Optometrists diagnose and treat various disorders related to human eyes and vision. They routinely test for vision problems, prescribe eyeglasses, and treat eye diseases such as glaucoma. Getting started in an optometry career usually involves about eight years of education at an accredited university, passing state or country-specific licensing examinations, and participating in a residency program.
A high school student who wishes to eventually obtain an optometry career can prepare for college by taking advanced science courses. Classes in anatomy, physiology, and biology are especially helpful, as they provide students with an introduction to the structure and function of the human body, including the eyes. Many high school students begin their search for colleges in their junior and senior years, focusing on schools with strong medical and science programs. Guidance counselors can help students find appropriate colleges, prepare applications, and obtain financial assistance.
Once admitted into an undergraduate program, an individual usually majors in premedical or preoptometric studies. A student typically attends both classroom lectures and laboratory instruction, where he or she learns more about scientific principles, research techniques, and the nature of the human body. After three to four years of study, a student can take the Optometry Admissions Test and begin applying to optometry schools.
Gaining admissions into an accredited optometry school can be difficult, as many students compete for a relatively small number of openings. Individuals with the best chances of being accepted are those with the strongest educational records, scores on the Optometry Admissions test, personal essays, and reference letters. When a student does get accepted, he or she usually meets with advisers to design an individual degree plan that will best prepare him or her for an optometry career.
An optometry school student receives classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction for about four years. He or she is taught how to recognize various disorders and diseases that can afflict the human eye, and how to treat them appropriately. A student may work as an intern at an optometrist's office, observing established professionals and learning about the specific tools and testing procedures used in an optometry career. Upon completion of optometry school, an individual is awarded a Doctor of Optometry degree.
A graduate must pass extensive written and practical licensing exams administered by a nationally recognized organization before working independently. He or she may also be required to enroll in a one year residency program, where he or she directly treats patients under the supervision of an experienced optometrist. Once all requirements are met, a person can begin a rewarding optometry career.