How to Become an Optometrist

How to Become an Optometrist

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become an optometrist, you’ve come to the right place. Optometrists are healthcare professionals who specialize in providing primary eye care. They play a crucial role in helping people maintain good vision and overall eye health.

As a resident of the world, you may be wondering where to start on your journey to becoming an optometrist. Usually, the first step is to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology or chemistry. After that, aspiring optometrists must go through a four-year Doctor of Optometry (OD) program at an accredited optometry school.

During their time in optometry school, students will attend basic science and clinical courses to gain a solid foundation in optometric knowledge and skills. They will also have to pass a series of licensing examinations, including both written and clinical components, administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.

Once they graduate from optometry school and obtain their OD degree, optometrists can choose to further specialize in areas such as pediatric optometry, low vision rehabilitation, or ocular disease. They can also pursue additional certifications or fellowships to enhance their skills and knowledge in specific areas of optometry.

After completing their education and obtaining the necessary certifications, most optometrists will start practicing in various settings, such as private practices, community health centers, or hospitals. They may work independently or as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with ophthalmologists and other eye care professionals to provide comprehensive eye care services.

It’s important to keep in mind that the demand for optometrists is high, and the job outlook for this career is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of optometrists is expected to increase by 5% from 2020 to 2030.

In terms of financial rewards, optometrists earn a competitive salary, with the median annual wage being above the national average. However, the earning potential can vary depending on factors such as location, years of experience, and the type of practice.

So, if you’re considering a career as an optometrist, you’ll need to have a strong interest in visual science, a desire to help others, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Becoming an optometrist requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for providing excellent eye care. But with the right education and training, you can jump-start your journey towards a rewarding and fulfilling career in optometry.

Educational Requirements for Becoming an Optometrist

Aspiring optometrists need to complete a rigorous educational program in order to obtain the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in their career. Here are the educational requirements for becoming an optometrist:

Step 1: Pre-Optometry Before you can apply to optometry school, you must first complete the necessary pre-optometry coursework. This typically includes courses in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. It is important to achieve high grades in these courses, as they will be considered during the application process.
Step 2: Optometry School After completing the pre-optometry requirements, you can apply to an accredited optometry school. Optometry school typically takes four years to complete, and it is a combination of classroom instruction and clinical experience. During this time, you will learn how to diagnose and treat various eye conditions, as well as how to prescribe glasses and contact lenses. You’ll also learn about systemic disorders that can affect the eyes, and how to work with other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care for your patients.
Step 3: Licensing and Certification After graduating from optometry school, you will need to obtain a license to practice optometry in your state. The requirements for licensure vary by state, but typically include passing the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) examination. This examination consists of three components: the Applied Basic Science Examination (ABSE), the Patient Assessment and Management Examination (PAME), and the Clinical Skills Examination (CSE). Each component tests your knowledge and skills in different areas of optometry.
Step 4: Continuing Education Once you have obtained your license, it is important to continue your education to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in optometry. Many states require optometrists to complete a certain number of continuing education credits each year to maintain their licensure. This can include attending conferences, taking online courses, or participating in other educational activities.
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By completing these educational requirements, you will be well-prepared to start your career as an optometrist. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve success in this rewarding field.

Pre-Optometry: Steps to Prepare for a Career in Optometry

Before you can apply to optometry school, there are several steps you need to take to prepare for a career in optometry. These steps will help ensure that you have the necessary qualifications and knowledge to succeed in the field.

1. Complete Pre-Optometry Coursework: Most optometry schools require applicants to have completed specific coursework before applying. This coursework typically includes biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. It is important to check the requirements of the optometry schools you are interested in to make sure you complete all the necessary coursework.

2. Gain Experience as a Pre-Optometrist: Getting hands-on experience in the field of optometry is crucial for your application and future success. Consider shadowing or volunteering at an optometry clinic to gain insight into the profession and demonstrate your commitment to the field.

3. Take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT): The OAT is a standardized test that measures your academic ability and scientific knowledge. Most optometry schools require applicants to take the OAT as part of the application process. It is important to prepare for the OAT by studying the required subjects and taking practice tests.

4. Apply to Optometry Schools: Once you have completed the necessary coursework, gained experience, and taken the OAT, you can begin the application process for optometry schools. It is important to research and apply to multiple schools to increase your chances of acceptance.

5. Complete a Doctoral Degree in Optometry: Optometry school typically takes four years to complete, divided into eight semesters. During this time, you will learn about various aspects of optometry, including vision care, eye diseases, and pediatric optometry. You will also gain practical experience through clinical rotations.

7. Continuing Education and Career Outlook: Once you become a licensed optometrist, you will need to stay updated on the latest advancements in the field through continuing education. The outlook for optometrists is positive, with a projected growth rate above the average for all occupations. Optometrists can work in various settings, including private practices, clinics, and hospitals, and may choose to specialize in areas such as pediatric optometry or vision therapy.

Optometry School: What to Expect and How to Succeed

Once you have completed the necessary prerequisite coursework and passed the required tests, you can start applying to optometry schools. Optometry programs are offered at various colleges and universities across the United States, with some of the top programs located in the Northeast and in Chicago.

The optometry program typically takes four years to complete, and it includes both classroom education and hands-on clinical experience. During your time in optometry school, you will learn about the anatomy and physiology of the eye, as well as how to diagnose and treat various eye disorders.

Optometry school also includes coursework in other areas such as optics, pharmacology, and medical ethics. You’ll also have the opportunity to gain practical experience by working with patients under the supervision of experienced optometrists.

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In addition to the academic coursework, optometry students are also required to complete a certain number of clinical hours. These clinical hours allow students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life patient cases.

Optometry school can be costly, with tuition and other expenses adding up over the four years of education. However, there are scholarships, grants, and loan programs available to help support students in their educational journey.

After completing optometry school, you’ll need to obtain a license to practice as an optometrist. This typically involves passing a national board examination and meeting any additional requirements set by the state in which you plan to practice. Once you have obtained your license, you can start looking for job opportunities in private practices, clinics, or other healthcare settings.

Optometry offers a rewarding career path for those interested in eye health and vision care. With the average optometrist earning a competitive salary and the job outlook for the profession projected to grow, it’s a field worth considering for those passionate about helping others and making a difference in people’s lives.

Licensing and Certification: Becoming a Licensed Optometrist

After completing the required educational and training steps, aspiring optometrists must obtain a license to practice. Licensing ensures that optometrists have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide quality eye care to patients.

The specific requirements for licensing vary by state, so it’s important for individuals to research the regulations in the state where they plan to practice. Generally, the process involves passing a comprehensive examination that assesses the candidate’s understanding of optometry principles and practices.

Education and Training

To become a licensed optometrist, individuals must first complete a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree program. These programs typically take four years to complete and are offered by accredited optometry schools or colleges. Admission to optometry school is competitive, and applicants are required to have completed specific pre-optometry coursework and earn a bachelor’s degree.

During optometry school, students undergo rigorous training in various areas of optometry, including diagnosing and treating eye diseases and disorders, prescribing corrective lenses, and managing systemic conditions that affect the eyes. They also gain practical experience through clinical rotations and internships, where they work under the supervision of experienced optometrists.

Licensing Examination

After completing optometry school, graduates must pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) examination to become licensed. The NBEO administers three parts of the examination: the Basic Science Examination, the Clinical Science Examination, and the Treatment and Management of Ocular Disease Examination.

The Basic Science Examination assesses the candidate’s knowledge of basic sciences relevant to optometry, such as anatomy, physiology, and optics. The Clinical Science Examination evaluates the candidate’s ability to diagnose and manage ocular conditions, while the Treatment and Management of Ocular Disease Examination focuses on the candidate’s understanding of systemic conditions and their effects on the eyes.

Continued Education and Certification

Once licensed, optometrists are required to participate in continuing education to maintain their license. Continuing education helps optometrists stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in optometry and ensures that they provide the best possible care to their patients.


What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is a healthcare professional who specializes in examining, diagnosing, and treating various eye conditions and diseases. They also prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses.

What qualifications do you need to become an optometrist?

To become an optometrist, you need to complete a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from an accredited optometry school. You also need to pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exams and obtain a state license to practice.

How long does it take to become an optometrist?

It typically takes about 8 years to become an optometrist. This includes 4 years of undergraduate education, followed by 4 years of optometry school to obtain a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree.

What subjects should I study in high school if I want to become an optometrist?

If you want to become an optometrist, it is recommended to take science courses such as biology and chemistry in high school. Math and physics courses can also be beneficial. Additionally, strong communication and critical thinking skills are important.

How much does an optometrist earn?

The salary of an optometrist can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and type of practice. On average, optometrists earn around $120,000 to $150,000 per year.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.