Optometrists or Doctors of Optometry (OD) provide elementary vision care to patients suffering from ocular problems. They examine their patient’s eyes to diagnose ocular diseases or vision-related issues. According to the diagnosis, optometrists prescribe treatment, glasses, or contact lenses. Many people get confused between optometrists and ophthalmologists. Patients go to ophthalmologists when they need eye surgery.
When working towards a future in eye health, going to one of the best optometry schools is vital to receiving cutting edge education on how to better or protect one’s eyesight. Even before a student can attend optometry school, they should complete a bachelor’s degree in one of the fields of science. A degree in chemistry, biology, or psychics can prepare them for the admissions examination for optometry schools.
Passing the OAT
Once a student obtains a bachelor’s degree in science, he or she can undertake the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT). Passing the examination is the first step to applying for an optometry school. Without passing the OAT exam, a student will not get accepted for a recognized optometry program. The test gets conducted by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. It is divided into four sections that cover the following subjects.
- Reading comprehension
- Quantitative reasoning
The Association allows a student to undertake the examination after completing one year of their undergraduate course. However, most students prefer taking OAT after completing at least two years of their undergraduate course. They feel that one year of undergraduate studies is not enough to enable them to pass the exam. It is a computerized test, which optometry students can take as many times as they want. However, they have to keep a gap of 90 days before they can attempt the exam again.
Choosing an Optometry School
Currently, there are 23 accredited optometry schools in America. As we mentioned before, choosing an optometry school is an extensive and time taking process. There are several factors that you must consider while selecting the best-suited school for you. Some of the factors that you must consider are:
- Requirements for admission
- The clinical experience offered
- Program structure
- Location and facilities
- Placement programs and success rate
- Licenses obtained by graduates
- Internship opportunities
- Notable alumni
The optometry program for a professional degree is a four years course. After completing the course, a student is awarded the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. During the first year, students are taught the various fields of medical biology. They cover several subjects on human anatomy, human physiology, human neuroanatomy, and microbiology. They also have to attend lectures and conduct experiments on theories of optics.
In the second year, students are taught about ocular physiology and its connection to the human brain. Their course also covers various eye-related diseases and visual anomalies. At the end of the year, students start to conduct eye examinations on the patients in the university’s eye care center. In the third year, students continue to learn about ocular diseases and other vision-related problems in the clinical environment. Many students also shadow experienced optometrists to pick up skills and knowledge. The third-year curriculum also comprises business courses aimed at managing optometry practices.
The fourth-year is focused on extensive training. The training covers secondary and tertiary ocular problems and specialized optometric treatments. Students are also taught practical management courses that can help them make business decisions of an optometry practice.
Optometry school fees are similar to most other medical courses and can be quite expensive. Depending on the school, tuition fees can range between $70,000 to $220,000 for the entirety of the program. Therefore students must start planning early to apply for scholarship programs.
More than 25% of optometry students in America opt to attend one year of residency program after their graduation. The students do not only gain valuable experience from the program, but it also strengthens their resume and improves their salary structure on employment. During the residency program, students learn valuable knowledge and skills from a licensed mentor. The American Council of Optometric Education provides a list of accredited residency programs that a student can refer to apply.
Any optometrist who wants to practice in the United States needs to obtain a license. Students have to pass an examination conducted by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry to get a license to practice. Depending on the state, there may be other licenses required as well that vary according to the state laws and regulations. Optometric licenses have to get renewed periodically, and optometrists often need to study further to get the renewal of their license.
The road to becoming an optometrist might be long and arduous. But the rewards can be worth it. Optometrists earn much more than the most professionals, and national median salaries are $120,000 approximately. Optometrists also have the opportunity to start their practice.