What Are the Requirements to Be an Optometrist?

Optometrists serve patients of all ages to check their vision. You'll need to earn a Doctor of Optometry and become licensed to work in this profession. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Optometry Education & Career Overview

Optometrists are doctors who provide vision care to individuals. As an optometrist, you would perform eye examinations, diagnose vision problems, test for eye diseases and prescribe corrective lenses. You may choose to practice general vision care or specialize in such areas as sports or occupational vision.

Important Facts About Optometrists

Median Salary (2014) $101,410
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 27% growth
Key Skills Decision making, oral communication, interpersonal, patience
Similar Occupations Chiropractor, dentist, optician, physician, surgeon, podiatrist, veterinarian

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Becoming an optometrist will involve completing both a bachelor's program and a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) program. While there is no specific undergraduate major needed to apply to optometry school, a science-based major might be helpful since you'll need to take several science prerequisite courses. The courses you'll need to take include biology, chemistry, and physics. Depending on the school, you may be able to pursue a structured pre-optometry program, which includes courses in chemistry, biology, math, anatomy and psychology.

The O.D. program lasts four years. You will continue taking science classes, but you'll also learn such skills as identifying and diagnosing ocular diseases and prescribing corrective lenses. In the fourth year, you can begin clinical rounds. During this time, you'll be exposed to optometry patients and have the opportunity to perform exams, make diagnoses and recommend treatments.

Advanced Training

In addition to completing your O.D. program, you have the option of going on to receive additional training in a residency program. While completing a residency isn't a requirement to becoming an optometrist, you may choose to continue professional training or pursue specialty training in the field. Specialties can include family practice, pediatric optometry, ocular disease, ocular surgery and low-vision rehabilitation. Optometric residency programs are commonly one year in length, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Licensure Information

The BLS reports that in order to practice optometry, you'll need to obtain state licensure (www.bls.gov). State requirements vary. Some common requirements include completing an accredited optometry program and passing the national board exam, which the National Board of Examiners in Optometry administers. The exam consists of three parts, and most states require the Treatment and Management of Ocular Disease subtest as well (www.optometry.org). Some states require an additional state test before you can be granted licensure. In most cases, you'll need to participate in continuing education to maintain your license.

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