Residency & Beyond

How to Be an Optometrist

It is estimated that 75% of people in the US wear some sort of a vision correction device. This technology not only enhances people’s lives, but helps the general safety of our communities. Due to the high demand for vision correction, optometrists play a vital role in society. Optometrists are highly trained professionals who diagnose and correct a wide array of vision problems. They are responsible for giving society better eyesight and improving society’s standard of living.


Optometrists are highly specialized health practitioners who went through years of training and schooling. To be an optometrist, you need many years of education. To help prospective students understand this intricate process, ProspectiveDoctor has outlined a typical path a person must take to become an optometrist. All optometrists have a Doctor of Optometry degree (O.D.). Click the link to view an optometry school general timeline



{slider=1. Graduate from High School (~4 years)}

What courses should I take?
The road to becoming an optometrist requires heavy academic discipline. If you want to become an optometrist, it is best that you start preparing as early as high school. Take many AP and honors courses in high school, especially in science and math. Make sure that you are challenging yourself and training yourself for your future.

What extracurricular activities should I be a part of?
Volunteer or intern for an optometrist so that you can decide if this is really the career for you. You will not know if you truly want to be an optometrist without this experience.

{/slider}{slider=2. Graduate from an Undergraduate College (~4 years)}

What should I major in?
As an undergraduate student, you can major in any discipline. You do not have to major in a field like biology or chemistry to obtain admissions into optometry school. However, optometry schools do require you complete certain coursework before matriculating into their schools. These coursework vary from school to school, but generally consists of courses like biology, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, psychology, math, English, and statistics. Be sure to check individual schools for their specific course requirements.

Is there a standardized test I must take?
You will have to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) to be an optometrist. This test is required for all optometry schools and assesses your academic aptitude and scientific understanding. This is one of the critical factors that play into one’s acceptance into optometry school so it is important to be fully prepared for this test.

Do I need to graduate undergraduate college?
Although you technically only have to finish three years of undergraduate coursework, most optometrists have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, most optometry schools prefer or require that you receive your undergraduate degree before entering optometry school. Therefore, it is recommended that you plan to obtain a bachelor’s degree if you want to become an optometrist.

Do I need to volunteer, intern, or work for an optometrist?
Optometry schools need to know that you are serious about becoming an optometrist before they accept you. One way to know whether you can be committed is by how much time you have invested in an optometry setting. Therefore, most, if not all, optometry schools require that you volunteer, intern, or work for an optometrist. Prospective optometrists should check each school’s requirements.

{/slider}{slider=3. Graduate from Optometry School (~4 years)}

When should I apply to optometry school?
The application process for optometry differs from school to school. Some schools start accepting applications in August, while others start accepting them in October. Regardless, it is recommended that you apply to optometry school as soon as possible. There is also no set rule on when you should plan to start optometry school. You may want to start as soon as you graduate college or you may want to wait a year or two. The decision of when to matriculate into optometry school is at the discretion of the student. However, it is worth noting that the process of applying to optometry school takes approximately one full year.

What is optometry school like?
Optometry school lasts for a total of four years. During the four years, students learn through classroom lectures, as well as from clinical experience. They take a variety of courses that will surely prepare them for a future as an optometrist.

Am I a licensed optometrist after graduating from optometry school?
In addition to graduating from an accredited optometry school, one must pass all parts of the National Boards in Optometry to be legally licensed to practice optometry. Note that each state might differ in their requirements; some states require additional exams.

{/slider}{slider=4. Finish a Residency Program (Optional, ~1 year)}

What is residency?
After obtaining an O.D. degree, optometrists can opt to become specialized in a sub-field of optometry. The way to become a specialized optometrist is to enter a training program called residency.

What types of residencies are there?
Below is a list of specialties available to optometrists:
Primary eye care
Family practice
Vision therapy and rehabilitation
Cornea and contact lenses
Pediatric optometry
Geriatric optometry
Refractive and ocular surgery
Low vision rehabilitation
Ocular disease
Community health optometry
Brain Injury Vision Rehabilitation


Guest Author

This article was written by a guest author. ProspectiveDoctor highly encourages guest authors to contribute their work to ProspectiveDoctor.

Related Articles

Back to top button