How to Become an Optometrist

How to Become an Optometrist

Becoming an optometrist usually involves eight years of education, beginning with a bachelor's degree with a science emphasis. Most optometrists take courses in biology, inorganic chemistry, anatomy or physiology, organic chemistry, physics, calculus, statistics, and similar topics during their undergraduate study to prepare for their career.

A four-year academic program at an optometry school follows, with admission dependent on success at the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), administered at Prometric Center Testing Centers.

Successful completion of the four-year optometry program makes you an OD, but you must still pass a clinical and possibly written exam provided by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) before acquiring full licensure.

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

To become an Optometrist, you must first earn a Bachelor's Degree. It would be a good idea to take a pre-med program course in college as you need courses heavy in math and science.

The courses differ depending on which path you choose, but some of the courses are the same, mainly the math, sciences, and some psychology courses.

You need to make sure you get the proper pre-requisites for Optometrist school.

A course load for pre-med might look like the following:

Grade Level Example Courses
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • Humanities Requirement • Physics I & Lab
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics Physiology
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

2. Pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

To get into an Optometry Program, you have to pass the OAT. The test consists of four individual tests that gauges your knowledge of science, physics, and math.

You can take the test as many times as you need, but must wait 90 days between each attempt.

The test consists of the following:

Section/Category Breakdown
  • 40 questions
  • Covers genetics, biodiversity, Cell and molecular biology, evolution, ecology and behavior, and systems biology
Reading Comprehension
  • 40 questions
  • Tests ability to comprehend, organize, analyze, and remember the information
  • Each reading passage is 800-1000 words in length and is followed by 13-16 items, which can be answered from a reading of the passage. The total number of items for all three passages is 40
Quantitative Reasoning
  • 40 questions
  • Tests probability and statistics, algebra, numerical calculations, geometry, trigonometry

General Chemistry

  • 30 questions
  • Tests general concepts, solutions, solids and liquids, acids and bases, periodic table
Organic Chemistry
  • 30 questions
  • Tests nomenclature, properties of molecules, bonding, reactions, mechanisms
  • 40 questions
  • Tests knowledge of vectors, stats, kinematics, electrostatics, circuits, optics, waves, etc.

Learn More About the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

3. Complete an Optometry Program (4 Years)

An optometry program consists of classroom instruction and clinical training under the supervision of a licensed optometrist. If you want to specialize in an certain area, you will need to spend an additional year in a fellowship program where you will get more training in a clinical setting.

The program is a four-year program that leads to a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. The curriculum emphasizes direct hands-on patient and ends with full clinical rotations during the fourth year.

The program supports different learning styles with instruction including lectures, laboratories, small group case-based learning, clinical education, and service learning.

The over-arching themes of programs include:

  • Patient care
  • Integration of basic and clinical sciences
  • 21st Century Technology
  • Interprofessional education in collaboration with other health disciplines
  • Preparation for entry-level optometry car along with a special emphasis on neuro-science and neuro-optometry

4. Earn the Required Licensed & Certification

To practice as an optometrist, you must get your license which varies by state. Check your state for requirements.

In addition to earning an OD from an accredited program, one must pass the National Boards of Optometry, a four part exam administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.