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How do I get an Optometry Degree?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are four steps required to get an optometry degree: qualify for admission, find an accredited school, pay the tuition, and complete the coursework. Optometrists are responsible for conducting eye examinations, prescribing glasses, and checking for eye diseases. Graduates of optometry degree programs can open their own optometry practice, work in a health services clinic, or open an eye glass store.

An optometry degree is a medical degree and is required to work as an optometrist. To get an optometry degree, you must first complete a bachelor degree and qualify for admission to optometry school. This program is very competitive and high marks are required. Many schools in the United States require applicants to complete the Optometry Admissions test as part of the admissions process. This test is administered in multiple choice format and tests scientific knowledge and academic skills.

The admissions test is used, together with the transcript from the bachelor degree, letters of reference, and a personal interview, to determine who is eligible for entrance into this program. Optometry is expected to have above average growth in the next five to ten years. Many students write the admissions test in the third year of university, so that they can rewrite the exam in the fourth year and achieve a higher score.

When looking to obtain an optometry degree, the first item to check is the accreditation status of the school. An independent third party grants accreditation. As part of the review process, it examines the academic and administrative policies of the school against a minimum standard. Credits completed at an accredited school can be transferred to other post-secondary institutions and are accepted by certification and licensing boards.

The tuition fees for an optometry degree range from $20,000 to $35,000 US Dollars (USD) per year. Most schools require payment for each semester at least four weeks before classes begin. There are some online courses that can be used toward an optometry degree, but the options are limited to liberal arts subjects, such as English. If you choose to complete a course this way, make sure to have it approved by the registrar before paying the course fee. If it is not accepted, credit will not be granted for the course and your money was wasted.

The first year of optometry courses includes anatomy of the eye, psychology, the nervous system, oncology, and effect of aging on vision. Specialization is available in the third and fourth years of the program. Popular areas of specialization include laser eye surgery, cancer of the eye, and nerve degeneration disorders.

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Discussion Comments

By indigomoth — On Aug 12, 2012

@KoiwiGal - I don't think they are going anywhere anytime soon. I mean, yeah, they probably won't be able to employ as many people as before, but I don't think all that many people working at an optometrist's clinic were actually optometrists. They were needed for the exams and that's it, and as you said, you still need the exams.

I think a lot of people don't realize they should be having regular optometry exams after a certain age, even if they don't have a problem with their eyesight, simply because there are quite a few diseases that can be diagnosed early by how they affect the eye.

Getting an eye exam is one way to find those diseases. I don't think optometry training is a waste of time and I don't think the profession is going anywhere.

By KoiwiGal — On Aug 11, 2012

@umbra21 - I think that optometrists may be finding it difficult to get work at the moment simply because people aren't buying glasses the way they used to. There are other alternatives, including surgery to correct your eyes.

But, I haven't had the surgery and I only ever go in every three or four years now to get a checkup. I used to go every year, because it was the only place to buy glasses and contacts but it's so much cheaper to get them online that you might as well do that.

Without being able to compete with online sellers, I suspect a few optometrists will have to change their main method of earning, or change professions.

By umbra21 — On Aug 10, 2012

There is a lot of competition to get into optometry courses and jobs because it's a profession that is so much in the public eye (no pun intended!). Huge numbers of people go to optometrists in order to get their eyes tested and to get glasses.

My sister was at the point in her science degree where she had to decide what she wanted to do and she seriously considered optometry, because she likes working with children and didn't want to be a doctor or a nurse. But in the end, she picked audiology instead. Audiology isn't as much in the public eye because most people only get their ears tested as babies and as older people.

She's found that she can get a job almost anywhere, since there is a bit of a shortage for audiologists. So, if you are considering getting an optometry degree, but are worried about your chances, perhaps give audiology a look as well.

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