Practicing in North Carolina

Scope of Practice

North Carolina optometrists are fortunate to practice in a state with one of the best scopes of practice in the country. This is thanks to the efforts made back in 1977 when NCOS members helped pass landmark therapeutic legislation that changed the entire landscape of optometry.

With the 1977 law, North Carolina became the:

  • 16th state to receive diagnostic drug authority
  • 2nd state to receive legend drug authority
  • 2nd state to receive glaucoma treatment authority
  • 1st state to receive oral drug authority
  • 1st state to receive oral controlled narcotic substance authority
  • 1st state to receive injectable agent authority

North Carolina optometrists can:1

  • Prescribe topical and oral medications to treat allergies, infections and inflammation
  • Diagnose, treat, and manage glaucoma with the use of topical and oral medications
  • Prescribe oral steroids
  • Prescribe Schedule II, III, IV and V drugs
  • Order imaging such as X-rays, CT scan, MRI, echocardiogram and temporal artery ultrasonography
  • Deliver injectable treatments for the diagnosis, treatment and management of eye diseases and adnexa (treatment of chalazia, peri-ocular injections, foreign body removal, and punctual plugs)
  • Perform fluorescein angiography injections (upon completion of the credentialing curriculum and certification from the North Carolina State Board of Examiners in Optometry)

North Carolina optometrists cannot:

  • Perform laser procedures such as LPI, SLT, ALT and YAG


Job Market

The job market for optometrists in North Carolina is strong. Newly licensed optometrists in North Carolina should not have difficulty finding gainful employment. NCOS members receive access to online classified ads which have job listings from across the state.

According to a 2015 study, the total number of licensed optometrists in North Carolina has increased steadily over the past 30 years, but the general population has also grown so the ratio of optometrists to population remains about the same. Historically, there has been a relatively even amount of optometrists to population in urban and non-urban counties. Although this gap has widened over the past decade, it is far smaller than other health professions in the state. Out of 100 counties in North Carolina, Doctors of Optometry have primary practice locations in 88 counties and branch office locations in 98 counties.

The setting in which optometrists practice has shifted in recent years, with more optometrists beginning to work in a corporate setting instead of a private practice setting.

New Licensee Seminar

All ODs licensed in North Carolina in the current year are invited to attend the society's free New Licensee Seminar at Fall Congress. Those that attend also receive free Fall Congress registration.

During the seminar attendees will learn:

  • How the society operates
  • The history of North Carolina optometry
  • How the society can help in your practice
  • How to become a member and get involved

Member Benefits

North Carolina Optometric Society members receive a number of exclusive benefits and services. One of those benefits is the society's Young ODs Program. Designed for members 10 years or less in practice, the Young ODs Program provides an opportunity for younger members to connect and network through social events held in different regions throughout the state. The society also has a Leadership Program for young ODs looking to get more involved in the society.

Student members also receive:

  • A quarterly student e-newsletter
  • Free Virtual SeminarSpring Congress, and Fall Congress registration
  • Attendance to a Student Seminar at Fall Congress - a panel of NCOS leadership members will discuss what it's like practicing in NC, what they wish they knew when starting out, the different practice settings available and more
  • Access to a list of summer positions offered by members
  • Access to a new grad checklist to utilize at the completion of optometry school
  • Ability to participate in Mentorship Program - get connected with an experienced OD to help guide you through the early stages of your career
  • Access to an attorney to review an employee/employer contract at a nominal cost through our Contract Review Service

To join the NCOS, fill out an online application.

Quality of Life

North Carolina has a moderate climate with mild winters, a long spring and fall, and warm summers.


Cost of Living
The state's cost of living is below the national average while ranking high in personal satisfaction.


Parks and Recreation
From the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains to the 300 miles of beaches on the coast, North Carolina has something for everyone. Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the 41 state parks, 10 national parks and 4 national forests the state has to offer.


Enjoy professional sports including the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Charlotte FC, Carolina Hurricanes, NASCAR and major golf championships. Plus the biggest college rivalries in all of sports.


Arts and Culture 
Award-winning symphonies, museums, summer theaters and fall festivals can be found throughout North Carolina. Animal lovers will enjoy a nationally recognized zoo and system of aquariums. North Carolina also boasts over 100 wineries and the largest number of craft breweries in the south.


Education System
North Carolina is home to the highest number of National Board Certified teachers in the country. It also ranks among the top states for pre-kindergarten quality standards. Students perform above national averages at its public schools and it'\s higher education includes 16 public universities, 36 private colleges and universities, and the third largest community college system in the U.S.