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Should I Do a Residency?

Over the years, I have been asked this question many times. My standard response is that residencies are incredibly valuable and time well spent!

Completing a residency is like passing the national board exams. Once you’re residency-trained, that distinction stays with you for life! It opens and maintains doors throughout your career that might otherwise be closed. For example, large ophthalmology groups and academic institutions often seek residency-trained optometrists. I firmly believe that completing a residency early in your career offers a significant long-term advantage.

People will worry about the financial implications of a residency, so let's address that as well. Yes, going straight into practice will provide you with a very good salary. But, don't forget, you do get paid as a resident...not a huge amount, but it is much better than paying in! Remember that for 4 years, you were paying something close to $45,000 annually for your optometric education. As a resident, if you make $45,000 in salary and don't have to pay anything in...that is a $90,000 swing in one year! True, you may earn double or triple that amount going straight into practice, but as I mentioned...there are benefits!

I think that flexibility in a career is one of the keys to happiness and sustainability. Let's say that you begin your working for an older OD and you enjoy it but long for independence. Then you open your own private practice. After 10-12 years, decide that teaching is your calling and you transition into optometric education. Then, after another period of time you move into an administrative role. Having your OD degree and residency under your belt from the start will allow you to follow this path. It's a path that I know well! It is a wonderful thing when your educational path allows you to change throughout your life.

So, do the residency, keep it in your toolbox and all doors will remain open to you!

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