Optometrist Education Requirements and Training Information

Learn about the educational requirements and training information for the aspiring optometrist. Continue reading for prerequisites, coursework and employment outlook statistics. Examine licensure requirements.

Essential Information

Optometrists are physicians who diagnose and treat vision problems. In order to practice in the United States, aspiring optometrists must complete a 4-year post-baccalaureate Doctor of Optometry degree program. This program of study is designed to provide individuals with the skills needed to gain licensure as optometrists. It will be necessary to pass a national examination and, possibly, a state examination in order to obtain licensing. Enrolled students must learn how to examine patients, diagnose vision disorders, treat vision problems and educate patients on common eye-related concerns.

The first few years of a Doctor of Optometry degree program cover basic human anatomy, ocular anatomy, basic vision science and neuroanatomy. The second half of such a degree program is made up mainly of laboratory and clinical work, where students are expected to learn how to manage vision care in a clinical environment. The fourth and final year of a Doctor of Optometry program is made up of clinical rotations and internships at hospitals and specialty eye clinics.

Education Prerequisites

Many bachelor's degree programs are appropriate for students interested in one day becoming optometrists. Students should make sure that they complete courses in biology, calculus, laboratory science, physiology and chemistry. Also, students are required to complete an Optometry Admission Test given by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.

Program Coursework

Doctor of optometry degree programs contain an intensive sequence of courses ranging from basic anatomy to advanced clinical practice. Some examples of such courses include:

  • Optics
  • Ocular anatomy
  • Introduction to vision science
  • Advanced human physiology
  • Community health optometry
  • Ophthalmic optics lab
  • Primary optometry
  • Medical lab procedures
  • Developmental optometry

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

There were 34,200 optometrists working in the United States in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). Many optometrists had their own practices, although some worked for other health practitioners' offices in that year. The annual median salary for an optometrist in May 2012 was $97,820 (www.bls.gov).

Certification Options

Just like medical doctors, optometrists are required to be licensed before they are allowed to practice. They must pass a national board examination as well as a state or regional examination, depending upon their particular state's requirements. The national board examination is given by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. Certification must be periodically renewed.

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