Learn the criteria for how to become an optometrist of education and training. Learn about the job description and the steps to starting a career as an optometrist. Optometrists are doctors who examine patients’ eyes, diagnose visual problems, and recommend treatment. Optometrists are not the same as ophthalmologists, who are doctors who have completed medical school.
Optometrists provide primary treatment for a variety of eye diseases and send patients to ophthalmologists for surgery. To accommodate their patients’ schedules, some optometrists work weekends and evenings. As a result, these experts should be able to make sound decisions and communicate effectively. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, optometrists in the United States make a median annual pay of $115,250 in 2019.
How To Become an Optometrist
Career Requirements at a Glance
|Degree Level||Professional doctorate degree|
|Degree Field||Optometry (O.D.)
|Licensure||Licensing varies by state
|Experience||Post-doctoral residency programs for an additional specialization
|Key Skills||Decision-making and communication skills
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||10% (for all Optometrists)|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2019)*||$115,250 (for all Optometrists)|
Get an Undergraduate Degree
A student must have completed at least three years of undergraduate study at an authorized university to apply to optometry school. However, many aspiring optometrists complete their education with a bachelor’s degree.
They study biology, microbiology, chemistry, mathematics, anatomy, and statistics, among other subjects. Most colleges and universities need these specific undergraduate courses for applicants to a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) program.
Passing the OAT
To be considered for entrance into an optometry program, you must pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry administers this test, assessing basic academic skills and scientific knowledge. The OAT is divided into four sections: natural sciences, physics, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning.
After one year of undergraduate study, the OAT can be taken. On the other hand, most students choose to study for two or more years before sitting the exam. Students can take the computerized test as many times as they desire, but there must be a 90-day gap between tries.
Complete Optometry School
Optometry school admission is quite competitive. As a result, pupils must have received good OAT scores to be considered. A four-year program at a recognized optometry school is required to obtain a Doctor of Optometry degree. Vision science, optics, biochemistry, and pharmacology are all covered in optometry school. Students receive hands-on clinical instruction as well. Internships and externships in clinical settings are common requirements for graduate students. These students shadow optometrists and learn how to diagnose and treat patients firsthand.
Optometrists must be licensed in every state in the United States. Applicants must pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry’s written and clinical tests after graduating from a state-approved optometry program. In addition, clinical exams at the regional and state levels and state law exams may be necessary.
The frequency with which licenses must be renewed varies by state, although it might be as often as once a year for individuals who need it. In addition, many states require that you receive continuing education credits to renew your license.
Develop a Specialization
Optional residencies in a specialty field are available to optometrists who want to gain more clinical experience. Ocular illness, pediatric, and geriatric optometry are examples of optometry specialties. While optometrists can practice basic eye care without completing a residency, several universities provide primary-care residencies to help new optometrists enhance their skills. Other optometrists pursue careers in education, consulting, or research.
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, this field is predicted to develop faster than average in the next years. Those who have certificates and specialties will have the best chance of finding work. To summarize, aspiring optometrists must finish several years of undergraduate study before taking the OAT and being accepted into a Doctor of Optometry program. They can earn licenses and seek employment in the field.