Optometry  Program Description


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dotAlthough an optometrist is called "doctor," optometry is a health-care profession, not a medical profession. Students don't attend medical school -- they study in specialized optometry programs.

Only 17 schools in the U.S. train optometrists. Students start with at least three years of preoptometric study, says the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Then they take a four-year program leading to a Doctor of Optometry degree.

The first two years of optometry school focus on science and academic studies, often with an introduction to clinical practice in the second year.

In optometry professor David Williams' program, first-year students "shadow" third- and fourth-year students as they work with patients. Typical first-year courses might include human anatomy, neuroanatomy and medical biochemistry.

The final two years focus on clinical practice, with academic studies slipping into second place. Patient care and learning from experienced practitioners are the focus.

Optometry schools usually run outpatient eye care clinics -- these provide work experience for students. The clinic is staffed by professional optometrists, who are typically professors in the optometry school.

In the fourth year, students go out on "rotation," which involves working at a clinic located in another city or country.

Admission to these schools is competitive. "It is advisable that students aiming at an optometry school or college should concentrate on the biological sciences, physics and math," says Williams.

Candidates must pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). The test is administered twice a year, in October and February.

Schools examine student scores closely. "We take the OAT very seriously," says professor Lisa Wade of the Southern College of Optometry.

Her school also requires students to pass the exams administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry in order to graduate. "Not all schools do this," she says.

It's a challenging program, but the preparation you do in high school can really help you out later on. High school students should "concentrate on their math and science," Wade says.

There are special fees for professional instruments and books, such as an ophthalmoscope, a retinal kit, a trial lens kit, and a diagnostic kit.

Upon graduation, there are national and state exams to take in order to become licensed.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Optometrists

Eye Care Definitions
Learn more about the eye

How Vision Works
An in-depth overview of how the eye works from the folks at HowStuffWorks

Cow's Eye Dissection
Got what it takes to dissect an eye?

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.