Academic optometrist

A university-based optometrist can have a variety of responsibilities including teaching and contributing to journals or committees.

Job roles

  • Lecturer
  • Senior lecturer
  • Reader
  • Professor
  • Academic, clinical or programme lead
  • Administrative or management roles eg Head of School.

Responsibilities of an academic optometrist

The attraction of an academic job role is the combination of responsibilities, such as teaching undergraduates, supervising PhD students, contributing to committees for clinical, ethical or educational purposes, carrying out research, contributing to papers and journals, and working with external partners, such as other universities.

The teaching element of the job involves course development, assessment design, delivery and pastoral care. There are also opportunities to learn about the latest technology and contribute to technological developments.

You will be passing on cutting edge knowledge to undergraduates and post-graduates and preparing them to work in the changing field of optometry, where optometrists will be more involved in screening and management of diseases and will need to be more expert in pathology.

Working in academic optometry

It can be challenging to achieve a permanent job contract in this setting and you might expect to have short-term contracts for work that is part-funded by external partners. Some optometrists start out in this area by undertaking a PhD and many will have had experience in other settings, including hospital, multiple and independent. Optometrists can also get into this field by working in university clinics.

Regular support is often through a mentor or supervisor in addition to your formal line manager. Academic optometrists will also be accountable to a range of committees which oversee the BSc, MSc, clinical or ethical work of the institution. Academic optometrists work with a wide range of other people, including fellow lecturers, researchers and academics from other disciplines, such as physicists, biologists, nutritionists or engineers making adaptive equipment.

Your contact with patients will be through clinics at the university. These might be specialist clinics such as glaucoma, dry eye, orthokeratology or AMD. These will also be teaching clinics designed to enable students to prepare for the workplace.

Dr Manbir Nagra MCOptom

University lecturer

My role

“I'm a lecturer in optometry at a university. It involves a wide range of duties so, for instance, I teach on the optometry BSc and MSc courses where the modules I lead mainly relate to contact lenses, but I also get involved with many other modules.

I lead the final year of the undergraduate contact lens module where students are in clinics, seeing patients and co-lead the Higher professional certificate of contact lens practice which is accredited by the College. This is part of our MSc in Clinical Optometry.

Career progression

Working in a university can fit well with part-time or flexible working, however it is not a nine to five job and requires you to be flexible too.

There is clear career progression in the academic sector, which will be partly enabled by contribution to papers, journals and research projects. Career paths can lead into either the teaching or research areas.

Training and qualifications

Development areas for academic optometrists are rich in possibility as there will be opportunities to learn about research or teach any clinical area, from glaucoma to nystagmus.

Examples include:

  • PhD – which might be sponsored externally, for example through the College of Optometrists
  • Higher Education Certificate of Teaching
  • Masters in Education, focusing on academic practice, for example research related training which might involve a placement, including travel abroad.

You can train as an examiner or obtain a higher qualification.

College events help you learn, network and gain CPD points. We have a blended programme of both online and in-person events which include: Optometry Tomorrow - our annual national conference and exhibition; peer reviews; webinars; CPD events tailored to Independent Prescribers; and much more.

Online learning, using College and Docet materials can be an efficient way of keeping your skills up-to-date, as well as earning CPD points.