Planning a Career in Optometry
Optometrists are independent primary health care providers who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and disorders of the eye. As the major providers of primary vision care, they are capable of detecting vision problems, eye disease, or other related abnormalities of the eye. They treat vision problems by prescribing ophthalmic lenses or contact lenses when appropriate, by prescribing vision therapy or by referral to medical professionals who specialize in the treatment of diseases of the eye.
According to the American Optometry Association, the need for optometrists throughout the United States is significant. The profession of optometry is growing rapidly and opportunities for future optometrists are projected to be excellent. A number of factors such as population growth, an aging population, and emphasis on prevention of vision disease have increased the demands for these professionals.
How to Become an Optometrist
In order to enter this dynamic field of health care, it is first necessary to earn the Doctor of Optometry degree. This can be achieved through admission to one of the nearly twenty optometry schools in the United States. Admission to the professional school usually requires that the student be on-track to complete a four-year baccalaureate degree (see below for the undergraduate courses that are required or recommended). Additional requirements for admission include a high overall GPA (nationwide, the average GPA of an admitted student is approximately a 3.5 GPA), satisfactory scores on the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and letters of recommendation from academic advisor(s) and optometrists you have shadowed. Some schools also require a personal interview with school representatives. Since requirements vary slightly from one optometry school to another, it is advisable to check with the specific college of optometry to which you plan to apply regarding their admission requirements.
Course Prerequisites and Southeastern Schools
Courses that are required for admission listed below are based on Southern College of Optometry Memphis, TN, requirements vary, so please examine each school's web site for the most complete and up-to-date information.
English (one year)
Psychology (one course)
Social Science (one year)
Statistics (one course)
Calculus (one course)
General Biology with labs (one year)
Microbiology with lab (one course)
General Physics with labs (one year)
General Chemistry with labs (one year)
Organic Chemistry with lab (one course)
Biochemistry (one course)
The school in Memphis and the School of Optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are both contracted by the state of Georgia to provide a few, competitive seats that will allow students to pay in-state tuition. While both schools will admit out-of-students at the higher out-of-state tuition rate, we strongly urge our Georgia resident students to not only do well in their undergraduate coursework to get admitted, but also so that they will be competitive for the contracted out-of-state tuition waivers. Another school that some of our students choose is located in Davie near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (Nova Southeastern University).