Please be aware that Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree programs are not offered at this time through a 100% online format. An O.D. program is typically offered as an on-campus option due to the nature of the topic, requiring hands-on and clinical experience, as well as, an internship or residency, however, some schools may offer online classwork in addition to on-campus requirements. Whichever type of program you choose, make sure you can attend in person when needed before signing on. Your school of choice must be accredited by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).
What does an Optometrist do?
An optometrist has many responsibilities. Primarily, the healthcare field of optometry involves the care of the eyes and the visual system. They examine our eyes for eye diseases or abnormalities. They perform visual checks to fit patients for corrective lenses, such as glasses and contacts. Optometrists also examine, diagnose and treat all eye-related injuries. Through optometry, a specialist can diagnose farsightedness, nearsightedness and test color recognition. They also diagnose glaucoma, cataracts, test the patient’s ability to focus their eyes and care for those who have had eye surgery. Optometrists prescribe medications and perform surgical procedures, as well as, work closely with other medical doctors when needed. Some optometrists are also trained to perform laser eye surgery. If they own their own practice, an optometrist is also responsible for managing personnel, accounting and marketing for their business.
How do I earn my Doctor of Optometry degree?
Earning a Doctor of Optometry degree is a four-year process in addition to four years of undergraduate education. Prerequisites for enrolling in an O.D. program often include high GPAs through your bachelor’s program in courses like biology or anatomy, calculus, psychology, English and writing, biochemistry, statistics and physics. Entry into an O.D. program can be a highly competitive process, so, start working early to assure your entry by maintaining excellent grades and test scores, as well as, starting the application process as early as possible. Some schools may even require a minimum number of hours in practical or observational experience before being accepted.
Before you can apply to a Doctor of Optometry program, you must pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). If you pass with flying colors, you can begin the application process to enter your O.D. program. The OAT tests your general and scientific knowledge. You will have numerous chances to pass it, if needed, and your scores are good for three years. You may also need to submit, along with your application and fee, letters of recommendation, an essay stating your interest in optometry and attend a personal interview.
Coursework offered in your O.D. program may include optics, physiology, neuroanatomy, advanced human anatomy, histology, biochemistry, visual science, corneal disease & orthokeratology and of course, diagnosing and treatment for eye disorders. You will also learn about optometric medicine, ocular and systemic disease, along with, programs to hone your clinical reasoning and decision-making skills.
Upon graduation from your O.D. program, you must then pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam to begin your practice as an optometrist.
If you would like to pursue research in optometry or teach at the university level, you will want to earn a PhD in Vision Science to assist you in your career.
Do I need a license to be an Optometrist?
To be an optometrist, you will need to gain licensure from the state in which you will practice. In addition to passing your National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam, some states require that you pass another clinical exam or ethics and law exam to practice in their state. Licenses must be renewed every one to three years with state-mandated continued education.
In the field of optometry, you must be willing to continue your education for as long as you are in practice as an optometrist. In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced era of modern technology, advances in treatments and disease prevention are increasing by leaps and bounds. You must be committed to bringing your patients the latest technology and services possible to ensure proper eye health.
What kind of salary can I expect as an optometrist?
The field of optometry is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is certainly not surprising due to the increased use of eye-straining computer screens we focus on every day. The BLS reports the average salary of an optometrist to be approximately $110,300 annually.
Working environments for the optometrist is generally within their own business, however, some choose to work within a group of clinical doctors. Most privately-owned clinics are open on weekdays; however, some franchises are open on weekends and nights to accommodate their patient’s needs.
What types of Optometry coursework are available online?
Online classes are primarily designed for those who already hold a Doctorate degree in Optometry. As you progress as an optometrist, without a doubt, you will want to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and practices used in eye care. Additional educational opportunities will be required to maintain your licensure and, some courses are available online such as, neuroimaging, glaucoma management and classes about controlled substances, ethics and optometric law, along with, diabetic keratopathy courses, among many others.
What schools offer Doctor of Optometry degree programs?
Several schools offer excellent Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) programs through an on-campus format, such as the University of California – Berkeley and the University of Houston in Texas. In addition, Indiana University – Bloomington, the University of Alabama – Birmingham and Nova Southeastern University located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL also offers O.D. programs.
Through optometry, you can improve a patient’s quality of life as they can continue to see the world around them, their loved ones and the beautiful colors that Mother Nature provides. The field of optometry can be a very rewarding and lucrative profession.