May 24, 2015
61
36
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Pre-Optometry
I am an applicant to optometry school for the 2016 entering class. I had been weighing the two options, dental school or optometry school, and landed on optometry after shadowing multiple optometrists and sitting down with them to discuss the profession and where they see it heading, without shadowing a single dentist. All I heard was positives, no negatives, a relatively low stress environment with a great earning potential. Any mention of potential hardships was shrugged off (e.g. the rise of cheaper avenues for contacts and eye glasses) and were made to be not that big of a deal. When you speak to these people, you trust them as professionals in the field.

Now I have been on here and a number of other online places that make it seem like there is absolutely no hope for optometrists in the future. I had no idea how big these issues are, and I feel discouraged and disheartened with my choice. The more I look into the issues I have seen brought up, the more I am realizing that is the reality. I see people all the way from current optometry students to optometrists that have been in private practice for 30 years all saying the same thing. The students regret their decision, and the optometrists would tell their own children to stay away. Given the option, they would not choose optometry again, especially in 2015.

Now I am at a crossroads in my life and looking back to dentistry as an option again. I want to ask those in dentistry what they think of the profession, what its future is, what the saturation issue looks like, and what the return on investment looks like for someone that would come out after 2020. I will be shadowing a few dentists, speaking with them in person, and trying to get a better understanding of what the outlook is and what I can expect. I was not thorough enough in my research of optometry, and am reevaluating where I stand, what my goals are, and what I can expect.



Here is where I stand currently:

I have applied to optometry school, but have not paid a cent in tuition yet.

I am a non-traditional student, age 27, to be married next month (October).

I have completed all pre-requisites other than Organic Chemistry II, which is not required for optometry school (I will be taking this in the spring).

My OAT scores are 390 AA (99.9th percentile) and 400 TS (100). I am confident I can do well on the DAT.

My overall GPA is 3.37, but as I said I am a non-traditional student, have shown significant upward trajectory, got A's in both general chemistries, organic I, both physics classes, and biochemistry, and have not run into any issues with admissions in optometry school whatsoever. I know dental is more competitive, but I still feel my GPA combined with a good DAT will make me competitive.



What it really comes down to is doing what is best for my family and I. I am terrified of committing to optometry and putting us in a huge hole and a career with dwindling opportunity with abysmal return on investment. I feel like I will struggle to get out of debt until I'm 50, not to mention raise children, save for my wife and I's future, as well my children's futures.

I'm here trying to grasp the overall picture of dentistry as an investment in my life for the wellbeing of my family and the happiness and fulfillment of the career.

The two options are:
1. Continue with optometry and take the risk as mentioned previously.
2. To go into dentistry, which will take a year longer at this point, meaning I will have to apply next year for the entering class of 2017.

This is not some knee-jerk reaction in response to the realization that my career choice is screwed. It is deliberate and thought out, though I do have more research to do and conversations to have. My interest in dentistry is and always has been real, just as my interest in optometry. It is not only about money, but also about personal satisfaction and accomplishment in addition to being a capable provider. I simply do not see how anyone can be optimistic about optometry anymore. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

Bernie Sanders

2+ Year Member
May 27, 2015
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Dental Student
You seem to be a decent student and I'm sure you would do well in both D school and Opto school.

I'll try to keep this short. Dentistry is a huge investment. Dental school is tough. You may have to come into sim lab after hours/on weekends. The average cost is like $300k and even state schools are expensive (and super competitive to get into). There are problems in that private corporate chain dentistry is expanding rapidly and encroaching on private practice dentists. There is also an oversupply of dentists with lots of dental grads being pumped out and compounding this problem is that some dentists are postponing their retirement due to the recession. Salaries are going down due to this. You'll have to work harder and work in more remote areas if you want to make the same dough. Dentists have been hit hard by the recession.

Why not try PA school? It is only 2 years, and you probably have most of the prereqs already done. Career prospects for PAs are great and are getting better due to expanded use of them brought upon by healthcare reform. I would take a hard look at PA school. Less debt, less schooling, good outlook, more interesting than dentistry (IMHO).

Good luck.
 

allantois

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Jan 27, 2013
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You seem to be a decent student and I'm sure you would do well in both D school and Opto school.

I'll try to keep this short. Dentistry is a huge investment. Dental school is tough. You may have to come into sim lab after hours/on weekends. The average cost is like $300k and even state schools are expensive (and super competitive to get into). There are problems in that private corporate chain dentistry is expanding rapidly and encroaching on private practice dentists. There is also an oversupply of dentists with lots of dental grads being pumped out and compounding this problem is that some dentists are postponing their retirement due to the recession. Salaries are going down due to this. You'll have to work harder and work in more remote areas if you want to make the same dough. Dentists have been hit hard by the recession.

Why not try PA school? It is only 2 years, and you probably have most of the prereqs already done. Career prospects for PAs are great and are getting better due to expanded use of them brought upon by healthcare reform. I would take a hard look at PA school. Less debt, less schooling, good outlook, more interesting than dentistry (IMHO).

Good luck.
I just want to comment that PA school is not always all that shorter since they require a lot more upper division science coursework than both medical and dental schools; plus you are expected to have 1000+ hours working in healthcare.
 

allantois

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And OP, optometry has terrible career prospects. You just can't make a good living by doing $40 eye exams.
 
OP
E
May 24, 2015
61
36
Status
Pre-Optometry
I am not so much worried about any time investment needed to be successful, but the financial investment and market saturation is definitely an issue. It seems like every medical profession has saturation, but dental at least won't be destroyed by online companies and phone apps like optometry seems to be. I have seen dentists all over message boards respond to questions like "If you could do it all over again would you go to dental school?" and giving a resounding "yes!" That alone is night and day from what I hear and see from optometry.

Even with the oversupply, I have no doubt that those being supplied are good and capable dentists that have excelled in their academics. They are people that, for the most part, will uphold the integrity of the profession. I am fine with being a part of that. You simply can't say that about optometry. I mean, there are people getting into optometry school with sub 3.0 GPAs and scoring in the 50th percentile on the OAT. These people may be good and caring people, but how can I trust their professional education when they demonstrated limited knowledge and ability in the basic sciences, let alone trust that the future of optometry is stable? Maybe I am being harsh and venting here, but when it comes to the well being of one's family, I think people should take a good hard look at what they're getting into.

As far as PA school goes, that would be an excellent option, but they require hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours of patient care experience, and I don't know that I have the time for it. I definitely will be looking hard into it though, thank you for the suggestion.
 

allantois

5+ Year Member
Jan 27, 2013
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I am not so much worried about any time investment needed to be successful, but the financial investment and market saturation is definitely an issue. It seems like every medical profession has saturation, but dental at least won't be destroyed by online companies and phone apps like optometry seems to be. I have seen dentists all over message boards respond to questions like "If you could do it all over again would you go to dental school?" and giving a resounding "yes!" That alone is night and day from what I hear and see from optometry.

Even with the oversupply, I have no doubt that those being supplied are good and capable dentists that have excelled in their academics. They are people that, for the most part, will uphold the integrity of the profession. I am fine with being a part of that. You simply can't say that about optometry. I mean, there are people getting into optometry school with sub 3.0 GPAs and scoring in the 50th percentile on the OAT. These people may be good and caring people, but how can I trust their professional education when they demonstrated limited knowledge and ability in the basic sciences, let alone trust that the future of optometry is stable? Maybe I am being harsh and venting here, but when it comes to the well being of one's family, I think people should take a good hard look at what they're getting into.

As far as PA school goes, that would be an excellent option, but they require hundreds, sometimes thousands of patient care experience, and I don't know that I have the time for it. I definitely will be looking hard into it though, thank you for the suggestion.
People, on this forum including, are delusional about their career prospects. A dental school that costs 100k/year will really end up costing you close to half a million dollars when you factor in 7% interest that starts accumulating from day 1. That is a very, very difficult debt to pay off; and unless you have something lined up for you (like a dentist dad), you are facing the prospects of working for 120k a year at a corporate dental chain. In reality, it will be more like living on 50k after taxes and loan payments for 10+ years (maybe someone can do an exact calculation). All I'm saying is that there comes a point when financial burden just makes dental school not worth it. There are exceptions: such as if you are willing to do a military or NHSC scholarship.

Also, unlike our medical colleagues (who are moving in the direction of almost exclusively being employed by hospital groups), we cannot fully take advantage of IBR and PAYE programs by doing a PSLF after 10 years as it requires you to work for a a non-profit, which is unheard of in dentistry.

Personally, I'm horrified by all my fellow pre-dents who have the mentality of "Oh, I'll have no troubles paying it off. I'll always be in demand". Those people are oblivious to their educational debt.

I do think that you should do something that you will actually enjoy doing for the rest of your life, just keep in mind that both optometry and dentistry are very entrepreneurial in nature, whereas in medicine and PA, you can just do your thing and not have to worry about being a successful practitioner (although they also have their drawbacks).
 
Last edited:
OP
E
May 24, 2015
61
36
Status
Pre-Optometry
Thank you for the insights! I am going to take my time, go on my optometry interview, speak with and hopefully work with dentists to some degree, and get a well-rounded view of what to expect as a dental school graduate. The last thing I want to do is make the mistake of having my head in the clouds about any profession I am going to put that much time and money into. That is what I did with optometry, and I am lucky I haven't spent any money on tuition yet.

Would you agree that optometry, regardless of my other options, is not the way to go?
 
T

torontopharm

Thank you for the insights! I am going to take my time, go on my optometry interview, speak with and hopefully work with dentists to some degree, and get a well-rounded view of what to expect as a dental school graduate. The last thing I want to do is make the mistake of having my head in the clouds about any profession I am going to put that much time and money into. That is what I did with optometry, and I am lucky I haven't spent any money on tuition yet.

Would you agree that optometry, regardless of my other options, is not the way to go?
In my neutral perhaps uneducated opinion, it's not worth it unless you're really into the career and can keep your debt level to a minimum. From my friends (Canadians :)) who pursued this route, they exclusively tried getting into Waterloo (Canadian school) or IAUPR i.e. the cheap schools OR moved onto different careers. And just from an observation, the 2 optometrists i shadowed both worked part-time to string together full time hours. Perhaps that's the norm with Optometry jobs and that isn't a reflection to their salary etc. i really don't know. Nonetheless, the thought of working part-time giving out eye exams with huge loans to pay off scared me out of it.

With Dentistry there's obviously loans to worry about as well, but the ROI is much better. Look into Podiatry as well if that's your thing.
 

THS

Articulating Disc Jockey
7+ Year Member
Jun 20, 2012
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Without going into a long detailed explanation, take into account that besides the fact that Dentistry and Optometry are health careers, the two couldn't be more different, especially in school. Most health professions will challenge you mentally. Diagnosing, treatment planning, etc. However, dentistry will challenge your mind and your body. The amount of work you do with your hands isn't something to ignore. Spending hours upon hours upon hours waxing teeth, drilling teeth, carving amalgam or shaping composite to match the shape of the tooth, setting teeth in dentures, using tiny guitar string-thick files to clean out guitar string-thick canals inside teeth, all of that. Some days, I feel like more of a craftsman-like someone who ties their own flies for fishing-than I do a doctor.

Just keep in mind that in dentistry, your hands get you paid.
 
OP
E
May 24, 2015
61
36
Status
Pre-Optometry
Thanks guys! Great information.

In my neutral perhaps uneducated opinion, it's not worth it unless you're really into the career and can keep your debt level to a minimum. From my friends (Canadians :)) who pursued this route, they exclusively tried getting into Waterloo (Canadian school) or IAUPR i.e. the cheap schools OR moved onto different careers. And just from an observation, the 2 optometrists i shadowed both worked part-time to string together full time hours. Perhaps that's the norm with Optometry jobs and that isn't a reflection to their salary etc. i really don't know. Nonetheless, the thought of working part-time giving out eye exams with huge loans to pay off scared me out of it.

With Dentistry there's obviously loans to worry about as well, but the ROI is much better. Look into Podiatry as well if that's your thing.
This is exactly what I'm talking about. The ROI in optometry alone is enough to not want to go into the field, not to mention the state of the profession and the future earning potential.

Without going into a long detailed explanation, take into account that besides the fact that Dentistry and Optometry are health careers, the two couldn't be more different, especially in school. Most health professions will challenge you mentally. Diagnosing, treatment planning, etc. However, dentistry will challenge your mind and your body. The amount of work you do with your hands isn't something to ignore. Spending hours upon hours upon hours waxing teeth, drilling teeth, carving amalgam or shaping composite to match the shape of the tooth, setting teeth in dentures, using tiny guitar string-thick files to clean out guitar string-thick canals inside teeth, all of that. Some days, I feel like more of a craftsman-like someone who ties their own flies for fishing-than I do a doctor.

Just keep in mind that in dentistry, your hands get you paid.
That is part of the drive to become a doctor I am sure we have all felt. I know as I stand now not having experienced professional school personally, I can't imagine how difficult and challenging it really is. That is why I'm here though, I want that challenge. Thanks for the information!
 

CanaDMD

2+ Year Member
Jun 4, 2015
261
115
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Dental Student
Devil's advocate : a friend of mine graduated from optometry last year. He's had a gig with a corporate optometry chain from day one, gets paid around 120-140k/year, 5-6 day work weeks. He did, however, tell me he got lucky compared to his classmates.

That's all I had to chip in. :)
 

510586

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2014
1,050
262
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Dental Student
People, on this forum including, are delusional about their career prospects. A dental school that costs 100k/year will really end up costing you close to half a million dollars when you factor in 7% interest that starts accumulating from day 1. That is a very, very difficult debt to pay off; and unless you have something lined up for you (like a dentist dad), you are facing the prospects of working for 120k a year at a corporate dental chain. In reality, it will be more like living on 50k after taxes and loan payments for 10+ years (maybe someone can do an exact calculation). All I'm saying is that there comes a point when financial burden just makes dental school not worth it. There are exceptions: such as if you are willing to do a military or NHSC scholarship.

Also, unlike our medical colleagues (who are moving in the direction of almost exclusively being employed by hospital groups), we cannot fully take advantage of IBR and PAYE programs by doing a PSLF after 10 years as it requires you to work for a a non-profit, which is unheard of in dentistry.

Personally, I'm horrified by all my fellow pre-dents who have the mentality of "Oh, I'll have no troubles paying it off. I'll always be in demand". Those people are oblivious to their educational debt.

I do think that you should do something that you will actually enjoy doing for the rest of your life, just keep in mind that both optometry and dentistry are very entrepreneurial in nature, whereas in medicine and PA, you can just do your thing and not have to worry about being a successful practitioner (although they also have their drawbacks).
Would you say that your view leans too far in the opposite direction though? I'm sure some corporate chains pay a decent amount more than that (like the guy on this forum with the AMA who worked for 5 years at one and bought his own practice later on). Also, will debt really be that high in typical state schools? I don't think not being able to inherit a practice means your dental prospects as a general dentist are as bleak as you say. Hopefully someone can educate me more on the topic.
 

CanaDMD

2+ Year Member
Jun 4, 2015
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Dental Student
Would you say that your view leans too far in the opposite direction though? I'm sure some corporate chains pay a decent amount more than that (like the guy on this forum with the AMA who worked for 5 years at one and bought his own practice later on). Also, will debt really be that high in typical state schools? I don't think not being able to inherit a practice means your dental prospects as a general dentist are as bleak as you say. Hopefully someone can educate me more on the topic.
Taking on a debt that reaches over 400k is not worth it for schooling. Period.

Edit: Just want to clarify that I am not taking that debt on as a dental student since I am studying in Canada. So don't think that I'm contradicting myself.
 
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510586

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Dec 24, 2014
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Taking on a debt that reaches over 400k is not worth it for schooling. Period.

Edit: Just want to clarify that I am not taking that debt on as a dental student since I am studying in Canada. So don't think that I'm contradicting myself.
Yea that is definitely true. However, is it that hard to find an associate position that pays more than what allantois mentioned or to start your own as a general dentist?
 

CanaDMD

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Yea that is definitely true. However, is it that hard to find an associate position that pays more than what allantois mentioned or to start your own as a general dentist?
Depends on where you want to work and what kind of connections you have. You can even make less than that. It's possible haha
 

510586

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Depends on where you want to work and what kind of connections you have. You can even make less than that. It's possible haha
Guess I'll just search for where that one guy worked making like 300k a year lol. 120 is lower than even the median and those are usually seen as underestimations
 

CanaDMD

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Guess I'll just search for where that one guy worked making like 300k a year lol. 120 is lower than even the median and those are usually seen as underestimations
Tell me where you want to work and I'll tell you what to expect. You can make 300k with a corp if you're the only dentist in town working for them. Also, you have to know what you're willing to do for that money. Corps will definitely try to make you push unnecessary treatment. If you let them push you around, you might do things you'll regret later (variable on the corp, some are very dentist friendly, but you understand my point)
 

510586

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Tell me where you want to work and I'll tell you what to expect. You can make 300k with a corp if you're the only dentist in town working for them. Also, you have to know what you're willing to do for that money. Corps will definitely try to make you push unnecessary treatment. If you let them push you around, you might do things you'll regret later (variable on the corp, some are very dentist friendly, but you understand my point)
No idea at the moment since I know things change all the time and haven't traveled that much (in America anyway). Yea I heard about the unnecessary treatment and Corps doing that.
 

510586

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Tell me where you want to work and I'll tell you what to expect. You can make 300k with a corp if you're the only dentist in town working for them. Also, you have to know what you're willing to do for that money. Corps will definitely try to make you push unnecessary treatment. If you let them push you around, you might do things you'll regret later (variable on the corp, some are very dentist friendly, but you understand my point)
What would you say for Houston or Dallas though hypothetically speaking
 

CanaDMD

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What would you say for Houston or Dallas though hypothetically speaking
Generally speaking, dentists are doing very well in Texas. Dallas and Houston are probably some of the more saturated places there, but you'll do great there regardless. The competition, from what I understand, is nothing like in NYC, San Fran or the rest of Cal
 

allantois

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What would you say for Houston or Dallas though hypothetically speaking
If you are from TX and go to one of the schools there, you have nothing to worry about.
 

510586

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Generally speaking, dentists are doing very well in Texas. Dallas and Houston are probably some of the more saturated places there, but you'll do great there regardless. The competition, from what I understand, is nothing like in NYC, San Fran or the rest of Cal
If you are from TX and go to one of the schools there, you have nothing to worry about.
This is good to hear. What if you go out of state? Does it change anything?