Optometrists diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system and eye. They may be the first to recognize systemic diseases in their patients such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Besides routine eye exams and fitting patients for corrective lenses, optometrists treat many other eye problems including glaucoma and visual skill problems such as the inability to move, fixate and focus the eye. Although the majority of optometrists practice primary care optometry, some specialize in particular populations or treatments including pediatrics, low vision rehabilitation, sports vision, learning disabilities, and head trauma. Optometrists also encourage preventive measures such as monitoring children’s vision, evaluating school vision, and promoting nutrition and hygiene education. Optometrists collaborate with ophthalmologists, physicians (MDs or DOs) who perform eye surgery, as well as diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries.
Preparation and Applying
- Optometry programs look for well-rounded students who are strong in science and have good communication skills. Programs consider GPA as well as the score on the aptitude test, the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT).
- They also look for empathy, leadership skills, extracurricular and community activities, and observation experiences in optometric facilities.
- All required courses must have a minimum C grade.
- Application is through an online application system called OptomCAS which opens in late June.
- Your online application will include an essay explaining why you are interested in becoming an optometrist.
- The individual optometry programs will ask for supplementary information and will, hopefully, invite you to their campus for an interview.
- Competitive applicants have:
- Strong academic performance including a GPA of 3.5 or better
- High scores on the OAT o Leadership, teamwork, and communication skills
- Undergraduate research experience is valued
- Volunteer and shadowing/observation experiences
- Strong positive letters of recommendation
- Early application is essential. OptomCAS opens in late June and should be submitted by early August.
Education and Licensure
- Generally, schools require at least two or more years of undergraduate work (90 credit hours). The preference, however, is for students with a bachelor’s degree.
- Optometry school is a four-year program. The first two years are largely classroom-based and the third and fourth year are spent mostly in clinical settings. After successful completion of the 4 years, students graduate with an O.D. (Doctor of Optometry).
- A licensure exam is required.