by Reid Cluff

Have you considered doing a residency but didn’t know what type would best fit your career track? Have you had trouble deciding whether doing a residency is the right thing to do? This article will help you decide if a residency is right for you and what type of residency will help boost your career on whatever optometric path you choose. We’ll help you find your residency “personality.”

But first, why should you do a residency? The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) states that “an optometric residency is a post-doctoral educational program centered on clinical training that results in the resident’s attainment of advanced competencies in eye, vision, and health care. It expands on the basic entry-level competencies already attained through a doctor of optometry program.” Although it’s optional, it is a wonderful opportunity to increase your skills and confidence as an independent practitioner while still having the chance to ask questions and work with a mentor. You get paid a modest stipend with additional benefits that vary at every site while also being able to defer payment on your student loans. Becoming residency-trained can put you ahead of the game with regard to American Board of Optometry (ABO) Board Certification and attaining Fellowship with the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). Additionally, it can really help you open doors to future jobs, especially if you are wanting to work in the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals or work and teach at a school or college of optometry. In short, besides the delayed gratification of getting a better salary, there aren’t a lot of reasons NOT to do a residency.

So, now that you’ve decided to do a residency, which one should you select? There are 11 different focus areas to choose from, and several sites offer combinations if you can’t choose just one. I’ve taken the liberty to categorize them into four different “personality” types to help you narrow down where you fit in.

“I want to specialize” Personality
Do you want to have a private practice, but really want to have a specialty that will set you apart from other practitioners? Do you want to work in a hospital setting? Do you find you really like optics? Do you enjoy rehabilitating people who have special needs or medically necessary visual aids? If so, you would probably enjoy the Cornea and Contact Lens, Low Vision Rehabilitation, or Brain Injury Vision Rehabilitation residency programs. Each of these involves specialties that are commonly combined into private practices or could also be found in a hospital setting.

“Co-Management” Personality
Do you want to work in an OD/MD practice? Do you enjoy treating pre- and post-operative patients? Do you want to work in a laser surgery center or a VA hospital? Do you enjoy working in a multi-disciplinary environment? If so, you should try a residency in Ocular Disease, Refractive and Ocular Surgery, or Community Health Optometry. All of these generally involve co-management with ophthalmology and even with other health professions such as in a community health center that provides services to underserved populations.

“Private Practice” Personality
Do you want to have your own private or group practice? Do you enjoy treating patients of all ages for all of their primary care eye needs? Do you like being a “jack of all trades?” Answering “yes” to these questions means you might be best suited for a Primary Care Optometry or Family Eye Care residency program. These programs focus on treating primary eye disease for people of all ages. Doing a residency in one of these programs can make you more credible and marketable for having your own private practice or working as an associate in one.

“Pediatric” Personality
Do you love working with children? Was binocular vision or vision therapy one of your favorite classes? Then you should do a Pediatric Optometry or Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation residency program. Although vision therapy can be for all ages, it tends to have a good amount of pediatric patients. These programs can help catapult your career into these growing and needed specialty areas.

These are just snapshots into the possibilities for residencies. The best thing to do is figure out what it is you want to get out of a residency and then find the best one that fits your career goals. There are tons of options in almost any area of the country and any area of emphasis. For more information about residencies, including how to apply and specific information about each one, visit ASCO’s website at With so many options to choose from and all the benefits you get out of doing a residency, the question really shouldn’t be should do a residency but which one do you choose? Residency training will take your skills to the next level and give you the confidence you need to become the most successful optometrist possible.