Optometry Majors: Schools and Programs

Learn how you can prepare for a 4-year Doctor of Optometry post-graduate program during your undergraduate years. Read about admissions requirements, undergraduate studies and licensing requirements. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Preparing to obtain a graduate degree in optometry generally requires specific undergraduate coursework. Doctor of Optometry programs vary, allowing prospective students to prepare for a program according to their needs.

Programs An undergraduate pre-professional program geared toward optometry may be preferred by schools offering Doctor of Optometry programs
Classes Chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy, biology, physics, calculus
Licensing All states require optometrists to be licensed

Can I Major in Optometry?

While schools don't offer optometry majors per se, many of them do offer pre-professional programs in optometry. These programs typically satisfy the admissions requirements for a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) program, which you must complete in order to practice as an optometrist. You might pursue a pre-professional program in conjunction with a major in biology or chemistry, which is often recommended for students interested in optometry careers. Since you participate in the pre-professional program alongside the courses for your declared major, schools advise you to enter the program during your freshman year.

Schools that offer Doctor of Optometry programs usually offer undergraduate pre-professional programs in the field as well. Schools that don't offer the doctoral program but do offer a pre-professional undergraduate program are usually affiliated with another school that does offer the O.D. degree.

Do I Need a Bachelor's Degree to Apply to an Optometry School?

Most optometry schools do not require you to earn a bachelor's degree prior to entering the professional program, though you're often considered a stronger applicant for admission if you do. An O.D. program is usually highly competitive and has limited admittance, so a bachelor's degree can be a mark in your favor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2018, most O.D. students do hold a bachelor's. Whether or not you possess an undergraduate degree, your performance during your undergraduate academic career paves the way for entry into a professional optometry program.

Some schools will accept students after just three years of undergraduate study if they meet certain requirements. Other schools confer a bachelor's degree - and ultimately the Doctor of Optometry degree - during the professional program, allowing students to earn both in a shorter amount of time.

What Schools Offer Undergraduate Optometry Programs?

Pre-optometry programs are widely available at both public and private universities across the U.S. There are even schools focused solely on optometry. The following are just a few schools that provide pre-optometry programs or a bachelor's degree option within their O.D. program:

  • New England College of Optometry (Boston, MA)
  • University of North Dakota (Grand Forks)
  • Wayland Baptist University (Plainview, TX)
  • University of St. Thomas (Saint Paul, MN)
  • Oakland University (Rochester, MI)

What Should I Study Before Entering an Optometry Professional Program?

All schools that have a professional optometry program include strict undergraduate or pre-professional course requirements prior to admission. In addition to the prerequisites, your academic performance is heavily weighted with your application, as well as your scores from the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT). The OAT is a standardized exam that is required for admission to all schools of optometry in the U.S.

What Else Should I Know?

In addition, some schools require that you obtain several hours of observational or practical experience, while others only recommend it. You may want to check the requirements of the particular optometry program that interests you before applying, because prerequisites can vary from school to school. Undergraduate courses you should focus on while completing your major typically include:

  • Biology or anatomy
  • General and organic chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Statistics
  • English and writing

Are There Other Requirements to Become an Optometrist?

Every state requires that optometrists complete an accredited professional program and become licensed through the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. They also complete clinical testing at the national, regional or state level (www.optometry.org). Undergraduate degrees or majors are not a factor in licensure, and you typically take the clinical tests during the professional program.

Licenses are valid for a period of 1-3 years, and you must complete a state-mandated number of continuing education hours to renew your license. Often, the school where you earned your O.D. degree also offers a program to satisfy the continuing education requirement.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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