Corporate Optometry vs Pharmacy

on December 21st, 2006 | Filed under Optoblog

US News and World Report did a profile of optometrists and other career paths like pharmacy.

Pharmacy has less school and the same amount of money. Does anyone ever wish they’d become a pharmacist? I know that those ODs in multi-doctor power practices have much more income potential. Heck, I’ve even see figures that some big box store optometrists gross over $225,000 per year; but the majority of corporate optometrists are stuck around $100K per year.

The pharmacy profession, which also averages a gross income of ~$100K, converted to almost exclusively a corporate setting a long time ago. Is that where our profession is going? I see a lot of parallels, except that their schooling is much cheaper, so they have less student loans. Optometry school students on average have close to $150K in student loans since the majority of the schools are private. Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming all have pharmacy schools, so that means students could get in-state tuition. A pharmacy program is longer than a regular bachelor degree, but less time than a doctor of optometry degree. If I was an undergrad again thinking about a comfortably paying career, what would I choose? (Except I forgot to say that pharmacists have to deal with more masked armed robbers than optometrists.)

It seems to me that the only corporate optometrists making a ton of money are the ones who own the contact on the big box location, but they don’t actually work there. They take a cut from the young optometrist actually working there while they do nothing to improve that location. I worked in a location where there wasn’t even a foreign body kit, yet the doctor took a 30% cut from the gross exam fees! Sure, some leases take a percentage from the fees, but this location had a very low flat rate rent, so this particular doctor was making a huge profit from multiple big box locations for doing absolutely nothing.

Hey big box optical district managers, don’t fall prey to thinking that if you give a single greedy O.D. multiple leases that staffing it is not your problem. You will see more turnover and patient care suffers along with patient satisfaction. Frequently you have to settle for a 4 day lease anyway. If you give the lease to the young O.D. who actually works there, and you could probably get a 5 day lease out of him/her and continuity of care from year to year.

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