Becoming an Optometrist


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To earn their doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree, optometry students need to complete a four-year post-graduate degree program.

Preparing for Medical School

According to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), most students who are accepted by a school or college of optometry have completed an undergraduate degree. Each of the schools/colleges has its own undergraduate prerequisites so it is important to check with the institutions of your choice. However, ASCO recommends that prospective optometry students take pre-professional courses in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics and microbiology, plus English, college mathematics and other social science and humanities courses.

Optometry School

Coursework varies from program to program. Typically, the first two years focus on the basic health sciences (e.g., anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology) as well as optics, and vision science. Students begin learning diagnostic and treatment strategies by practicing on each other in clinical simulation laboratories.

In the third year of optometry school, students in most programs spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time in clinics examining and caring for patients. Fourth year students spend most of their time learning under the supervision of faculty in clinical settings, such as clinics, hospitals, and private practices.

Postgraduate Education

All 50 states require that Doctors of Optometry take continuing education courses to be eligible for license renewal. Currently about 10 percent of the graduates of optometry schools participate in a yearlong optometric residency program. A growing number of organizations, especially teaching institutions, hospitals and co-management clinics, want optometrists with this kind of advanced training.
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This article was originally published in the Summer 2008 issue of Winds of Change. The cover artist, Brent Greenwood, Chicakasaw/Ponca, lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.