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Mix to match your professional needs

When considering career path options, optometrists can find a role as an AOP Councillor rewarding, writes Henrietta Alderman


The idea of a portfolio career emerged a few years ago. It highlights the way a person who has already established a reputation in their chosen career could perhaps reduce their full-time work commitments and instead add some extra roles, such as non-executive directorships, consultancy and voluntary work. It offers the chance of more variety and new challenges, but not necessarily more income or security. It normally requires a person to have reached an age of personal and financial stability.

For an optometrist working today, a portfolio career can come early. The options are numerous. There are huge benefits personally and professionally to having diversity within your career as it can keep you invigorated, enthusiastic and constantly learning. Respondents to our Optometrists’ Futures workforce survey pointed to the benefits of this type of working.

“Flexibility… you make what you can of your own career,” said one, while another said: “I can work in different fields – all related to optometry, for example teaching, managing etc. It doesn’t have to be in a clinic.”

With an optometry qualification you can spread your wings, volunteer overseas, take career breaks


You can choose to work in a hospital setting for a day or two a week. You can take on higher qualifications, for example, in glaucoma or independent prescribing in order to take a more clinically active role in a primary care setting. If you are interested in education, you could work in a university for part of your week teaching the optometrists of the future.

For those who find running a business exciting, there are numerous opportunities for owning a business or partnering within one. This can appeal to people who enjoy developing teams as well as balancing profit.

You can offer your skills to NHS England, or the Welsh or Scottish Government, as an optometry adviser. Or to the General Optical Council as a lay member of committees or fitness to practice panels.

Expanding your career

So many options, and not all of them will suit everyone. The important thing is that with an optometry qualification you can spread your wings, volunteer overseas, take career breaks or scale back your commitments if it all gets too much or you want or need to devote time to family or interests outside of optometry. The important thing is to understand what you enjoy and find a way of achieving it.

At the AOP, we do all we can to support you whatever your career choices and ensure that you have legal protection wherever you go and whatever you do


At the AOP, we do all we can to support you whatever your career choices and ensure that you have legal protection wherever you go and whatever you do. There are also opportunities with the AOP for expanding your career and contributing in several different ways.

Later this year we will be holding elections for Council. Please don’t think this is for others and not for you. Council works because it represents all the different ages, stages and types of career available to optometrists. If you are interested in being part of our policy-making, or in helping to develop new services and products for our members, the AOP Council is the place for you. Try out what it’s like to be involved by responding to our occasional calls for views on the big and small topics that affect the profession. Our biggest response so far has been on apprenticeships and those views influenced the AOP’s position.

But if it’s not policy that interests you, perhaps you are motivated to use your listening skills and your knowledge to support fellow members of the profession. We were overwhelmed with volunteers when we began the Peer Support Line two years ago. It clearly demonstrated that members have a wish to give something back to colleagues and to help those who might be in distress. For me, this service closed the circle on the holistic support we provide members. If you are interested in this part of our work, we are currently recruiting for new volunteers this year.

The AOP’s strength is in the experience of its members, and the breadth of that experience is inspiring.

Image credit: Getty/Prostock-Studio