The Doctor of Optometry is a primary health care professional for eye conditions and vision care. In general, an eye care professional can even be a practitioner with post-secondary training, but they won’t have the same qualifications as a specialist with a doctoral degree, either optometrists or ophthalmologists.

Please be aware that most 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 any other abnormalities and perform visual checks to fit patients for corrective lenses, such as eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Optometrists also perform all kinds of eye exams, give diagnoses, and treat all eye-related injuries. Through optometry, a specialist can diagnose farsightedness, nearsightedness, or test color recognition. They also diagnose glaucoma and 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 (but not all) optometrists are trained to perform laser eye surgery and surgical eye care in general.

If they own their own practice, an optometrist is also responsible for managing personnel, accounting, and marketing for their business.

Contrary to an ophthalmologist, an optometrist is not a medical doctor.

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. programs often include high GPAs during 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. Therefore, it is best to start working early to assure your admission by maintaining excellent grades and test scores. If you really want to start an O.D. program, you should also begin with your application process as early as possible. Some schools may even require you to already have a minimum number of hours of practical or observational experience before you are accepted.

But before you can even apply to a Doctor of Optometry program, you must pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). If you pass it with flying colors, you can begin the application process to enter your O.D. program. The OAT tests your general and scientific knowledge. You have multiple attempts to pass it if you need to try more than once, plus, your score is good for three years, so you don’t have to enter any program right away. Apart from the application and demanded fees, you may also need to submit letters of recommendation, and an essay about why you would like to specialize in optometry. Besides, you will probably be required to attend an interview (either in-person or online).

The 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, the details of vision care, and diagnosing and treatment of eye conditions. You will also learn about optometric medicine and ocular and systemic diseases. Other classes will focus on honing your clinical reasoning and improving 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 a career as a researcher in optometry or teach at the university level, you would like to earn a PhD in Vision Science to assist you on the academic path.

It may be a highly rewarding career path, but make sure it is something you actually enjoy and are passionate about. Only then can you provide your patient with the best services and high-quality care.

Do I Need a License to Be an Optometrist?

To practice legally, all optometrists need to gain licensure from the state in which they plan to work. After you pass your National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam, your state may still require you to take another clinical test or ethics and law exam in order to practice within its borders. Licenses must be renewed every one to three years with state-mandated continued education. So, make sure you know what the rules are in the state where you decide to work.

When it comes to practicing optometry, you need to take into account that you will have to keep educating yourself for as long as you are in practice. 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 wonders to diagnose and treat them and provide all available services to ensure the proper eye health.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect as an Optometrist?

The BLS reports that the average salary of an optometrist is approximately $110,300 annually. Industry experts also predict that the field will grow by 18% between 2016 and 2026, which should not be surprising considering the ever-increasing use of eye-straining computer screens we work or entertain ourselves with every day.

Optometrists usually work in their own businesses, opening their small facilities. However, some choose to work within a larger group of clinical doctors. Most privately-owned clinics are open on weekdays, but there are franchises that also open during weekends and nights so that a patient can get medical help whenever they need it.

What Types of Optometry Coursework Are Available Online?

Online optometry classes are primarily designed for those who already hold a doctorate degree in the field. And why would a specialized optometrist want any kind of a course?

Well, as you progress as a professional, you will, without any doubt, want to stay up-to-date with the latest technology and practices used in eyes and vision care. Additional educational pursuits may also be required by your state if you wish to maintain your licensure.

Many of these courses are available online, such as neuroimaging, glaucoma management, ethics, and optometric laws, as well as those focusing on controlled substances, new eyeglasses and contact lenses, diabetic keratopathy, and many others. If you are an actively-working optometric, you probably would like to avoid a situation where you would be forced to give up a part of your practice to study in a traditional way. Online courses are the perfect solution for working, busy people.

What Schools Offer Doctor of Optometry Degree Programs?

Several schools offer excellent Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) programs to do in a traditional, on-campus way, such as the University of California in Berkeley, the University of Houston in Texas, Indiana University in Bloomington, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Nova Southeastern University located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

What Is the Difference between Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, and Opticians?

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who take care of our eyes. They perform vision and eye exams, give a diagnosis, order treatments, prescribe certain medications or eyeglasses and contact lenses, etc. They are not medical doctors, but doctors of optometry and their qualifications may be more limited than those of ophthalmologists.

Ophthalmologists are medical or osteopathic doctors who specialize in eye and vision care. They are the most advanced among all eye experts. They are licensed in medicine so that they can perform all medical surgeries involving eyes and vision. They also perform examinations, diagnose and treat all kinds of eye conditions, diseases, and other abnormalities. Additionally, they often conduct scientific research and develop new technologies and solutions for preventing and curing eye problems.

Opticians are specialist technicians trained to design, fit, and adjust glasses and frames, contact lenses, and all types of devices to correct human eyesight. They have nothing to do with diagnosis or treating eye conditions; they choose the right solution for you according to a prescription, but they can’t prescribe anything.

Conclusion

Optometry is an excellent path to choose if you want to make a difference. It will allow you to improve your patients’ quality of life, help them see the world around them as it is, including their loved ones, beautiful landscapes, and breathtaking Mother Nature’s colors.

The field of optometry can be a very gratifying career path, but it may also be a lucrative one. The most important thing is to stay engaged and interested; you need to continue your education as long as you work to always be able to provide high-quality, up-to-date services to your patients.

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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

uc berkeley

DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY OR PHD IN VISION SCIENCE

School Highlights: There are two exciting ways to earn a doctoral degree in optometry at the University of California, Berkeley. The Doctor of Optometry is a solid standard program that provides a general education in vision healthcare. Students of this degree learn all of the most crucial skills necessary for performing comprehensive vision and eye exams, detecting diseases and disorders, and prescribing rehabilitation and therapy for any and all conditions of the eye. The Ph.D. program in Vision Science explores the science behind eyes and vision at much greater depth. While OD students engage in practice, those of Vision Science explore thrilling research areas such as Perception and Visual Cognition, Computational Vision, and Biomedical Optics. The former is perfect for students who are ready to become practitioners, and the latter is an excellent program for researchers and educators.

Program Options:

  • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science (PhD)

Campus Location: Berkeley, CA

Accreditation:

  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
    533 Airport Boulevard, Suite 200
    Burlingame, California 94010
    www.acswasc.org, (650) 696-1060
  • Accreditation Council on Optometric Education

Acceptance Rate: 15% Retention Rate: 97% Graduation Rate: 92%

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY’S DOCTORAL PROGRAMS IN OPTOMETRY

UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON

houston

THE DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY PROGRAM

School Highlights: The University of Houston is a big school offering a massively popular doctoral program in optometry that accepts about 100 students into the cohort every year. It is a highly extensive degree that requires 177 semester hours to complete, and most students take four years to graduate. The program admits students with merely a bachelor’s degree, yet who are ready to dedicate their academic and professional lives to vision science and optical healthcare. There is also a combined Doctor of Optometry/Master of Science program, of which students can take advantage for a more broad and far-reaching approach to their education. The University Eye Institute at Houston is supportive of all endeavors and research projects and supplies phenomenal scholarly and professional resources.

Coursework Sample:

  • Rehabilitative Optometry
  • Ocular Pathology I, II, III, and IV
  • Ophthalmic Lasers, Refractive Surgery, & Surgical Techniques

Campus Location: Houston, TX

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois 60604
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7440
  • Accreditation Council on Optometric Education

Acceptance Rate: 62% Retention Rate: 85% Graduation Rate: 59%

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON’S DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY PROGRAM

INDIANA UNIVERSITY BLOOMINGTON

indiana

DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY

School Highlights: Indiana University’s Doctor of Optometry (OD) is a comprehensive degree that includes all of the most current trends, clinical skill-building, and practical applications. From the very start, doctoral students are immersed in a curriculum that emphasizes clinical cases requiring knowledge of optics, biology, vision science, genetics, disease, pharmacology, and physiology. Throughout the summer terms, IU has optional opportunities to participate in research projects alongside esteemed professors and faculty researchers that span topics such as early diabetes detection and color vision. This excellent university also offers the opportunity to earn a dual Master in Vision Science and OD degree! Students who choose this educational avenue have the chance to get one of two four-year, full-tuition scholarships!

Coursework Sample:

  • Ocular Disease: Laser, Injections, and Minor Surgical Procedures
  • Low Vision Rehabilitation
  • Integrative Optometry

Campus Location: Bloomington, IN

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois 60604
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7440
  • Accreditation Council on Optometric Education

Acceptance Rate: 77% Retention Rate: 91% Graduation Rate: 76%

LEARN MORE ABOUT INDIANA UNIVERSITY BLOOMINGTON’S OPTOMETRY DOCTORATE

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM

alabama birmingham

DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY

School Highlights: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is an excellent school that repeatedly appears on rankings and catalogs of the nation’s finest schools. The School of Optometry is prominent among centers of vision research, and it was the first in the United States of America to integrate into an academic health system fully. This school has made historical contributions to the fields of vision science and eye care. The Doctor of Optometry is one of the top programs in the country, yet only accepts 50 students maximum into each cohort. The curriculum is instructed by internationally renowned for their professional and academic achievements in vision science, optometry, and ophthalmology. Students engage in cutting-edge clinical practices that allow them to approach a complex field with confidence and ease. UAB graduates are some of the most respected practitioners of eye care.

Coursework Sample:

  • Community Eye Care I, II, III, and IV
  • Pediatric Optometry
  • Glaucoma

Campus Location: Birmingham, AL

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois 60604
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7440
  • Accreditation Council on Optometric Education

Acceptance Rate: 92% Retention Rate: 82% Graduation Rate: 52%

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM’S DOCTORAL DEGREE IN OPTOMETRY

NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY

nova

DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY

School Highlights: Nova Southeastern University’s College of Optometry educates doctoral students to operate at the highest possible level of practice, proficiency, and professionalism. It provides a highly successful doctorate with a fantastic graduation rate of 96%, which is significantly higher than even some schools considered the best in the country. Fifty-two full-time optometry faculty members maintain the four-year degree program, all of whom bring fascinating experience and knowledge to the classroom. Students engage with a diverse cohort that accepts applicants from all across the world. They complete a curriculum broken down into subdisciplines such as Neuroanatomy, Ocular Physiology, and Secondary-Tertiary Eye Care. This thorough approach ensures students’ understanding of the field while participating in community-based fieldwork and internships, many of which lead to full-time employment.

Coursework Sample:

  • Anomalies in Binocular Vision
  • Neuro-Eye Disease: Diagnostic, Medical, & Pharmacological Management
  • Pediatric Optometry and Learning-Relation Vision Problems

Campus Location: Fort Lauderdale University, FL

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois 60604
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7440
  • Accreditation Council on Optometric Education

Acceptance Rate: 79% Retention Rate: 79% Graduation Rate: 96%

LEARN MORE ABOUT NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY’S DOCTOR OF OPTOMETRY PROGRAM