A Doctor of Optometry is an independent primary health care provider who examines, diagnoses, treats and manages diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures. Among the services optometrists render are: prescribing glasses and contact lenses, rehabilitation of the visually impaired, and the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases.
Optometrists perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye, subjective and objective tests to evaluate patients' vision, analyze the test findings, diagnose and determine the appropriate treatment. As health care professionals, optometrists regularly diagnose signs of disease, both of the eye and of the body, and often work with other health professionals in co-managing the care of patients.
All optometrists provide general eye and vision care. Some optometrists work in a general practice, and other optometrists work in a more specialized practice such as contact lenses, geriatrics, low vision services (for visually impaired patients), occupational vision (to protect and preserve workers' vision and minimize eye strain), pediatrics, sports vision and vision therapy. Others may choose to enter optometric education and/or perform scientific research.
They practice in rural communities, suburban areas, and large cities. Some practice alone, with a partner or partners, or with other health care professionals, while others choose a career in the military, public health, or other government service. Still others may practice at hospitals, clinics, teaching institutions, and community health centers, or they may choose to be employed by another optometrist, or in the ophthalmic industry.
Yes, there is a need in all areas of the country for optometrists to serve the needs of our population which is growing not only in number, but also in awareness of the importance of prevention and proper health care. Optometrists are also needed to fill vacancies created through retirement. In addition, the aging population of the U.S. will create an increased demand for vision care services in the next several decades. Back to Top Is optometry a rewarding career? Yes. One of the best! Optometrists have the satisfaction of helping their patients care for the most highly valued human sense - sight. Doctors of Optometry are recognized as leaders in their communities. Most are self-employed, receive relatively few emergency calls, and can establish a flexible working schedule which allows them the luxury of combining a prestigious professional career with a very satisfying personal life.
There are 17 schools and colleges of optometry - 16 are in the mainland United States, and one is in Puerto Rico.
The Council on Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation as the accrediting body for optometric educational programs. The purpose of accreditation is to ensure the quality of the schools and colleges of optometry. All of the accredited optometric education programs possess their own relative strengths and benefits. The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry and the American Optometric Association recommend that applicants review the merits of the school(s) or college(s) they might wish to attend and determine which institution will best meet their individual needs.
Doctors of Optometry must successfully complete a four-year accredited degree program at one of the schools or colleges of optometry. Most students accepted by a school or college of optometry have completed their undergraduate degree. However, each institution has is own undergraduate prerequisites, so applicants should contact the school or college of their choice for specific requirements.
The requirements for admission to the schools and colleges of optometry vary, but students wishing to study optometry should be certain to take at least a year of biology or zoology, chemistry, general physics, English and college mathematics. The science courses should be pre-professional level courses designed for science majors or health professional students and should offer laboratory experience. Brief survey courses in the sciences will not prepare you for optometry school. Be sure to consult with the pre-optometry advisor at your school or an advisor at the school or college of optometry that you plan to attend.
Each institution has its own admission requirements and policies, so you should contact the school or college of optometry you plan to attend and request a copy of its catalog. All optometry schools and colleges also require applicants to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).
Early applications are desirable, and deadlines range from November 20 to April 15 for the various schools and colleges of optometry. Contact the school(s) or college(s) of your choice to obtain application instructions and forms.
Potential optometry students may be evaluated on the basis of grade point average, performance on the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), extra curricular and community activities, personal interview, professional potential, etc. Each institution has its own criteria; therefore, you should contact the school(s) or college(s) of your choice to obtain a copy of its catalog and specific application guidelines.
The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a standardized examination designed to measure general academic ability and comprehension of scientific information. The OAT is sponsored by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) for applicants seeking admission to an optometry program. All schools and colleges of optometry in the United States and Canada require the OAT.
The cost of your education will depend upon where you choose to attend school.
Many of the schools and colleges of optometry have financial arrangements or contract programs which allow students from various states to attend their institution at the resident rate. Contact the admissions officer at the school(s) or college(s) of your choice for specific tuition and fee information.