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Optometrist (OD)


What do optometrists do?

An optometrist is a licensed health care professional who examines, diagnoses, and treats eyes and their associated structures. They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses and perform certain minor surgical procedures. Most optometrists work in clinics, generally as part of a group practice which may also include ophthalmologists (MD’s or DO’s with 4 years of residency training) who perform major eye surgeries and opticians who fit eyeglasses and contact lenses. Optometrists may also work in research or education.

What training is required?

Optometrists complete an accredited four-year OD (Doctor of Optometry) program. Accreditation is through the Association of Schools and College of Optometry; a list of the (currently 23) accredited programs can be found here. As with education for other health professions, basic classwork is the primary focus of the first two years, the third year is spent in both clinical rotations and coursework, and the final year in rotations and externships.  Graduates then must pass the board exam overseen by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry before they can be licensed to practice. Many graduates opt to complete a residency program in order to practice in a specialty, do research, or take an academic position. Residencies are usually for at least one year.

How do I best prepare for admission to an OD program?

Coursework: The Genetics program will cover all of the general biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, microbiology, calculus, and statistics courses that are prerequisites for admission.  However, as some schools specify a course in anatomy and physiology, you could select BIOL 335 (Physiology of Humans and Other Animals) and BIOL 350 (Comprehensive Human Anatomy) among your advanced science electives.  If you have other courses meeting the advanced science electives, you can instead choose BIOL 255 (Fundamentals of Human Anatomy) and BIOL 256 (Fundamentals of Human Physiology) to meet the prerequisites of the OD program. Note that while most applicants will have earned a Bachelor degree prior to admission, it is possible to enter following three years of undergraduate education provided all prerequisite courses have been completed.  We hope you will stay and finish your degree!

Admissions: The programs for which you are applying may require the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) or may accept other tests such as the GRE, MCAT, PCAT, or DAT. The OAT consists of four tests: Natural Sciences (biology, general chemistry organic chemistry), Physics, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning. Applications for admission to all colleges are routed through the Optometry Centralized Application Service

Other Recommendations:  It is important to take time to job-shadow optometrists and volunteer or find paid work in an eye clinic or other health care setting during your undergraduate program.  While ISU does not currently have an optometry specific club, you should consider joining the Pre-Medical Club as many of the activities and information shared by that club will be of interest.  As with other health care destinations, research and teaching at the undergraduate level can set you apart in the application process and help you to cultivate strong relationships with faculty, graduate students, or post-docs who can provide you with meaningful letters of recommendation.


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