How to Become an Optometrist

Optometrists diagnose vision problems, prescribe corrective lenses, and prescribe eye medications. They differ from ophthalmologists, who can also perform eye surgeries, and from opticians, who design, fit, and dispense lenses. To become an optometrist, you should get a bachelor’s in science, go into an optometry degree program, and pass all your licensing exams.


EditFinishing Your Education

  1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree in pre-med or science. Before you can apply to an optometry program, you need to complete an undergraduate degree. Most optometry schools require coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and mathematics. A pre-med degree or degree in a biological science will help prepare you for med school.[1]
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    • Talk to your adviser to determine what courses you should be taking, and check the requirements at the optometry programs you plan on applying to.
  2. Get experience through shadowing. Shadowing is a great way for you to get hands-on experience in the field of optometry. This gives you a real idea of how the career works and what an optometrist does. Shadowing can help you determine if this career is right for you.[2]
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    • Some people will observe optometrists with patients, and others may assist around the office.
    • You can try to get a job or volunteer your time.
  3. Complete a Doctor of Optometry Program. Your program will include both core classes in a classroom setting and hands-on experience through clinics. These programs take four years to complete and must be completed at an accredited optometry school. [3]
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    • You will take courses in biological sciences focused on the eye.

EditGetting the Right Certifications

  1. Pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). This test is required when applying to accredited optometry programs. Performing well on the test will increase your likelihood for acceptance. The tests will assess your knowledge of science, along with your comprehension and reasoning skills. Tests are administered year-round at Prometric Test Centers.[4][5]
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    • Consider enrolling in an OAT preparatory course in order to perfect your test-taking skills and improve your overall performance.
  2. Take the licensing exam. Every state and country require that individuals become licensed in order to practice optometry. You must have completed your O.D. (Doctor of Optometry) program before obtaining a license. Additionally, you will have to complete an exam given by a national board of professionals.[6]
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    • The exam will contain a written and clinical portion as part of the licensure process.
    • Some states also require that you take an additional examination before getting your license in that particular state.
  3. Continue to meet the requirements to renew your license. You will probably have to keep gaining knowledge throughout your career to meet the requirements to renew your license. In the US, all states require that optometrists have to take continuing education classes to keep their license up to date.[7]
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    • Find out what your state or country requires to keep your license up to date.

EditStarting Your Career

  1. Decide whether to join a practice or start your own. Optometry is a growing field with good job prospects. Most optometrists do not have problems finding a job. You should decide if you want to join a practice or start your own. Many people work alongside another optometrist for a while before opening their own practice.[8]
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    • You may find jobs through contacts you’ve made in school, through your shadowing, or on job websites or mailing lists.
  2. Complete a postgraduate residency program if you want. One way to advance your career and make yourself even more marketable is to become a specialist. Once you finish your four-year degree, you can do an additional one-year residency for a specialization. Residency programs allow optometrists to gain practice working in the field under the guidance of professionals and to advance their skills.[9]
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    • Residency programs should be recognized by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE).
    • Examples of residency programs include ones in low vision rehabilitation, pediatric optometry, geriatric optometry, ocular disease, and family practice.
  3. Get certified by a national organization if you wish. As you go through your career, you may want to try to get certified by a national organization. There are multiple organizations that offer certifications or fellowships. To receive one of these prestigious honors, you must meet strict guidelines and demonstrate your passion to the field and patients.[10]
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EditSources and Citations

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