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Optometrist Education Requirements and Training Information

Aspiring optometrists must complete a four-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.

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Essential Information

Optometrists are physicians who diagnose and treat vision problems. To practice as an optometrist, you need to pass a national examination and, in some cases, 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. Before graduating, students must complete clinical rotations and internships.

The prerequisites for an optometry doctoral program include a bachelor's degree and completion of the Optometry Admission Test given by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Students should make sure that they complete courses in biology, calculus, laboratory science, physiology and chemistry.


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Doctor of Optometry

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 the 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.

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
  • Introduction to vision science and ocular anatomy
  • Advanced human physiology
  • Community health
  • Ophthalmic optics lab and medical lab procedures
  • Developmental and primary optometry

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

There were 35,300 optometrists working in the United States in 2015, 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 2015 was $103,900 (www.bls.gov), and job growth was expected to increase 27% from 2014 to 2024.

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 of Examiners in Optometry gives the national board examination. Certification must be periodically renewed.

Becoming an optometrist will require a student to first complete a bachelor's degree and pass an optometry program admission test. The successful applicant will then complete a four year Doctor of Optometry degree program to prepare them for licensure and a career in diagnosing and treating vision problems. Graduates from these programs should have little trouble finding job placement, due to the very high rate of growth.

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