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What Are the Educational Requirements to Becoming an Optometrist?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Several degrees are generally required to become an optometrist and the educational process may take as many as eight years to complete. Some of the primary tasks of an optometrist are to examine, diagnose, and treat a patient's optical problems. Most jurisdictions will require that you are licensed to practice medicine in this field before you can become an optometrist. Prior to working on your doctorate degree, you should consider enrolling in a pre-optometry undergraduate program that can prepare you to enter this profession. In addition, you may be required to complete several practicums before seeking employment.

Some universities offer degree programs that concentrate on pre-optometry coursework and you may want to consider consulting university staff regarding your course schedule. Aside from prerequisites, most programs in this field may focus on medical-based courses that can prepare you for a doctorate optometry program. Courses in this program may include advanced physiology, human anatomy, microbiology, and organic chemistry. Due to the highly scientific nature of this program, many of your courses may be accompanied by laboratory work which can help prepare you to become an optometrist. Although internships may not be offered in this field during your undergraduate years, you may want to seek part-time or volunteer positions at an optometry clinic to gain practical experience.

After you have completed your bachelor's degree program, you will need to apply to an optometry degree program which generally successful completion of an admissions exam. At this level, the doctor of optometry (O.D.) program may take at least four years to complete and offers progressive coursework. Before enrolling in advanced courses, you may be required to complete several semesters of fundamental coursework including integrative optometry, ocular biology, clinical sciences, and biomedical sciences. Most have up to three levels to complete.

The fourth year of these programs is generally devoted to incorporating clinical practicums into your curriculum which can allow you to begin gaining experience in the field. Practical experience is almost always required to become an optometrist and future employers may request recommendation letters from supervising instructors. After the completion of your O.D. program, you may be required to take a licensure examination in the jurisdiction that you intend to practice medicine before you can officially become an optometrist. Several places that you may consider seeking employment include optical stores, optical clinics, hospitals, and private practices.

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