Those who are seeking a career diagnosing and treating diseases of the eye, helping individuals with appropriate glasses or contact lenses, and performing vision training with young children might consider earning a Doctor of Optometry degree and becoming a professional optometrist. While this degree typically takes four years, accelerated programs might allow students a quicker entry into the workplace. Read on to learn more about some options for acceleration as well as some requirements students may need to earn this degree.
Accelerated Doctor of Optometry Degree Programs
A 3+4 degree program may allow qualified students to take advantage of agreements between their undergraduate college and a graduate optometry program. In these programs, students complete three years of their undergraduate education and then begin their optometry studies. The bachelor's degree is usually conferred after the first year of optometry school. A specific undergraduate major may be required. Applying to a 3+4 program could occur during the initial application as a high school student or early in a student's undergraduate career. Strong academic credentials and demonstrated interest in the field of optometry will be required.
Another option for those seeking an accelerated Doctor of Optometry degree is to enter a year-round program, where classes continue over the summer months. This type of degree program can often be completed in 36 months. One requirement for completing such a program might be engaging in frequent small-group sessions with a faculty member to gain academic skills and clinical expertise. Some three-year programs require a bachelor's degree, while others are designed for those who already hold an advanced degree. Applicants to a year-round program may be required to provide a transcript demonstrating excellent academic credentials, complete the Optometry Admissions Test, sit for interviews, and document patient care interaction.
A Doctor of Optometry degree program typically consists of a combination of academic coursework as well as hands-on patient care experience and a comprehensive externship. Some academic courses that future optometrists might be exposed to over the course of their professional studies include:
A course of this nature may provide the background for further studies in optometry, as it will closely examine both healthy and pathological conditions of the eye. Students might discuss the ocular structures, including the eyelid, cornea, iris, and ciliary body. How the eye regulates fluids, and how eyes change over a lifespan, may also be discussed.
Anatomy of the Head and Neck
Optometrists must understand the relationship between the anatomy of the head and neck with the visual system. In this course, students may examine this anatomy and frequent, related problems that could arise in the visual system. Clinical case studies could support students' understanding of this material.
This course may provide students with information regarding the characteristics of the eye and specific optical phenomena. Specific topics could include refractive errors and the formation of retinal images. Types of clinical instruments could also be presented. Students might study model eyes to gain a complete understanding of this material.
Those who wish to become optometrists must be familiar with the central nervous system and how it relates to the visual system. In this course, students could be introduced to the origins and anatomy of the central nervous system, spinal cord, and its pathways. Visual testing and its relationship to neuroscience might be discussed.
One role of the optometrist is the prescription and fitting of contact lenses. A course in this topic may consider the physiology of contact lenses, and how they should be utilized in patient care. Specific topics might include the types of lenses, including soft wear and hydrogel, care of the patient after fitting for lenses, oxygen requirements, and contact lens solutions. Students may gain hands-on experience in evaluating and fitting patients for contact lenses during affiliated lab sessions.
A course in pharmacology may provide students with an overview of different pharmacologic agents. Those taking this course might examine how these medications act and potential side effects in order to apply this knowledge to evidence-based patient care. A survey of how pharmacologic agents are developed could also be introduced.
Those who wish to pursue a career as an optometrist may be able to enroll in an accelerated program so that they can begin professional practice sooner. Options for accelerated degrees include year-round programs and 3+4 programs.