Optometrist Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Dec 08, 2019

Selecting a proper optometry school requires that a prospective student consider several factors, such as cost, examination success rate and accreditation. In addition, students who want to specialize in a specific area of optometry should do research to find out which schools offer that track. Read on to learn more about how to choose an optometry school.

To become an optometrist, students must earn a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) after completing their undergraduate educations. O.D. programs and residencies are typically found at 4-year colleges and universities as well as specialized optometry schools.

10 Schools with an Optometry Program

At these schools, aspiring optometrists can train for a career in eye care:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Graduate Tuition (In-state, 2018-2019)*
Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Doctoral $12,425
Ferris State University Big Rapids, MI 4-year, Public Doctoral $7,320
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN 4-year, Public Undergraduate Certificate, Associate's, Doctoral $10,681 (undergraduate), $10,564 (graduate)
Northeastern State University Tahlequah, Oklahoma 4-year, Public Doctoral $4,903
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL 4-year, Private Doctoral $20,620
University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL 4-year, Public Doctoral $8,100
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Doctoral, Postgraduate Certificate $14,131
University of Houston Houston, TX 4-year, public Doctoral $9,216
University of Missouri - St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Public Doctoral $11,436
Illinois College of Optometry Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Doctoral $43,265** (2019-2020)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics, **school website

School Selection Criteria

The following factors are important to consider when choosing an optometrist program:

  • When selecting a school, make sure it is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), which accredits doctoral, residency and optometry technician programs.
  • Try to find optometry schools that feature state-of-the-art facilities that include on-campus optical laboratories or eye care clinics where students can develop essential hands-on skills by working with real patients.
  • Prospective doctoral students should check to see if a school's NBEO passage rate is above the national average and if the percentage of students who passed the exam the first time is listed.
  • Explore the costs and financial aid options offered by different programs, especially if you are an out-of-state student.

Optometry Technician Associate's Degree

There are just five ACOE-accredited optometry technician programs. These associate's degree programs can be completed in as little as one year and should prepare students to sit for either an optometric technician or optician certification exam. These programs should involve hands-on clinical training with the technologies used in an optometry office.

Doctor of Optometry

The ACOE lists 19 accredited Doctor of Optometry programs, making admissions competitive. Prospective students will need a respectable score on the Optometry Admission Test, as well as pre-professional-level coursework in science. According to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, doctoral programs should offer students areas of specialization, such as contact lenses, geriatrics, pediatrics, sports vision and vision therapy. Curricula include clinical experiences and externships in addition to didactic training.

Optometry Residency Program

There are 17 ACOE-accredited residency programs, each of which offer areas of specialization similar to doctoral programs'. The schools offering these programs will require students to have passed the NBEO exam and to fill out the online forms of the Optometric Residency Matching Service (ORMS). The ORMS matches students with programs based on criteria such as program type and location. Residencies typically take about a year to complete and combine didactic and clinical training in a specialty area. Residents may also be required to create a publishable research paper. Coursework depends on the student's specialization area.

Aspiring optometrists can find both undergraduate and graduate-level training options at postsecondary institutions. Those who would like to avoid a lengthy education process could consider completing an optometry technician associate's degree program, which can be found at a community college or technical school.

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