The Buckeye Advantage

Insight Into Today’s Competitive Optometry Job Market
Optometry graduates smiling on the Oval after convocation

The optometry job market is changing rapidly. Each year, the number of optometry school applicants and graduates stays relatively the same, yet the demand for new optometrists in the job market continues to increase. As a new generation of students becomes the next generation of optometrists, it is essential for optometry practices to have a strong understanding of both the current job market as well as the career aspirations and values shared by current students and new graduates seeking practice opportunities.

When we recruit prospective students, we talk about the “Buckeye Advantage,” which is our way of describing how students benefit from what differentiates Ohio State from the other schools and colleges of optometry. The Buckeye Advantage is this: Each year we select the best students from a national applicant pool and then provide them with the best education and training. This includes training beyond clinical knowledge and skills. Because we select the top candidates in the applicant pool, our students have more capacity to engage in learning about leadership, interpersonal skills, career management, and practice management from day one. As a result, our students develop self-awareness that equips them to align their unique interests, strengths, and talents with how they choose to practice optometry. This creates the additional advantage at graduation; our students are looking not just for employment but for satisfying career choices that fit into their life and career goals.

The Buckeye Advantage sets a foundation for how our students evaluate practice opportunities. Each of our graduates had multiple choices for where to attend optometry school. They chose Ohio State because they worked hard to become a top applicant, and we offered something more. As graduates, they have worked hard in a top program and have multiple opportunities for their first step after graduation. They look at how the advantages offered by employers align with the lives they aspire to lead. 


68
new optometrists per year
30%
pursue residency after graduation

As a result, our students are highly sought after and attract interest from practices across the country. Each year we graduate around 68 new optometrists. Approximately 30% of them pursue residency after graduation. During the last two academic years, nearly all of our fourth-year students had secured employment or matched with a residency program by March of their graduation year. Most of our students locate job opportunities through networking rather than job postings. For some, job searching begins in their second or third year. 

What does this mean for you? If you are planning to bring a new OD into your practice, expect to face increased competition. Plan for hiring at least a year in advance. Begin developing relationships with potential candidates earlier in their education. Additionally, think about how you can change compensation packages and salaries to meet the needs and wants of today’s candidates. Factors such as signing and moving bonuses, health insurance, retirement savings plans, CE allowances, paid personal leave, schedule flexibility, and increased fringe benefits have become more important to a new generation of optometrists. Finally, understand that job postings are minimally impactful; if you choose to use them, try a variety of posting locations beyond Ohio State. Networking is the key, especially for Ohio State students, many of whom will never have to search for a job posting.

In our work with employers, our role is to share practice opportunities with students. We can partner with you to share information about your practice opportunity through job postings, e-mail announcements, and our annual virtual career fair. We are unable share student contact or demographic information or match you directly with specific students. Should you have any questions or want more information around the hiring or search process or our Virtual Career Fair scheduled for November 8, 2023 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, please contact Jen Bennett at bennett.1075@osu.edu.

We are in a unique employment environment where potential employees have more options than ever, and it is more difficult to capture and sustain their attention. Practices that are successful at hiring can often articulate their own version of the Buckeye Advantage. What differentiates your practice from others? How are you doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways? How does your advantage align with the life and career goals of today’s candidate pool? Your commitment to your patients and communities, pride in the business you have built, and love for optometry can lead to so many compelling ways to answer these questions.