Answers to your frequently asked questions about optometry.
Who are Doctors of Optometry?
“Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.” (American Optometric Association, 2009). Today the profession of optometry involves much more than just prescribing and fitting glasses and contact lenses. Doctors of Optometry are trained to evaluate any patient’s visual condition and to determine the best treatment for that condition.
Is optometry a rewarding career?
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 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. Some people will tell you that Doctors of Optometry diagnose and treat disorders of the eye. That’s only part of the story. Read testimonials from practicing optometrists about the patients they treat: a baby with cataracts, Haitian refugees, even a mother with an undiagnosed brain tumor.
In what settings do optometrists practice?
Some optometrists work in a general practice, and other optometrists work in a more specialized practice such as contact lenses, ocular disease, geriatrics, low vision services (for visually impaired patients), occupational vision (to protect and preserve workers’ vision and minimize eye strain), pediatrics, sports vision or 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 in hospitals, clinics, teaching institutions, and community health centers, or they may choose to be employed by another optometrist, or in the ophthalmic industry.
What is the application process for optometry school?
Most optometry schools and colleges require applicants to complete an application, take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and submit scores, provide letters of recommendation, participate in a personal interview, and demonstrate experience of exposure to the field of optometry. If you’re thinking about applying to optometry school, consider joining a pre-optometry club. If none exist in your area, start one! No doubt, you will find other interested students grateful for the opportunity to join. In order to process applications more efficiently, schools and colleges of optometry are now utilizing OptomCAS (the Optometry Centralized Application Service.) Through this service, applicants may file one application and send it to multiple optometry programs. Specific schools may have additional criteria, so it’s best to check with each admissions office. >>Click here for a list of schools
How are applicants evaluated?
Optometry schools are looking for well-rounded candidates who have achieved success not only in the classroom but also in other areas. Generally, colleges of optometry admit students who have demonstrated strong academic commitment and who exhibit the potential to excel in deductive reasoning, interpersonal communication, and empathy. Leadership ability, a disposition to serve others, and a work ethic characterized by dedication and persistence are just a few of the qualities that impress most admission committees.
As an undergrad, you’re faced with lots of school choices and confronted by lots of information. The AOSA, representing 95 percent of ALL optometry students, has more than 6,500 members who can relate!
Start getting involved now, by joining the AOSA as a student member. You’ll have the opportunity to access publications, follow us on social media, and most important, show your support for a unified, engaged corps of students.
Dues are $25, and sign up is easy. To get started, visit here.
What classes will I take in optometry school?
Students must successfully complete a four-year accredited graduate level degree program at a school or college of optometry in order to earn a Doctor of Optometry degree. In the first and second year of the professional program, course work is concentrated in the basic health sciences (anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, pharmacology and public health), optics, and vision science. Students begin their clinical experience in a clinical simulation laboratory, and then proceed to clinical training with real patients. This training includes taking thorough case histories, performing comprehensive examinations, learning diagnostic techniques, and discussing treatment services. In the third year, students spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time in the clinic examining patients. Fourth year students continue their clinical training, which may include off-campus clinical externship rotations. Sites for rotation are available throughout the United States and abroad. Clinic settings include military facilities, veteran administration hospitals, public health service hospitals and various specialty and private practices. The lengths of the external rotations vary from eight to sixteen weeks. After successfully completing the fourth year, students graduate with an O.D.
As the profession continues to grow, more educational options may be available. In 2014, Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University introduced the country’s first accelerated 3-year degree program, as an alternative to the traditional 4-year model.
Graduate programs are an option for students interested in academic careers or further education. Coursework is offered in combined OD/MS, MSc, MEd, MPH, and PhD programs.
How will I pay for optometry school?
Your education is an investment. As the overall costs of optometric education continue to increase, it is important that prospective optometry students begin to investigate potential financial aid sources as early as possible. As outside employment during optometry school is a limited option for the majority of students, and university sources of funds are also often limited, accepted applicants should contact their school’s financial aid office early to explore their options and understand the school’s financial aid policies and procedures. Accepted applicants should be aware of loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study, which provide the majority of aid to optometry students. Prospective applicants should be aware of loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study, which provide the majority of aid to optometry students. Loans, which are the primary source of financial aid for optometry students, must be repaid after graduation. Scholarships and grants, which are merit or need-based, do not require the recipient to repay the award. Work-study gives students the opportunity to work part-time. In addition, there are state contract programs, which pay a portion of a student’s tuition, and U.S. Armed Forces’ scholarship programs, which require a service commitment following graduation.
What is the outlook for the profession of Optometry?
Optometry ranks at #12 on CNNMoney’s list of America’s 100 top jobs. Employment in optometry is projected to grow by 33% through 2020. Optometrists are the primary vision care providers for the majority of Americans. Over half of the U.S. population wears glasses or contact lenses. Even people who may not require corrective eyewear need regular care to prevent, diagnose, and manage eye disease. As the population ages, the demand for optometric services will continue to increase. Demand is also expected to increase as state laws have expanded to give responsibilities for virtually all primary eye care services to optometrists. New frontiers in vision care include new lens materials and treatments, the expanding scope of lasers within optometric practices, improved diagnostic instrumentation, and the development of new medications with which to treat the human eye.
What happens after I have a license?
Congratulations! You are now a Doctor of Optometry, a privileged member of this challenging and rewarding profession. First, be sure to stay involved with the AOA and AOSA. Maintaining active membership keeps you connected in the optometric community. Read The Top 5 Reasons to Join the AOSA. This will be especially important once you’re out in the world as a practicing O.D. and don’t have the same daily contact with professors and other students as during optometry school. Residency programs are an excellent option for students pursuing a specialty after graduation. Check our employment opportunities page regularly, as new jobs are posted each day. As a member of AOA and AOSA, continued training is available online.