What it takes to become a optometrists
Doctors of Optometry are defined by the American Optometric Association as “independent primary health care professionals for the eye.”
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, diagnose and determine treatment. Optometrists treat a variety of conditions and illnesses. 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 postsurgical care, and promote overall eye health for youth and adults.
Some practice alone, with a partner or partners, or with other health care professionals. Many practice at hospitals, clinics, teaching institutions and community health centers, or they may choose to be employed by another optometrist, or in the ophthalmic industry, while others choose a career in the military, public health or other government service.
There are 23 ACOE accredited schools and colleges of optometry – 22 are in the continental United States, and one is in Puerto Rico.
(Note: two Canadian schools of optometry – the University of Waterloo and the University of Montreal – are also recognized by ACOE).
All states require graduation from an accredited professional optometric degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. ACOE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation as the accrediting body for optometric educational programs.
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.
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 anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and general physics, and courses in biochemistry, microbiology, English, college mathematics, statistics and other social science and humanities courses. The science courses should be pre-professional level courses designed for science majors or health professional students and should offer laboratory experience.
Generally, colleges of optometry admit students who have demonstrated strong academic commitment and who exhibit the potential to excel in deductive reasoning, interpersonal communication and empathy. Potential optometry students may be evaluated on the basis of grade point average, performance on the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), extracurricular and community activities, personal interview, professional potential, etc..
Optometry schools are looking for well-rounded candidates who have achieved not only in the classroom but also in other areas. Leadership ability, a disposition to serve others, and a work ethic characterized by dedication and persistence are just a few of the qualities that impress most admission committees.
The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a standardized examination designed to measure general academic ability and comprehension of scientific information. All schools and colleges of optometry in the United States, and the University of Waterloo, Canada require the OAT.
The cost of your education will depend upon where you choose to attend school. Many of the schools and colleges of optometry have financial arrangements or contract programs that allow students from various states to attend their institution at the resident rate. Contact the admissions officer at the school(s) or college(s) of your choice for specific tuition and fee information.
The median annual wage for optometrists was $115,250 in May 2019.
Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
Because vision problems tend to occur more frequently later in life, an aging population will lead to demand for optometrists. As people age, they become more susceptible to conditions that impair vision, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, and will need vision care.