A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Optometrist

We want to thank Dr. David Saliba for his contribution to this article. He helped us by writing the Optometry School and Earn Your Undergraduate Degree sections below.

Dr. David Saliba on LinkedIn

Are you interested in learning how to become an optometrist? Whether you can see yourself working as a researcher or owning an optometry practice, the path to becoming an optometrist is relatively the same. Continue reading to learn more about the journey on how to become an optometrist.

Can you see yourself as an optometrist?

Optometrists are physicians who perform eye exams, diagnose vision conditions, and prescribe corrective therapy. Although commonly confused, optometrists are different from ophthalmologists, who are also physicians with education from a medical school. Optometrists deliver primary health care for eye conditions and refer those who need surgery to ophthalmologists.

Earn Your Undergraduate Degree

Most students admitted to Schools or Colleges of Optometry have completed a Bachelor's degree in one of the sciences like biology, chemistry, or physics at an accredited university. These degrees prepare them best for the rigors of Professional Optometric study. There are minimum prerequisite course requirements in the sciences that must be completed prior to being considered for admission. These can be found at each Optometry College website

Take and Pass the Optometry Admission Test

After graduating with your undergraduate degree, the next step is to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). To be accepted into an optometry program, you must earn a passing score on this standardized exam. Administered by the Association of Schools and College of Optometry, this exam measures your understanding of scientific knowledge and basic academic ability. The OAT is made up of four different components:

  • Physics
  • Natural sciences
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Reading comprehension

You can sit for the OAT after completing one year of your undergraduate education. Most optometry students, however, decide to complete more than two years before sitting for the exam. You’re allowed to take the computerized test as many times as you need, but you must wait 90 days between attempts.

Optometry School

The Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree requires four years of study after the Bachelor's degree. The program focuses on the structure, function, and disorders of the eye and the visual system with an emphasis on clinical care of patients. Courses include vision science, optics, pharmacology, biochemistry, human anatomy and physiology, general and ocular pathology, and most importantly, diagnosis, treatment, and management of all aspects of eye disease and vision disorders. Doctors of Optometry receive extensive clinical training in all aspects of eye and vision care. Many OD's choose to complete additional residencies in specialized fields of eye care. Admission to Optometry School is very competitive and students with high GPA's, high OAT scores, and strong backgrounds in physics, chemistry, and math are more likely to be admitted.​

Choosing the Best Optometry School

In 2015, there were 23 different accredited optometry schools in the United States. In the process of learning how to become an optometrist, it’s vital to know how to choose the best-suited OD program. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Admission requirements
  • Types of training and clinical education opportunities
  • Curriculum and program structure
  • Size of the university and average class size
  • Geographic location, campus setting, and facilities
  • Graduate employment rates
  • Licensure pass rates
  • Student demographics, faculty composition, and faculty tenure
  • Degrees awarded and program length
  • Internship and extracurricular opportunities

Paying for Optometry School

Similar to most doctorate education programs, optometry school isn’t cheap. Fees and tuition can range anywhere from $70,000 to $221,000 over four years. As a result, most students start planning and saving early while researching scholarship programs. You should also investigate whether loan repayment and forgiveness programs are available.

Licensing Requirements

Each state in the U.S. requires an optometrist to be licensed. Once you graduate from a state-approved, accredited optometry program, you must pass both clinical and written exams administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. Depending on where you live, state and regional exams may also be required. The licensure renewals will vary from state to state: it can be as often as yearly for states that require it. Additionally, most states mandate continuing education credits are earned for license renewal.

How to Become an Optometrist with a Specialization?

Do you have a special area of interest within the field? If so, you can complete optional residencies in your specialty area for additional clinical training. Some of the most common optometry specialty areas include:

  • Geriatric optometry
  • Ocular disease
  • Pediatric optometry
  • And more

Although an optometrist can become a primary eye healthcare provider without an optometry residency, many colleges offer students primary-care residencies to help new optometrists improve their skills and field competency.

Contact Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the optometry field is projected to have higher than average growth in the future. If you’re looking to enter this industry, now is the perfect time to start planning.

For more than 100 years, Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments has been a benchmark within the industry. We provide cutting-edge ophthalmic instruments, industry thought leadership, ophthalmology residencies, and much more. Contact Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments today.​