more types of drugs? Maybe theyll be doing more laser surgeries? New types of eyewear are created every year, so who knows what technology will bring? The future is bright and there is no telling what may happen? I dont see there ever being no need for optometrists, even with LASIK and future procedures. These procedures actually create more opportunities for optometrists!
Most agree that the future is bright for optometry. There are always some nay-sayers, but youll find that in any profession. In all honesty, the only two things that I might be concerned about with the future of opt are 1.too many optometrists? and 2.high price of school....
As for 1., many say the opt market is being saturated with optometrists. Others say that the increase in patients from the baby-boomer generation will negate that? I think that is plenty of room for everyone, people just need to be smart about their region of practice. You know, for some people, any competition is too much.
As for 2., the price of opt school is very close to the same as for med school, especially if you go to a private school. The prob is that optometrists make near $75,000 - $120,000 in their prime(though they, of course, can make a little more or a lot less), so a $150,000 loan is substantially more diff to pay off for a opt than for MDs making $120,000-$500,000 or more! Of course this all depends on the individual situation, and its not easy for anyone to pay off loans!.