A Doctor of Optometry requires seven to eight years of post-secondary education to obtain a professional designation. Optometrists complete a Bachelor of Science degree or higher. Following this, they complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry Degree at a school of optometry from an accredited university. In addition to an optometry degree, graduates must meet provincial licensing requirements in the province or territory where they plan to settle. If you plan to continue your career in Canada, learn more about optometrist job requirements, job search strategies, associations, and more.
How to Improve Your Chances of Practicing Optometry Before You Move to Canada?
There are steps that you can take before you move to Canada to improve your chances of practicing your profession in Canada.
- Attend the webinar What to Know About the Canadian Job Market to learn about labour market conditions.
- Confirm that the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) recognizes your international optometric education.
- Contact the provincial or territorial optometric regulatory body (see links in Section 5) in the province where you intend to settle and work in Canada to learn about the:
- Procedure to follow and eligibility to obtain a license or certificate of registration
- Steps you can take before you move to Canada
- Documents you need to bring (verify if they need to be translated and if you need to use a professional translation service in Canada)
- Cost and time required to obtain a license.
- Find out how the Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FORAC) assesses your international qualifications.
- Assess your language skills by taking an online self-assessment on the Canadian Language Benchmarks website.
- Improve your language skills and enroll in language classes while in your home country and continue them after moving to Canada.
- Gather and organize your official education, work and identity documents while still in your home country.
- Become familiar with how the optometry profession is practiced in Canada and the procedures, governing legislation and regulations in the province where you plan to settle.
1. Understanding Optometry Job Requirements
Optometry is a regulated profession in Canada. Provincial and territorial optometrist regulatory bodies set the standards for entry into the profession and issue licenses to practice to those eligible. Licensing requirements include completing the Optometry Examining Board of Canada’s (OEBC) national exam and licensure by the provincial or territorial governing body.
By law, you can only practice as an optometrist in Canada, or use the title “optometrist,” if you have been authorized by a provincial or territorial regulatory body.
International graduates may be eligible to obtain a license or certificate of registration to practice in a province or territory in Canada.
Researching Job Requirements for Optometrists in Canada
If you have international qualifications, it’s important to research optometrist job requirements before you move to Canada. Careful research will give you an idea of what’s involved to continue your optometry career in Canada, and the length of time and cost to become licensed. The process can be time-consuming and costly, so you need to prepare yourself for this reality.
Using the NOC: 31111
You can start your research by using the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 31111 (NOC 2021 Version 1.0) for optometrists. The NOC provides a standard definition of the main duties that optometrists perform. You’ll also learn about example titles and job requirements.
2. Employment for Optometrists in Canada
Optometrists are independent primary health care providers representing the front line of vision health. They can work in settings such as clinics, hospitals, community health centres, research, teaching, administration, or private practice.
An optometry career can offer routine or flexible working hours, along with a good income, and the option to own your own business. There are several factors that influence income including provincial healthcare coverage, practice location, and the services provided.
To learn more about working as an optometrist, the Government of Canada Job Bank provides information about wages, job prospects, job requirements, and skills. This site is a vital research tool to explore the labour market even before you arrive in Canada.
Is There a Demand for Optometrists in Canada?
Much like other healthcare professions, optometry is also facing a critical labour shortage that is forecasted until 2028. This is mainly due to the:
- Demand for optometry health services as the Canadian population ages
- Prevalence of age-related eye conditions
- Number of practising optometrists approaching retirement as well as the growth of the field.
This bodes well for optometrists with international qualifications. But, you still need to meet specific optometry job requirements.
Credential Recognition for Internationally Educated Optometrists
Regardless of your education or experience, you must have a license to meet optometrist job requirements in Canada. Credential assessment is the first of many steps before you can even apply for registration to practice optometry in any province or territory in Canada. The credential assessment process involves a fair and rigorous review of your international qualifications to ensure that they meet Canadian standards.
Optometrists educated outside of North America and who would like to practice in any Canadian province (except Quebec) must contact the Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FORAC) to have academic credentials assessed. Credential assessment results are valid for three years.
Before you can apply to FORAC for credential assessment, you must have your university education evaluated by World Education Services (WES). If your academic credentials are similar to the Doctor of Optometry program at the University of Waterloo, you can register for the Internationally Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Exam.
How Do Education Evaluation and Credential Recognition Differ? (Infographic)
Credentials Assessment Services
If you plan to attend a college or university program to upgrade your skills, contact the school where you plan to study. Find out what steps to take and what credential assessment agency you should use.
Make sure to highlight your international education and skills. Try to build on your existing knowledge and skills and explore university and college options thoroughly before deciding.
You might be able to get advanced standing, transfer some of your credits and benefit from prior learning assessment options by using your international credentials and experience to gain credit or course exemptions. This way you will complete your program more quickly, without wasting money and repeating the education you already have.
Best Cities for Optometrist Jobs in Canada
Generally, optometry job prospects are positive in several provinces. Good prospects can be found in cities such as Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, and many Ontario cities. When looking for jobs, broaden your geographic area to include smaller cities and towns outside of the large urban cities.
Before you choose a city to live in Canada, research the demand for optomistrists. And, once you have identified cities with a strong demand, research those cities to see if they meet the personal and practical needs of you and your family.
Major Employers for Optometry Jobs in Canada
In Canada, optometrists may work in private practices or in the public healthcare system. New job openings in the sector will come mainly from opportunities that arise when practicing optometrists retire or to a lesser degree, from employment increase.
Optometrists usually begin practise as an associate at one or more existing practices. New optometrists may even split their time between a few optometry clinics. Once established, many optometrists will purchase a practice on their own, with a partner, or a group of partners. Some practices may even run an optical dispensary.
3. Upgrading Your Skills to Meet Optometry Job Requirements
Canadian employers place a high value on soft skills. These are skills and personal attributes that enhance your interactions, job performance, and career prospects. Unlike your technical or hard skills, you can apply your soft skills broadly. While your hard skills will get you an interview, most likely it’s your soft skills that will get you the job and allow you to succeed.
Soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills are important job requirements for optometrists. Patients expect you to listen to them to understand their needs and concerns. If you are working with a team, strong interpersonal skills and teamwork are a necessity. Everyone must work as a unit to effectively assess patient needs and treatment options.
For those who plan to work in private practice, strong business skills are important optometrist job requirements. This can include skills such as financial management, budgeting, and knowledge of Canadian insurance plans and regulations.
Though not a must, upgrading your education and skills through continuing education can be vital to meet optometrist job requirements in Canada.
Language Skills Upgrading
You may have strong technical skills, but often that is not enough to get a job or maintain it afterward. You may need more training or skills upgrading, especially with regard to your communication skills and interpersonal skills.
Having strong skills in one or both of Canada’s official languages – English or French – is important for your future in Canada. Whether you choose to focus on improving English or French will depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you intend to live.
You may be eligible for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Otherwise, you can find other free or affordable classes in English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) through school boards or settlement agencies. There are even language courses to teach you professional terminology, such as job-specific language training and Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT) in Ontario.
If you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, learning the other one is a good option, as it may offer you more job opportunities.
In Canada the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science is the only English language school to offer a Doctor of Optometry program in Canada. The University of Waterloo also offers an Advanced Standing Optometry Preparatory Program (ASOPP). ASOPP provides an education pathway for individuals who have completed optometry training outside of North America and who want to obtain a license to practice in Canada. It helps internationally trained optometrists get licensed and begin practise in Canada.
A French language Doctor of Optometry is offered at the Université de Montréal.
Many immigrants pursue more education after arriving in Canada. Some want to continue their education to enhance their career options. For example, if you plan to work in private practice or co-own an optometry practice additional business skills may be helpful. Learn more about higher education in Canada.
4. Job Search Techniques for Optometrists
Job prospects for optometrists in Canada are good. However, the Canadian job market is very competitive, so it’s important to prepare for your job search.
You must look for jobs in the region where you will settle. Therefore, take your time to research job requirements in that region and develop a plan for finding work.
There are many ways to search for optometry jobs:
- Broaden your search and include alternative careers and sectors.
- Seek out a mentor in the optometry sector who would give you valuable insights and advice and probably introduce you to their professional network.
- Join healthcare job-finding or networking clubs through settlement agencies.
- Attend industry job fairs and regularly check online job boards.
- Check university or optometry association job banks.
Immigrant Settlement Agencies
Settlement agencies offer free services to help you find job vacancies, update your resume, write cover letters, prepare for interviews and understand what Canadian employers are looking for. This can very helpful since searching for a job in Canada may be different than in your home country.
To find immigrant services in your area, click here.
An informational interview is a brief (20–30-minute) meeting that you schedule with a person who is currently working in the optometry field.
You should not try to get a job during an informational interview but rather use the opportunity to learn more about the profession in Canada. An informational interview with a contact from your network can be a great source of career information. In addition to gathering information about optometry in Canada, you’ll gain the added benefit of hearing first-hand about their out professional experiences.
Networking to Build Your Optometry Career in Canada
A vital activity that can help you build your optometry career in Canada is networking. And effective networking is all about connecting with other professionals, building relationships and sharing information. It offers many benefits that can help you to discover job leads, better understand the industry in Canada, and expand your optometry network.
In Canada, many job vacancies are found in the “hidden job market”. These are jobs that are filled even before they are advertised. Networking with practicing optometrists is a great way to learn about these jobs and give you a job search advantage.
Great places to network included optometry conferences and associations. In these settings, you’ll be surrounded by other optometrists who are likely eager to collaborate and connect with others who share a similar career path.
LinkedIn is another important networking tool. It’s helpful to connect with former colleagues and employers, search for jobs and learn about recent optometry research and industry news. You can also join some related professional groups where you can learn more about the profession in Canada, make new contacts, and access important resources and job listings.
But remember, that you have to allow time to cultivate and grow the ties you establish through networking. Nothing will happen overnight. True networking is about adding value to both parties and building and maintaining the relationship over time.
Writing Your Resume for Optometrist Jobs in Canada
As the Canadian job market is competitive, you need to have a polished resume to help you stand out from other applicants. Potential employers highly value clinical, or hands-on, experience, as well as research.
Here are some key elements that you can include on your resume:
Contact Information: Clearly indicate how the hiring manager can contact you and include your name, city, telephone number, and email address.
Summary: Write three or four sentences that summarize your skills, and experience, and highlight what makes you an excellent candidate for the job. Customize the summary section based on the specific job requirements.
Professional Experience: List your relevant employment history and include bullet points to highlight your major accomplishments in each role. Stating accomplishments rather than listing your job responsibilities will help you to stand out among other candidates.
Where possible, quantify achievements such as the number of clients you had, treatment success rates, or patient satisfaction scores. List any volunteer work, internships, work placements or residencies that directly relate to the job that you are applying for. This important experience can illustrate your skills, experience, and knowledge.
Place any research experience such as glaucoma analysis on your resume. Research details will show employers that you have inquiry skills that can contribute to new processes and improved patient care.
Education and Professional Development: List the school(s) that you attended and include the major, and years attended. Include voluntary workshops or supplemental classes that are directly related to optometry.
Optometry Skills: List your technical skills (i.e. diagnostic testing, using specialized instruments and equipment) as well as your soft skills (i.e. patient counselling, strategic thinking, leadership). Review the optometrist job requirements and skills found in the job posting and list the skills that you have.
Professional Licenses and Certifications: Identify current licenses and certifications.
Types of Resumes that are Common in Canada
Essential Tips: Your First Job Interview in Canada
Interview Techniques for Optometrist Jobs in Canada
When you reach the interview stage of the selection process, you need to prepare well for your optometry job interview. Your interview is your chance to show your potential employer that you have the right personality, qualifications, experience and proven track record for the role.
The hiring manager will ask you many questions. Some will be standard questions that you can expect to answer. But, other questions may be unexpected. However, the more you prepare, the more confidence you will convey. So prepare to answer questions related to the core competencies, skills and optometrist job requirements.
Research your prospective employer before the interview. Go to their website to get general information about the size of the practice, the technical sophistication of the practice, specializations and other details. Ask other optometrists in the community about the reputation, strengths and weaknesses of the practice.
Some common interview questions that you can prepare to answer:
- What made you interested in applying for this optometry job?
- What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- Describe a new optometry skill that you recently learned. How did you go about learning and practising the skill?
- Thinking about your last job, what did you most enjoy doing? What type of work would you rather avoid?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an unreasonable patient. How did you handle the situation?
At the end of the interview, you’ll have an opportunity to ask the interviewer any questions that you have. So prepare to ask questions to show that you have a genuine interest in the position.
5. Optometrists Associations in Canada
The associations listed below provide information about licensure and certification and offer professional development, education and networking opportunities.
Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO): The CAO is a national organization that works with ten provincial optometry associations. It is the national voice of optometry and represents the interests of 85% of optometrists in Canada. CAO membership allows you to connect with colleagues through events, education, conferences, research, and networking.
Optometry Examining Board of Canada
Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada
Provincial Optometrist Regulatory Bodies
Alberta College of Optometrists
College of Optometrists of British Columbia
Manitoba Association of Optometrists
New Brunswick Association of Optometrists (NBAO) – Board of Examiners of New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador College of Optometrists
Professional Licensing, Department of Health and Social Services, Government of the Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia College of Optometrists
Professional Licensing, Department of Health and Social Services, Government of Nunavut
College of Optometrists of Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island College of Optometrists
Ordre des optométristes du Québec
Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists
Professional Licensing, Department of Community Services, Government of Yukon
Professional immigrant networks are organized, volunteer-run member-based associations or networks created by and for immigrant professionals that seek to:
- Create a forum to contribute to and enrich their respective communities
- Provide opportunities for their members to find and keep a job and achieve their professional goals.
These associations provide networking events, mentoring, information sessions, professional development, and connections to job opportunities. When you join a professional immigrant network, it can help you achieve job search and long-term career success.
isans: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia: isans helps newcomer professionals with their full economic and social integration in the province of Nova Scotia.
Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC): helps newcomers to expand their professional networks and understand the local labour market.
For more information about working and living in Canada, visit our Finding a Job in Canada page. We’ll help you to achieve your goals in Canada!