How to Become An Optometrist

Optometrists are medical professionals who examine the eyes and other parts of the human visual system. They also diagnose and provide treatment plans for various kinds of visual problems and help patients manage disorders of the eyes. In addition to that, they prescribe eyewear or contact lenses, as required.

Other duties of optometrists involve performing vision tests, diagnosing issues such as farsightedness or nearsightedness, performing minor surgical processes, providing pre and postoperative eye care to patients undergoing surgery etc.

If this line of work sounds like sounds like something you would be interested in, then you ought to continue reading the following guide on how to become an optometrist in the US.

Should I Become an Optometrist?

The field of optometry is a fast growing one, with an expected growth of 10% from 2018 to 2028. This rate is much faster than average and will add an expected 4,000 new jobs in the same time period. A career as an optometrist can be highly rewarding, with excellent career opportunities and a great deal of job satisfaction. These professionals have the ability to participate in interdisciplinary care and can go into ocular research, along with the ability to pursue academia.

The following table provides a quick look into the career of an optometrist, including information on the annual mean wage, job growth, key skills required and the education needed to become an optometrist.

Education Required

Doctoral or professional degree

Major Requirement

Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)


Required in all states


Clinical experience during the O.D.

Key Skills

Decision making skills, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, speaking skills

Annual Mean Salary (2018)


Job Outlook (2018-28)

10% (faster than average)

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook for Optometrists

Job opportunities for optometrists are expected to grow by 10% in the years to come. This demand will be largely driven by the aging population developing chronic vision problems. Medical issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration are also likely to occur more in older people.

Moreover, with an increasing number of people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, the need for eye problems will rise. Diabetes has been linked to several eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy – a condition that may lead to loss of vision. More optometrists will be needed in the future to diagnose, treat and monitor chronic conditions that stem from illnesses such as diabetes.

Job outlook for optometrists will also vary by location and industry. For instance, California has the highest employment level in this occupation, with 3,760 jobs, followed by Texas, Illinois, New York and Michigan. The top paying states for optometrists would include North Dakota ($175,090), Vermont ($170,550), Alaska ($165,640), South Carolina ($142,290) and Massachusetts ($141,890).

The highest employing industry for optometrists were the Offices of Other Health Practitioners, with 22,060 jobs, in 2018, while the highest paying industry would be Outpatient Care Centers.

Steps to Become an Optometrist

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

This would be the minimum level of education required to get into an optometry school. You are advised to get an undergraduate degree in a science subject like biology, physics or chemistry.

Step 2: Clear the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

To be accepted into an optometry program, students must clear the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) with the minimum passing score required. This test assesses students in subject areas such as reading comprehension, physics, quantitative reasoning and science. You can sit for this exam after completing one year of undergraduate study. However, most students choose to complete two years of undergraduate studies before appearing for the OAT.  

Step 3: Complete Optometry School

This will be a four-year long degree which will combine classroom learning and supervised clinical experience. Typical coursework would include subjects like anatomy, biochemistry, optics, visual science, physiology etc. Doctors of Optometry also receive extensive clinical training in various aspects of eye and vision care.

Some optometrists also complete a 1-year residency after their O.D. degree to get advanced clinical training.

Step 4: Get Licensed

All states in the US require optometrists to be licensed to practice. To get a license, optometrists must posses an O.D. degree from an accredited school, along with the completion of all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. Some states might require applicants to pass an additional exam that covers laws relating to optometry. Continuing education classes are also mandatory for periodic license renewal. 

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