Are you fascinated by how lenses reflect light? Do you long to dilate pupils? Are you always diagnosing friends with pink eye? If you’re interested in all things ocular but aren’t convinced that medicine is right for you, then perhaps optometry is the path you seek.
With a singular focus on eye care, optometry aims to examine, diagnose and treat visual ailments. Similar to many medical/health disciplines, a degree in optometry actually calls for graduate study. Indeed, in order to practice as an optometrist you’ll have to earn a doctor of optometry (OD). Graduate optometry programs typically take four years to complete, although some schools offer joint degrees allowing students to earn a bachelor’s and OD in seven years. While optometry schools don’t often require a specific undergraduate major, there are a handful of schools that offer a pre-optometry major. Outside of pre-optometry, it’s common for students to major in biology or a health-related science. Regardless of major chosen, most optometry schools expect pre-requisites to be fulfilled at a four-year institution.
Beyond a passion and proclivity for science, you’ll need a strong analytical mind to practice optometry successfully. Moreover, it’s important to be detail oriented and have solid communication skills. After all, you’ll be interacting with a variety of patients. Finally, you should be able to discern when people should or should not rock a pair of aviators.
Nuts and Bolts
Students who hope to eventually become optometrists will certainly find themselves challenged with a science and math-laden curriculum. Classes might include: General Biology, Organic Chemistry I, Organic Chemistry II, Human Anatomy, Biometrics, Microbiology, Physiology, Introduction to Psychology, Calculus, Analytic Geometry, Statistics, Biochemistry and Physics.
Optometrists are generally interested in health, human development and helping people. Therefore, they also might consider studying biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pre-dentistry, pre-medical, neuroscience, pre-pharmacy, public health, nursing, pre-veterinary, physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant.
As is implied within the name, most students who pursue optometry become, well, optometrists. And as we stated above, it will be necessary to attend a graduate program in optometry and ultimately earn an OD. Budding optometrists will also have to pass a licensure examination administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). The test consists of both clinical and written portions. Once fully licensed, optometrists can practice in a myriad of settings, from the military to hospitals, community centers and teaching clinics. Moreover, they can maintain a general practice or specialize in areas such as geriatrics, pediatrics, contact lenses or vision therapy. And perhaps most important, job prospects remain high for optometrists especially given the aging population in the United States.