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Explore the possibilities of a career in optometry

Learn more about finding the right optometry school or college for you, the application process and the different modalities you can pursue.

GREAT DECISION TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP TOWARD BECOMING A DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY.

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Explore the possibilities of a career in optometry

Learn more about finding the right optometry school or college for you, the application process and the different modalities you can pursue.

GREAT DECISION TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP TOWARD BECOMING A DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY.

Right now, we're creating a personalized site for you and will email a link shortly. Can't wait? Take a peek.

About Optometry

What is a Doctor of Optometry?

The American Optometric Association defines Doctor of Optometry as the independent primary health care professional for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

Doctors of Optometry prescribe spectacle lenses, contact lenses, and medications. They provide specialized care in low-vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and pediatric vision, and perform certain surgical procedures. Optometrists counsel their patients regarding surgical and nonsurgical options that meet their visual needs related to their occupations, avocations, and lifestyles.

What do Doctors of Optometry do?

Optometrists perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye, carry out subjective and objective tests to evaluate patients’ vision, analyze test findings, establish a diagnosis, and determine the appropriate treatment. Optometrists treat a variety of conditions and illnesses. They treat eye diseases such as glaucoma and corneal ulcers; visual skill problems such as the inability to move, align, fixate, and focus the eye; and vision clarity problems such as simple near or farsightedness or complications due to the aging process, disease, accident, or malfunction.

Additionally, optometrists diagnose, manage, and refer systemic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and others that are often first detected in the eye; provide pre- and post-surgical care for cataracts, refractive laser treatment, retinal pathology, and other conditions; and encourage preventive measures such as monitoring infants’ and children’s visual development, evaluating job/school/hobby-related tasks, and promoting nutrition and hygiene education.

The routine tasks of most Doctors of Optometry can be quite varied and challenging. Patient interaction can range from performing routine visual exams, removing a foreign body from the cornea, evaluating a child who is not performing well in school, and managing the care of contact lens patients to prescribing medication for glaucoma, providing follow-up care after refractive surgery, and restoring functional vision to a legally blind patient with a magnifying device.

Is there a demand for Doctors of Optometry?

Yes. All areas of the country need optometrists to serve a population that is increasingly aware of the importance of prevention and proper health care, now requiring services of optometrists more than ever. The aging population of the U.S. is creating an increased demand for vision care services—a demand that will increase in the future.

What type of person is a good fit to be a Doctor of Optometry?

Individuals who have a desire to make an impact in people’s lives so they can live better, who have a good work ethic, and who are focused on STEM courses are great candidates to pursue a career in optometry.

Before Optometry School

I’m a high schooler and want to start thinking about optometry school. What type of education is required to become a Doctor of Optometry?

Doctors of Optometry must successfully complete a four-year accredited degree program at one of the schools or colleges of optometry. Most students accepted by a school or college of optometry have completed an undergraduate degree. However, each institution has its own undergraduate prerequisites, so applicants should contact the school or college of their choice for specific requirements.

I want to switch careers to become a Doctor of Optometry. How do I do that?

It depends on your career now and how long it’s been since you’ve graduated from undergrad. The best place to start is by talking to an admissions counselor at an optometry school or college you’re interested in. They can advise you on what prerequisites you need to complete before applying.

What undergraduate courses should I take to help prepare me for optometry school?

The requirements for admission to the schools and colleges of optometry vary, but students wishing to study optometry should be certain to take at least a year of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics, and microbiology; English; college mathematics; and other social science and humanities courses. The science courses should be preprofessional-level courses designed for science majors or health professional students and should offer laboratory experience. Brief survey courses in the sciences will not prepare you for optometry school. Be sure to consult with the pre-optometry advisor at your school or an advisor at the school or college of optometry that you plan to attend.

Can I take prerequisite courses through a community college?

For reasons of convenience or economics, students may opt to complete prerequisite courses at community college, which is a perfectly acceptable choice. The only caution is to make sure the courses are at a level suitable for a pre-med major. For example, courses offered for allied health care professions (e.g., nursing, dietician, etc.) may be too elementary for a pre-optometry student, therefore any course with the word “survey” or “introduction to” in the title or with a numeric course code less than 100 (090 would be an example) may be unacceptable. If you have a concern about whether a course meets the prerequisite requirements, get in touch with an admissions counselor at the optometry school you’re interested in attending.

Can I take prerequisite courses online?

This may vary among optometry schools. Please consult your admissions counselor.

Do AP courses count toward prerequisite courses?

This may vary among optometry schools. Please consult your admissions counselor.

What standardized exams do the schools and colleges accept?

All schools and colleges of optometry will accept the OAT. Many schools and colleges will also accept the GRE, MCAT, DAT, or PCAT in lieu of the OAT. Applicants are encouraged to contact the schools and colleges for their exam requirements. You can learn more here.

What kind of curriculum should I follow in undergrad?

Use the following sample undergraduate curriculum only as a guide. Not all the courses listed below may be required by all schools, and some schools may require other courses not included in this sample.

Freshman Year (Total Hours: 30)

  • General Chemistry with labs
  • College Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • English
  • General Biology with labs

Sophomore Year (Total Hours: 30)

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Microbiology or Bacteriology with labs
  • Calculus
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

Junior Year (Total Hours: 30)

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Anatomy
  • History
  • Speech
  • Social Science
  • Other humanities
What do I have to do to apply for admission to optometry school?

All schools and colleges of optometry participate in OptomCAS, Optometry’s Centralized Application Service. OptomCAS opens the first of July for each application cycle. For more information about OptomCAS and to access the application, please visit the OptomCAS website at optomcas.org.

OptomCAS allows optometry applicants to use a single web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple schools and colleges of optometry. Applicants who apply through OptomCAS submit a completed web-based application comprising biographical data, colleges and universities attended, academic course history, letters of recommendation, work experience, extracurricular activities, honors, and a personal essay. It is the applicant’s responsibility to read and follow specific instructions for OptomCAS and the schools and colleges of optometry.

During Optometry School

What if I need financial assistance to fund my education?

Financial aid, primarily in the form of government-subsidized, low-interest loans, is available to students attending schools and colleges of optometry. Other loans, grants, and work study aid are available, and vary from one institution to another. Learn more here or contact the financial aid officer at the school(s) or college(s) of your choice.

Can I work full-time while also attending optometry school?

Attending optometry school is a big commitment. While financial needs are different for everyone, optometry school brings a heavy workload that requires full-time attention. Work/study employment may be an option.

How long does optometry school take to complete?

A Doctor of Optometry degree typically takes four years to complete.

After Optometry School

At what point in my optometry career will I reach full earning potential?

This is different for everyone and involves many factors, such as your practice path, experience level, how much you work, and location.

How do I find a job?

There are many routes to take in finding a job as a Doctor of Optometry. It’s important to decide which practice path you want to pursue to bring focus to your job search. Also, networking and working with your optometry school can help you find job placements. For job postings, you can follow careers.optometriceducation.org

Do Doctors of Optometry have a “Dr.” title?

Yes, licensed Doctors of Optometry who graduated from optometry school have a “Dr.” title.

Can I prescribe medication as a Doctor of Optometry?

Depending on your state, scope of practice for optometrists, and licensing, Doctors of Optometry may prescribe a variety of medications.

What other resources are available to learn about an optometry career?

Here are a few other resources available, in addition to futureeyedoc.org, to help you learn more about optometry as a career:

Graduates of International Programs

As a graduate of an international program, how do I become eligible to practice optometry in the United States?

To be eligible to practice optometry in the U.S., you must hold the Doctor of Optometry degree from a school or college of optometry that is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education. In addition, you must pass the examinations administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) and all relevant state licensure examinations. For further information, contact the National Board of Optometry at www.optometry.org.

Option 1

Of the schools/colleges of optometry, the following will award an O.D. degree to graduates of international programs upon successful completion of a customized curriculum:

  • The New England College of Optometry
  • Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University

Option 2

Of the schools/colleges of optometry, the following will admit graduates of international programs with advanced standing:

  • Illinois College of Optometry
  • The New England College of Optometry
  • Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
  • Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University
  • State University of New York State College of Optometry

More information may be obtained directly from the individual institutions listed above.

Option 3

Sponsored Candidates
Candidates can be “sponsored” to take Part I, II, III, TMOD®, and ISE® by either a state licensure board of optometry or an accredited/pre-accredited institution. However, to become eligible to take Part III, sponsored candidates must first pass Parts I and II.

NBEO requires a letter from the state board or accredited/pre-accredited institution specifying for which exam(s) the candidate is being sponsored, along with the candidate’s name, the date, and other relevant information.

Sponsorship letters will last a period of 12 months and will need to be renewed when the 12-month time period has expired. It is the responsibility of the candidate to contact the sponsoring state board or accredited/pre-accredited institution directly to ensure that their letter is supplied to the NBEO. Please be certain to contact your state board of your interest in their specific licensure requirements.

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