How to Become An Optometrist: Training, Licensing, and Certification Requirements | International Medical Aid (2023)

Optometrists are a type of healthcare provider whose tasks include the performance of eye exams, diagnosing of vision conditions, and prescription of corrective therapy. While optometrists are commonly confused with ophthalmologists, the two are related but distinct. Both are healthcare professionals possessing an education from medical/graduate schools, but optometrists focus on diagnosing, examining, and treating your eyes, while an ophthalmologist goes beyond that to perform surgical and medical interventions to treat eye conditions. Another confused role in the care of your eyes is the optician, who helps fit vision-correcting devices such as eyeglasses and contact lenses. The following guide explores how to become an optometrist.

Importance of Optometrists

Eyesight is a vital tool, truly invaluable, for such everyday tasks as driving a car or simply walking through doorways. It is necessary for such pleasures as viewing films, taking in the glorious colors of a striking sunset, or partaking in such pastimes as drawing and painting. Optometrists help correct vision problems and can even catch early signs of such diseases as diabetes. They seek to assist patients in reaching their best vision possible on a daily basis. This job has positions opening up according to theBureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a 4.3% employment growth for the role between the years 2019 and 2029.

Duties of an Optometrist

An optometrist examines and treats the eyes and vision of their patients. Their responsibilities include diagnosis of diseases related to the eyes, treat injuries to the eyes, and prescribe lenses for visual correction. Optometrists generally work in a private practice with such coworkers as optometry nurses and staff for administrative duties.

The duties of an optometrist include performing detailed eye examinations, performance and interpretation of vision tests, diagnosing and treating vision issues, diagnosing and treating diseases of the eyes, prescribing corrective lenses and assisting patients in purchasing glasses or contact lenses, building and maintaining a working relationship with each patient, and responding to and addressing eye-related emergencies. If an optometrist notices non-ocular symptoms in a patient, a referral can be made to general care doctors if necessary.

Necessary Tests for Licensed Optometrists

The board certification optometry students face is divided into a trio of parts. First comes the exam that covers basic science in addition to ocular physiology. It takes place in the third year’s middle portion during optometry school. The second segment is a written exam that covers the treatment and diagnosis of ocular diseases. It takes place within the fourth year of school. The final segment of the board, a practical exam, evaluates you while you demonstrate your knowledge working with a patient.

Optometry as a Goal: Quick Overview

When your goal is to become an optometrist, there is a very brief means of summing upthe process. First, pursue an education. Second, gain experience. Third, become licensed so you can practice. Fourth, consider certification options. And finally, fifth, apply for jobs in your desired type of practice. But this is a brief overview. It is worth examining the stages in closer detail.

Step 1: Your Undergraduate Degree

Most students who are admitted to Colleges or Schools of Optometry have undertaken a Bachelor’s degree among the sciences; these include chemistry, biology, and physics. This degree will be from an accredited university. Such degrees prepare students for the challenges of optometric study. Of course, each Optometry College has its own minimum prerequisite requirements of particular science courses. These requirements must be met in order to be considered as an applicant for admission. Each Optometry College will contain the necessities on its website.

Step 2: The OAT

The step following graduation with an undergraduate degree is to pass the OAT, or Optometry Admission Test. This is a standardized exam that you must pass to be accepted by an optometry program. It is administered with four components by the Association of Schools and College of Optometry. This exam determines your basic academic ability and understanding of knowledge of science.

The four components are physics, natural sciences, quantitative reasoning, and reading comprehension. You are permitted to sit for this exam after completion of one year of undergraduate education. Despite this, most students wait to complete two or more years before sitting for this exam. While you are permitted to take this computerized test multiple times if necessary, there is a 90 day waiting period that is mandatory between attempts.

Step 3: Optometry School

Four years of studying make up the OD degree, or Doctor of Optometry, after completion of the Bachelor’s degree. This program places a focus on the function, disorders, and structure of the visual system and the eyes in particular. An emphasis is placed on clinical patient care. Involved courses include optics, pharmacology, vision science, human anatomy, human physiology, ocular and general pathology, and vision science. Among the most important courses are those for the diagnosis, management, and treatment of all manner of vision disorders and eye diseases.

Extensive clinical training goes into becoming a Doctor of Optometry, exploring all aspects of vision care and care of the eyes. Many ODs make the decision to complete further residencies in eye care’s specialized fields. The goal of acceptance into optometry school is a competitive one. Admissions are more likely to go to students with high OAT scores, high GPAs, and a strong background in chemistry, math, and physics.

In typical optometry schools, the initial two years involve basic science, such as neuroscience, histology gross anatomy, and biochemistry. Then, in years three and four, students will complete clinical rotations. These go through optometry school facilities to working with practicing optometrists. In this fashion, students get to have supervised hands-on experience with real patients.

Step 4: Choosing an Optometry School

Before facing the challenges of Optometry school, you have to make the correct choice to find a place that will help you reach your goals. As of 2015, the United States boasted 23 accredited optometry schools. Consider, when examining the potential options, the school’s admission requirements, curriculums and program structures, the types of training available as well as clinical education opportunities, average class size and the size of the university in general, its geographic location, the campus setting and its facilities, licensure pass rates, graduate employment rates, degrees awarded, student demographics, and opportunities for internships and extracurricular activities.

Step 5: Considering Paying for Your Optometry Education

As with the majority of doctorate education programs, optometry school is a significant investment that does not come cheap. Tuition and fees can range from $70,000 to over $220,000 over a four-year span. For this reason, many students begin planning and saving as early as possible while researching various scholarship programs. Another consideration is whether loan forgiveness and repayment programs are an option.

Step 6: Complete Your Residency and Gain Experience

While you need not complete a one-year residency to become an optometrist, it can offer valuable training and experience. You gain this clinical experience under a licensed optometrist’s supervision. Afterward, or after the culmination of your education at a college of optometry, gain further experience working for a practice. If no job positions are open, consider volunteering or job shadowing. This gives an up-close idea of an optometrist’s duties as you observe patient care and assist practitioners.

Step 7: Get Licensed to Practice

Upon earning your O.D., you face the requirement of passing all of the sections of a four-part test, the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. All optometry professionals must pass these four parts of the exam to practice in the United States. Some states may require further clinical exams or exams on medical ethics. Your license must be renewed regularly as your state requires. Continued education is many times a requirement for keeping your license renewed and up-to-date.

Step 8: Consider Certifications

Finally, to improve your prospects for employment as you go through the stages of how to become an optometrist, you may choose to prove your commitment in the pursuit of advanced optometry knowledge by seeking certifications from the ABO, or the American Board of Optometry. This process includes taking an exam which is offered two times a year and, of course, passing it.

Optometrist’s Skills

While the required technical skills are covered in an optometrist’s degree, you can develop a number of other skills that will prove useful in your future career. The first is listening skills. Listen actively and carefully to your patients while asking questions, consulting with nurses, and consulting the family of the patient. Attention to detail in listening skills helps an optometrist to diagnose and accurately and effectively treat patients. The second type of skill is communication. You need to be able to explain your diagnosis and treatment plans efficiently and clearly. Ensure that all you have to say is accurate while being easy to understand. You also need communication with your coworkers and administrative team.

A third useful skill is critical thinking. Along with problem-solving, critical thinking helps you to solve the problems patients bring to you. You need to be capable of examining the symptoms, listening to complaints or problematic issues, and make a decision on a course of action to follow. Being able to think outside of the box and then follow a methodical plan will gain you success as an optometrist. Finally, you need interpersonal skills. These will help you interpret the nonverbal cues of your patients as well as assisting you in convincing patients to closely follow your plan for treatment. If you can build your patient’s trust by establishing a positive and professional relationship, the patient is more likely to heed your judgment.

Picking a Specialization

If you have a particular area of interest in the field of optometry, you can undergo optional residencies in that area for further clinical training. When you are looking for how to become an optometrist specialist, among the most common options include geriatric optometry, ocular disease, and pediatric optometry. Others include sports vision, neuro-optometry, low vision therapy, and behavioral optometry, as well as education and research.

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How can international optometrist work in USA? ›

Can an international optometrist simply move to the United States and practice? Unfortunately, no. To qualify for a state license in the US, you need to attend and graduate from an ACOE-accredited school of optometry in the US or Canada.

What are the minimum requirements for optometry? ›

Undergraduate Level

Bachelor of Optometry is a 4-year undergraduate degree pursued by eligible candidates who satisfy the following requirements. Minimum qualification required is the completion of 10+2 from a recognised board with science as the stream.

Do you need the MCAT to become an optometrist? ›

How do you become an optometrist? After obtaining a bachelor degree and completing the necessary prerequisites, you will take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)—whereas for medical school you would take the MCAT. You will then need to complete a four-year program at an accredited optometry school.

Can I work abroad as an optometrist? ›

Working overseas as an optician or optometrist, means you'll get to live, work and breathe as a local, meet your community and actively make a difference to their lives with your knowledge and passion.

Which country is best for optometry work? ›

RankCountryOptometry schools
1United States23
3United Kingdom12
4 more rows
May 1, 2022

How long is an optometry degree? ›

This four-year accredited degree provides the training required for a registered optometrist to examine and manage a range of ocular conditions, making a real difference to people with vision impairment and sight loss.

What is a good GPA for optometry school? ›

The average GPA for admitted optometry school applicants in 2022 was 3.55; in fact, many optometry schools urge applicants to have a minimum GPA of 3.00. This year, average OAT scores ranged from 281 to 344. If you have a low GPA, you might find optometry coursework challenging.

Do optometrists make enough money? ›

The median annual wage for optometrists was $124,300 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $192,390.

Does an optometrist holds a MD degree? ›

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) specializing in eye care. After the completion of four years of undergraduate study, an ophthalmologist must complete four years of medical school and spend a minimum of four years of residency (hospital-based training). An optometrist has a degree of doctor of optometry.

Are optometrists called doctors in USA? ›

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry (O.D.), and not a medical doctor. She/he has to work through various vision therapies to treat abnormalities, and can prescribe drugs for the eyes. If surgery is required, the patient is sent to an ophthalmologist (M.D). But you can't write Dr front of your name.

How many states in the US require optometrist to be licensed? ›

There are only twenty-two states that require you to have a license to call yourself an optician.

What is the best major for optometry? ›

Although most students who are working toward a career in optometry choose to pursue a major in a basic science such as Biology, Chemistry, or Physics, applied health majors are also common such as Health Science and Exercise Science.

Do optometrists need calculus? ›

The math requirements will vary, but you most likely need to take, at the minimum, coursework in calculus. Some programs may also require geometry and statistics.

Is optometry school hard? ›

Optometry school is challenging enough. It is particularly difficult as a first-year student in a new environment and oftentimes a new city. Here are some tips to help you make it through those first 6 months!

What is the salary of optometrist in abroad? ›

2,50,000 - 4,50,000 PA.

What country do opticians make the most money? ›

Japan has been revealed as the country where optometrists are paid the most, according to information sourced by online contact lens company Lenstore.

How much does an optometrist make in Dubai? ›

Average AED 7,391 per month.

What state pays optometrists the most? ›

West Virginia is the best state for optometrists, where the median salary is $175,120. We found that the West is best for optometrists, and the Midwest is the worst.
1. West Virginia.
Total Optometrist Jobs:40
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$262,000
3 more rows
Apr 6, 2021

How much are optometrist paid in USA? ›

How Much Does an Optometrist Make? Optometrists made a median salary of $124,300 in 2021. The best-paid 25% made $141,730 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $96,230.

What age do most optometrists retire? ›

Retirement age of 65 years old with a 30 years life span longevity.

What's higher than an optometrist? ›

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat.

Is optometry hard to get into? ›

Optometry schools are highly competitive; most applicants earn a bachelor's degree before applying. Most OD schools take four years to complete. Some students choose to go on to a one-year residency program to get advanced training in a specialized area.

Where can I study to become an optometrist? ›

To qualify as an optometrist, it is necessary to obtain a Bachelor of Optometry degree at an approved university or technikon. This course of study combines theoretical learning and practical training. After which, graduates are required to complete an internship.

What is the hardest optometry school to get into? ›

SUNY College of Optometry (New York, NY)

SUNY only accepts 23% of the students who apply to their College of Optometry, making it one of the most exclusive on this list. The school has high expectations for its incoming class, demanding an average 3.5 GPA and an average OAT score of 345.

What is the best optometry school in the US? ›

Medically Reviewed by Dr.
12 Best Optometry Schools
  1. University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry. ...
  2. Illinois College of Optometry. ...
  3. Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Salus University. ...
  4. University of Houston College of Optometry. ...
  5. Western University College of Optometry. ...
  6. Indiana University School of Optometry.
Jan 12, 2023

Can you be an optometrist with a Bachelor degree? ›

These in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia. The ATAR required depends on the pathway you take to become an optometrist. For most programs the successful completion of a Bachelor of Vision Science is required to gain entry into the Master of Optometry.

Who is the richest optometrists in the world? ›

With a net worth of $3 billion as estimated by Forbes, Herbert Wertheim is also a philanthropist whose main cause is public education and a signee of the Giving Pledge with plans to donate at least half of his net worth.

Is there a shortage of optometrists? ›

² Similarly, according to The 2021 Optometry Healthcare Business Insights Report, nearly 60% of optometry offices do not have enough staff to operate to their full potential. Staffing shortages in the healthcare industry are perhaps more dire than the other labor shortages plaguing America.

What are the disadvantages of being an optometrist? ›

5 cons of being an optometrist
  • Educational requirements. To become an optometrist, earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. ...
  • Licensing requirements. ...
  • Repetitive daily routine. ...
  • Individual work. ...
  • Limited opportunities for career advancement.
Oct 21, 2021

DO optometrists get Dr title? ›

An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of college.

What is the difference between OD and optometrist? ›

Visit an optometrist for routine eye care, such as a yearly eye exam or refilling an eyeglass, contact lens, or eye medication prescription. Visit an ophthalmologist for medical and surgical treatment of serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and laser eye surgery.

What is the difference between OD and OS? ›

OD and OS are abbreviations for Latin terms for the eyes—OD means “right eye,” and OS means “left eye.”

Why are optometrists called Dr? ›

An optometrist is an eye doctor who has earned a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. This is a four-year degree in addition to their standard college degree.

Why is an optometrist not a doctor? ›

Many confuse the responsibilities of an optometrist vs ophthalmologist. Optometrists are not medical doctors. Instead, they have a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after finishing three or more years of college and four years of optometry school.

Do optometrists wear a white coat? ›

Why is the donning of the white coat so important in Optometry and many health professions alike? A white coat is symbolic, an indication of healing, professionalism, and has been for countless years in history.

Are optometrists in demand in US? ›

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 9.6% employment growth for optometrists between 2021 and 2031. In that period, an estimated 4,000 jobs should open up.

Do optometrists make six figures? ›

In fact, the BLS reports a significant pay range for optometrists—from $61,590 to $192,390 in 2021. Entry-level practitioners typically earn less than experienced professionals, naturally. Factors like state, locale, and employer also impact earnings.

Can a US optometrist work in the UK? ›

If you wish to stay in the UK and work as an optometrist, you can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa. You are able to apply within the UK, or from your home country.

Do optometrists have a future? ›

STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE. As changes occur in health care and the US population, there will be many opportunities for optometrists to practice more medical care.

Is an optometrist higher than an optician? ›

An optician is trained but less than optometrist and ophthalmologist, as it is more informal and short in years. Most opticians do not require a formal degree to perform their job. They become certified opticians after doing a 1-to 2-year program like an Associate's program in ophthalmic dispensing.

Is optometry math heavy? ›

If you are interested in a career working in a growing field, consider becoming an optometrist. While the job pays very well, it does require a strong grasp of advanced mathematics.

Do optometrists make money on glasses? ›

Eyewear sales make up 62% of an optometrist's salary.

It's no wonder you're getting the hard sell after every eye exam. For private practice optometrists, a reported 62% of their salary comes from the sale of prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Is there a board exam for optometrist? ›

Optometrist Licensure Board Exam: Application Requirements, Coverage, and Schedule. If you want to learn more about what it takes to complete the Optometrist Licensure Board Exam and want to earn that license, you've come to the right place.

How can I become an optometrist fast? ›

Steps to Becoming an Optometrist
  1. Take all college classes necessary for admission into optometry school. ...
  2. Earn a high undergraduate GPA. ...
  3. Perform well on the Optometry Admission Test. ...
  4. Shadow at least one optometrist. ...
  5. Get accepted into an accredited optometry school. ...
  6. Take and pass four years of optometry courses.
Sep 7, 2021

Can you become an optometrist without a degree? ›

You'll need to complete an approved optometry degree and pre-registration year.

Is nursing better than optometry? ›

BSc nursing has good scope and opportunities in private and government hospitals. Optometry is a type of specialization as an eye doctor which deals with problems with eye, contact lenses, etc. More qualification or experience effects the promotion and pay scale.

Can Canadian optometrists work in the US? ›

There are no states that National Vision restricts Canadian ODs to work, however the application is based on how competitive a certain location is.

How can an Indian ophthalmologist work in USA? ›

Applicants are required to have a certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Applicants must be practicing ophthalmology and have surgical privileges.

What state do optometrists make the most money? ›

Our research found that West Virginia is the best state for optometrists, while North Carolina and West Virginia are ranked highest in terms of median salary.
1. West Virginia.
Total Optometrist Jobs:40
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$262,000
3 more rows
Apr 6, 2021

How long does it take to become an optometrist in USA? ›

The path to becoming an optometrist is not as long as an ophthalmologist's, but it still takes a minimum of seven to eight years to complete. Usually, a student must have completed their bachelor's degree (although some schools accept three years of college) before applying to a four-year optometry program.

What state pays licensed opticians the most? ›

1. Alaska
Total Optician Jobs:14
Average Annual Salary:$45,032
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$38,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$52,000
Location Quotient:2.82 You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Apr 6, 2021

Who is higher than an optometrist? ›

Ophthalmologists are physicians and often surgeons, who have trained as a medical doctor specialising in eye health and vision, managing all diseases of the eye.

Where is the future of optometry going? ›

More optometrists will be needed to diagnose, treat and monitor patients with vision-threatening chronic conditions such as diabetes. Many people don't realize that an eye exam is a non-invasive way to look inside the body and detect nearly 300 diseases.

Can optometrist use DR title in USA? ›

They may not be professionally active – but they still have the rank of doctor and are still addressed orally or in writing as 'Dr. (Name)'. These forms work for anyone with a doctorate as well as physicians such as dentist, chiropractor, military doctor, veterinarian, optometrist, osteopath or podiatrist.

Can US optometrist work in New Zealand? ›

Currently, it is possible for Optometrists with certain overseas degrees in Optometry to sit the competency examinations conducted by the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ). Those successfully completing this examination are eligible to apply for registration to practice in New Zealand.

Is Indian medical license valid in USA? ›

Yes, MD in India is valid in USA provided you clear the United States Medical Licence Examination.

Which country is best for ophthalmology? ›

The Czech Republic is one of the world leaders in eye surgery. There are several reasons for that such as high standards, lower prices but also long history with eye surgeries and lenses.

How long is ophthalmology training in USA? ›

To become a general ophthalmologist, the specialty requires four years of postgraduate specialty training after the completion of a medical degree (MD). This requirement includes a three-year residency in ophthalmology (eye surgery) in an approved surgical residency program, following at least a one-year internship.

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