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How to Become An Optometrist Complete Guide

Optometrists recommend contact lenses or eyeglasses to patients. They treat, examine, manage and diagnose common visual system conditions  like  nearsightedness, eye injuries and diseases.

To become an optometrist, you have to first complete its educational requirements, and then obtain a state license in order to practice. Acquiring a license is mandatory in all states.

Academic Requirements to Become an Optometrist

The first step in order to become an optometrist is that you must successfully complete the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree.

Several colleges and universities may offer concentrations in this field of optometry, such as:

  • Low vision
  • Binocular vision
  • Primary care
  • Contact lenses
  • Ocular disease

Learning Outcomes
  • Conduct vision tests and analyze results
  • Develop the skill set to diagnose vision problems
  • Prescribe medication, contact lenses and eyeglasses to patients
  • Provide vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation and other eye treatments to patients
  • Provide post and pre-surgery care to patients
  • Promote eye and vision healthcare

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements may vary from university to university but normally include the following:

  • Completion of three or more years of undergraduate coursework
  • Completion of at least 10 hours of clinical observation at two or more optometrist clinics
  • Official transcripts of all previously attended institutes
  • Interview with the university’s admission committee
  • An acceptable GPA

Applicants who have successfully completed a bachelor’s degree before applying to this program may be given preference during the admission process.

Before applying for this degree, you must also take the Optometry Admission Test administered by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. This test measures the student’s academic ability, and understanding of scientific principles. Achieving a good score does not guarantee admission in the degree, however.

Curriculum and Coursework

The curriculum is rigorous and predefined. It primarily focuses on patient care, in addition to integrating various learning styles to achieve this objective, such as classroom and laboratory-based learning.

The coursework aims to enhance and develop several skills in the students, such as speaking skills, decision making skills and interpersonal skills.

The following courses are normally included in the curriculum:

  • Introduction to biology
  • Fundamentals of microbiology
  • Laboratory
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Introduction to psychology
  • General physics
  • Writing skills
  • Statistical techniques
  • Human anatomy
  • Medical terminology
  • Physiology
  • Histology
  • Optics
  • Diseases, diagnosis and treatment of the visual system
  • Visual science

The curriculum also includes clinical and laboratory experience. This helps the students with applying theories learnt in the classroom to real-world scenarios.

Typically, students successfully complete their O.D. degree in four to five years. Most of them go on to complete a one-year residency program to attain advanced clinical experience. These residency programs offer several specialized focus areas, such as low vision care, geriatric optometry, ocular disease, family practice, and pediatric optometry.

License and Certification Requirements

Although acquiring a certification is not compulsory for optometrist, it may display professionalism and competency on their part.

The American Board of Optometry offers certifications in this regard. To get a certification from this board you will have to pass core examination, in addition to any two of the following specialized areas:

  • Contact lenses
  • Pediatrics
  • Vision therapy
  • Ocular disease anterior
  • Binocular vision
  • Ocular disease posterior
  • Vision rehabilitation
  • Neuro-ophthalmic rehabilitation
  • Low vision 

Acquiring a state license, on the other hand, is obligatory and is the next mandatory step in becoming an optometrist.

To acquire the license, you must have completed a Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited university or college and successfully pass all exams offered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry, which includes an applied basic science exam, a patient assessment and management exam and a clinical skills test.

In addition to this, optometrists can choose to take the board’s special examination to enhance their knowledge. These special exams include the advanced competency in medical optometry test and the treatment and management of ocular diseases exam.

Career Statistics and Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary of optometrists was $97,820 in 2012.

The BLS also projected that the number of people working as optometrists would grow by 24 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations for the given decade.

The bureau further reports that the admission to optometry program is highly competitive due to the professional nature of the program. It further stated that licensed optometrists may expect favorable job prospects.

Some optometrists may also go on to become consultants in the eye care sector, researchers in optometry colleges or post-secondary teachers.

According to the BLS, the annual median salary of health specialties post-secondary teachers was $81,140 in 2012. The job growth in the field is expected to take place at the rate of 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. The bureau’s website confirmed that both part-time and full-time post-secondary teachers were included in these statistics.

States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 1660 0.11 1.26 18.13 37720
Florida 1130 0.14 1.68 17.97 37370
Illinois 960 0.16 1.92 17.9 37240
Texas 760 0.07 0.78 16.62 34570
New York 650 0.07 0.85 20.12 41840


How to become an Optometrist in Texas?

The path to becoming an Optometrist in Texas starts with a four-year long Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree which includes classroom instructions with supervised clinical experience. Following this, you will be required to complete a one-year long residency program to get advanced training in your chosen specialization, such as family practice, pediatric optometry, ocular disease and geriatric optometry. Once you have completed the educational requirements, you will have to get licensed through the Texas Optometry Board. Before you can get this license, you will be required to complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam.

How to become an Optometrist in California?

Applicants for the O.D. degree will need to complete at least 3 years of postsecondary education with courses in biology, physics, English, math and chemistry. Following this, applicants will need to clear an Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and enroll in a four year long Optometry program. Once this degree is complete, a 1-year long residency would commence with focus on advanced clinical practices in the chosen area of specialization. Upon completion of this program, aspiring optometrists would have to get licensed through the California State Board of Optometry, after having completed all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry Exam. You will be required to periodically renew your Optometry license in California.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:how long does it take to become an optometrist?

A:To become an optometrist, you will typically need approximately eight years of education. However, taking additional classes per semester may enable you to complete your educational requirements faster. A 4-year bachelor's degree is the first step towards becoming an optometrist. After this, you will need to get enrolled in an optometry program, which can be completed in four years, resulting in a Doctor of Optometry degree.

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