Career pathway: growing your career as an Optometrist

Author: Staci Hearnshaw
Author: Staci Hearnshaw
Posting date: 07/01/2022

Career progression is important at every stage of your career journey. Continually moving forward offers new challenges, improves confidence and ensures greater job satisfaction in the long term. In the optical optometry sector, career progression is flexible and there are lots of opportunities. Ongoing training and development are a core part of Vision Express. We always make sure our colleagues are learning and enjoy their work, which helps deliver excellent customer service. Read on to find out more about the career pathways in Optometry and how to succeed in challenging times. Forge your own optometrist career path. 

Pathways to success in Optometry

We spoke with our Professional team in an on-demand webinar and they shared their thoughts on how to grow and develop a career in Optometry, and the different roles available. Dan Mcghee, Director of Professional Services, gave us his advice on the professional development pathways, role choices, and the opportunities that Vision Express offer. Here’s what he had to say:

“Now more than ever, we offer a significant number of role choices and we’ve never been more transparent. We have the typical route of entry into the business, which is the Pre-Reg Optometrist program that is market-leading, and our first-time pass rate certainly echoes that. We do an 18-month LEAP newly qualified program, which continues to get them ready for their long-term career in optical retail. The second route of entry is a more typical one through recruitment of Optometrists.

“So, through those two routes, you will continue to have market-leading, professional development through our CET online portal, networking events and our clinical conferences as well. There’s also a further education pathway, where there are opportunities like becoming a professional development tutor to support our the Pre-registration placements out in the field and our Supervisors as well.

“We also have a more operational role, which is a Divisional Ophthalmic Business Partner. This is an Optometrist that would work closely with the Regional Managers, myself and the Divisional Directors to offer support in-stores to link the clinical and commercial journey. Other roles we have are at store-level. This includes the Optometrist Store Manager role – which allows you to mix clinical practice with retail, managing a team, and allows you to be involved with the commercial aspects of the store.

“Additionally we have our Joint Venture career pathway. Many of our Optometrists go on to lead their own Vision Express [store] in a Joint Venture partnership. Again, this allows them to develop their skills, but they’re also directly accountable for the revenue and profits of their store.”

Optometry career paths and beyond

There’s a range of different ways to grow your career as an Optometrist, but what are the pathways beyond traditional optometry and the world of optics consulting? Dan gave us his thoughts about some of the roles away from the stores.

“We have numerous support centre roles that would take you out of that clinical environment. So, we’ve now built a steady stream of Optometrist Regional Business Partners. We created our first one in 2018 and have recognised it as a real key benefit. We’ve got other roles within head office, like a Learning & Development Manager who would be responsible for all the CET programmes, content and delivery and there are other roles in professional services, like Clinical Compliance Officer or Optometry Development Manager.”

At Vision Express, you’ll be able to take your career in any number of directions, depending on your skills and experience. Whether you have a desire to work in-stores or in our Store Support Centre, there are plenty of career pathways.

Moving through Vision Express

While we offer development opportunities to our current employees, we also want to help those who come from other businesses. So, what are the opportunities for external Optoms? Victoria Unsworth – who works as a Professionals Services L&D Manager – shared her thoughts on the career paths for professionals entering Vision Express.

“We don’t put any barriers in the way for people developing through Vision Express. It’s very important for us that we’re able to offer a lot of different pathways. We’re seeing more questions coming through about development and how we can do something different. That’s definitely something we encourage.”

Dan also shared his thoughts on the career pathways for people outside of the organisation. He said: “It depends on the level of experience. I think if someone was to come in as an experienced Optometrist, there’s nothing stopping them from moving into different roles quite quickly. [However], if you’re newly qualified, you need that period to settle and master what you’ve learnt in the test room for a year or two. That’s absolutely vital before you think about doing other things.”

Many of the settings in which Optometrists work allow flexible working and the opportunity to learn about different roles. We very much prioritise flexibility at Vision Express. But how much flexibility do Optoms really have? Victoria has this to say:

“I think flexibility looks really different to everybody. That’s something we’re really focused on and making sure we don’t assume that, flexibility is the same for everyone.” Someone may want to have weekends and evenings free, but on the other hand, we’ve got colleagues who have asked to work weekends. So, for us, it’s about looking at every individual and every circumstance, and making sure we do the best we can to meet their needs and the needs of the business.”


It’s important that Optoms focus on interacting with each other to keep their skills and knowledge fresh – which is key for growing your career. As a result of COVID-19, networking has been a lot harder, with most meetings and events being held virtually. However, connecting and meeting new people is still crucial for success. Vision Express Optometrist, Nandini had this to say about networking:

“Before COVID, I remember there being Optometrists conferences where all the Optometrists got together. Since then, a lot of the ways I’ve been connecting with people is through the CET events. They’re a great way to speak with your peers, so there are ways of interacting with other Optometrists.”

Let Vision Express help your career

Above all, we are a great organisation for Optometrists that want to develop and move their careers forward. Now you know about all the roles and opportunities, why not get in touch with our team for more information or browse our optometrist jobs.  We look forward to hearing from you and wish you luck on your career path to optometry.