Optometrists perform eye exams to check for vision problems and diseases. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.
Careers within optometry are diverse and provide many opportunities for challenging and rewarding service. Most optometrists are general practitioners, handling a variety of vision needs. Other optometrists practice in any of eight specialty areas:
- Contact Lenses/Cornea
- Vision Therapy
- Ocular Disease and special testing
- Sports Vision
- Binocular Vision
- Low-Vision/Partial Sight
- Head Trauma
- Environmental & Occupational Vision
Admission Requirements for Optometry School
The Doctor of Optometry degree requires the completion of a 4-year program at an accredited school of optometry. All states require optometrists to be licensed.
From the time you begin college, you will be assembling components of your application to optometry school. But it takes more than a good GPA and OAT score to get into an optometry program. Work with your advisor to assemble a competitive application!
Education and Training
A few applicants are accepted to optometry school after 3 years of college and complete their bachelor's degree while attending optometry school. However, most students accepted by a school or college of optometry have completed an undergraduate degree. Because a strong background in science is important, many applicants major in a science, such as biology or chemistry; however, students are encouraged to major in any subject. Those who major in another subject take the science courses offering lab experience.
There are 20 colleges of optometry in the U.S. and 1 in Puerto Rico that offered programs accredited by the Accreditation Council of Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. Admission to optometry school is competitive; about 1 in 7 applicants were accepted in 2010.
Optometry programs include classroom and laboratory study of health and visual sciences and clinical training in diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders. One-year postgraduate clinical residency programs are available if you wish to obtain advanced clinical competence within a particular area of optometry. Specialty areas for residency programs include family practice optometry, pediatric optometry, vision therapy and rehabilitation, low-vision rehabilitation, cornea and contact lenses, refractive and ocular surgery, primary care optometry and ocular disease.
Most programs look for a minimum undergraduate cumulative 3.0 GPA but the average GPA for matriculates is a 3.4 cumulative and a 3.5 in the sciences. Keep in mind these numbers are averages and various schools can have their own averages that are higher or lower. Also, these averages are climbing higher each year and admission to optometry schools is more competitive than ever. Be sure you take your studies seriously and put in the proper time for reading, studying, and review for each course.
OAT (Optometry Admission Test)
The OAT is required by every school of optometry in the U.S. and Canada. A minimum OAT score of 298 is typical while the average for matriculates is about 327/400. You should aim to have a score between 300-330 in order to stay competitive.
Most students take this exam the summer before their senior year. In order to register for the OAT you will need to complete the following:
Quick Look at the OAT
||CMU courses with relevant content|
Energy and Momentum
PHY 130, 170, 131, 171
The Survey of Natural Sciences (100 questions,90 minutes)
BIO 110, 203, 208, 218
CHM 131, 132
CHM 345, 346
Evaluate and apply information
and arguments presented
Courses that emphasize critical thinking and reasoning skills.
Probability and Statistics
STA 282 or STA 382 or BIO 500
Where is the OAT administered?
In multiple locations throughout Michigan and the United States.
What is the cost of the OAT?
How should you prepare for the OAT?
- Begin at least 3 months before your test date
- Questions emphasize problem-solving abilities, not rote memorization
- Essential to obtain practice tests
Experience in Optometry
All applicants need to be aware that the Admissions Committee also views one’s knowledge of the profession of optometry to be of vital importance. This is best achieved by visiting one or more optometrists on several occasions to observe patient care on a first-hand basis. Seeking to volunteer or working in an optometrist’s office is a certain way to gain understanding of and appreciation for the profession. Having strong career experiences and life accomplishments will allow you to validate your professionalism and maturity, which are strongly considered in the application process.
Other qualifications. Optometrists must have self-discipline and the ability to deal tactfully with patients. The work also requires attention to detail and manual dexterity.
Michigan Optometry School
Applying to Optometry Schools
All 20 optometry schools use the OptomCAS (Optometry Centralized Application Service) site as a centralized application site. You may file one application and send it to multiple optometry programs.
The choice of an undergraduate major while preparing for optometry school is not especially critical for successful admission, but the selection of certain coursework is important.
Certain basic requirements must be fulfilled before you can be accepted to optometry school. These requirements include:
- 1 year Inorganic Chemistry with labs
- 1 year Organic Chemistry with labs
- 1 year Physics with labs
- 1 year Biology with labs
- 1 course in Microbiology
- 1 year Mathematics
- 1 course in Psychology
- 1 course in Communication
Below are the CMU courses we recommend to meet these requirements:
||CHM 131 & CHM 132
||CHM 345, CHM 346 & CHM 349
||PHY 130, PHY 131, PHY 170 & PHY 171
||BIO 110, BIO 203 & BIO 218
||MTH 132 & Statistics
||COM 101 or COM 195
Some optometry schools may have additional courses required or recommended. Review the admission requirements of the optometry schools you plan on applying in advance.
All required courses must be taken for a grade. Each school has its own policy regarding AP credit. Usually, AP credit in these areas should be followed with additional upper level work in the discipline including labs.
To further strengthen you application and your ability to succeed in optometry school, here are some additional CMU courses you could take:
||HSC 214 or BIO 337|
||CHM 425 or CHM 521 & CHM 522|
|Business Management or Accounting
||BUS 100 or ACC 101|
||BIO 326 or BIO 315|
||HSC 215 or BIO 392|
The CMU Pre-Optometry club is a group of students who all share the same ultimate goal of attending optometry school. The club discusses various things such as the optometry admissions test (OAT), volunteer opportunities, and touring local offices and nearby optometry schools
The club meets bi-weekly on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.
For more information, click here to visit the club's page on Facebook, or contact our faculty advisor:
Peter S. Kourtev
Brooks Hall 228
Optometrists held about 34,200 jobs in 2010.
Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 33 percent between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Excellent job opportunities are expected.
Median annual wages of salaried optometrists were $94,990 in May 2010.
For information on optometry as a career and a list of accredited optometric institutions of education:
Additional career information is available from:
Pre-Health Professions Academic Advisor
Lisa E. Snider
Emmons Hall 136B
Biology Faculty Advisor
Peter S. Kourtev
Brooks Hall 228