Universities with Optometry Majors: How to Choose the Right School

Dec 04, 2019

Bachelor's degrees are available in pre-optometry and advanced students can pursue doctoral degrees leading to careers in research or clinical practice. Many students choose to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry simultaneously.

Within the field of optometry, students can prepare for careers in visual health research, the academic study of optometrics or clinical practice as optometrists. Optometry and vision science programs are offered by 4-year colleges and universities.

10 Optometry Schools

These ten schools offer optometry programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2018-2019, in-state)*
University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Doctoral $14,131
Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Doctoral $12,425
University of Missouri - St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Public Doctoral $9,792
Illinois College of Optometry Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Doctoral $39,440 (includes fees; 2016-2017)**
University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL 4-year, Public Doctoral $8,568
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN 4-year, Public Doctoral $10,681
New England College of Optometry Boston, MA 4-year, private not-for-profit Doctoral $21,328
University of Houston Houston, TX 4-year, Public Doctoral $8,913
Pacific University Forest Grove, OR 4-year, private not-for-profit Doctoral $31,515
SUNY College of Optometry New York, NY 4-year, Public Doctoral $13,001

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

School Selection Criteria

Here are some considerations for students who are choosing between optometry schools.

  • Students who plan to pursue the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree may want to look for programs that offer specialties ranging from visual aids to eye surgery.
  • Those who are more interested in teaching or conducting research may pursue the Ph.D. in Vision Science.
  • Students interested in both research and clinical practice are likely to benefit from a combined Doctor of Optometry and Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science.
  • Students may want to pursue programs that provide substantial financial assistance.

Bachelor of Science in Pre-Optometry

Students earning a pre-optometry bachelor's degree take a variety of science courses that have relevance to the optometry field. Undergraduate pre-optometry students may have the opportunity to spend time observing in clinics or volunteer as practice patients for students earning Doctor of Optometry degrees. Some schools have minimum score requirements in the science and mathematics areas of standardized tests for admission into the pre-optometry program.

Doctor of Optometry

The optometry curriculum prepares students for clinical work in vision health. Through extensive lab- and practicum-based coursework, students gain first-hand experience working with patients as they learn to detect and treat eye conditions. Most programs take at least four years of graduate-level study to complete. Much of a typical 4-year curriculum consists of a standard core of classes, though students do have elective options in such areas as ocular prosthetics and foreign language for optometrists.

Doctor of Optometry/Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science

Some optometry schools offer the opportunity to simultaneously earn an O.D. and a Ph.D. in Vision Science. This degree will enable students to pursue careers in academic optometry, vision research or clinical practice. To meet eligibility requirements for most programs, an applicant must hold a master's degree in vision science. At the end of the program, each student completes an original dissertation in addition to preparing to earn state licensure for clinical practice. Research topics include neurophysiology, spatial navigation, contact lenses and other areas of vision science. In addition to courses found in O.D. programs, students take Ph.D. courses that are particularly relevant for future researchers and teachers.

Aspiring optometrists can pursue pre-optometry studies at the undergraduate level, and they can choose between several doctoral degree options based on their academic interests and career goals.

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