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Optometrists specifically deal with human vision and aim to give patients clear and normal eyesight. They measure the efficiency of their patient's eyes and where necessary, take steps to improve or prevent deterioration of vision. They examine eyes for vision problems, disease and other abnormal conditions and test for proper depth and colour perception and the ability to focus and coordinate the eyes.

Optometrists specialize in visual defects of the physiological healthy eye. They are able to prescribe spectacles or contact lenses to rectify or alleviate visual defects such as far-sightedness, short-sightedness, astigmatism (image distortion) and presbyopia (far-sightedness as the result of age).

They may prescribe corrective eye exercises or other treatment not requiring drugs or surgery. They may also give advice on environmental factors which affect visual efficiency. They evaluate the specific needs, working demands and hobbies of their patients in order to prescribe the most suitable correction.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or dispensing opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery, and diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. Like optometrists, they also examine eyes and prescribe spectacles and contact lenses. Dispensing opticians fit and adjust spectacles and may fit contact lenses according to prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists.

Should optometrists detect any disease or pathological abnormalities in the eye, they refer patients to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist or surgeon) for medical treatment.

In addition, optometrists consult with educators on preventive vision care for school children, and with public officials and management to help eliminate vision hazards. Optometrists promote eye hygiene and general eye safety, and also inform people about correct reading habits and lighting.

This area, known as preventative or environmental optometry, forms an important part of their work. Optometrists are also consulted by institutions to develop vision-training techniques for enhancement of specific visual skills. One such technique is speed-reading, a programme utilized by many tertiary educational institutions.

Satisfying Aspects
- helping others and working with people
- working in a semi-medical field
- the opportunity to open your own business

Demanding aspects
- sometimes having to deal with difficult and    unpleasant people
- the expense of setting up own practice, as a fair amount of equipment is required

An optometrist should:
- have the desire to help others;
- get along well with others;
- have business ability;
- be tactful and disciplined;
- be able to communicate well;
- have some technical and manual skills;
- be able to work accurately;
- have good eye-hand coordination;
- desire to promote the visual well-being of members of the general public.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Degree: BOptometry - UJ, UFS, UL, UKZN. The duration of the course is 4 years of full-time study. After the completion of the degree course, students may be expected to complete a one-year internship before registration as professional optometrists.

Diploma: N.Dip: Optical Dispensing and B.Tech - CPUT. The duration of the course is three years. A fourth year of study culminates in the BTech Optometry. From their third and fourth year, students have contact with patients. Students are required to complete a one-year internship.

Optometrists are required to register with the Interim National Medical and Dental Council (INMDC) of SA before they may practise.

- Hospitals and clinics
- Schools of optometry at universities and the unversity of technology in Johannesburg
- State and provincial administrations
- Research institutions
- Private practice
- In partnership or group practice with other optometrists, each specializing in a different field.

South African Optometric Association
P?O?Box 2925
Halfway House, 1685
228 Nupen Crescent
Halfway House Ext 12
Tel: (011) 805-4517 Fax: 086 636 7600