Pre-Optometry and Vision Science

Overview

Doctors of Optometry are primary health care providers who diagnose, manage, and treat conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system as regulated by state law. They may practice as independent practitioners, in a group practice, or in a health clinic or hospital. Optometrists held about 33,000 jobs in 2006. The number of jobs is greater than the number of practicing optometrists because some optometrists hold two or more jobs. For example, an optometrist may have a private practice, but also work in another practice, clinic, or vision care center. According to the American Optometric Association, about two thirds of practicing optometrists are in private practice.

Optometrists are educated and trained to diagnose and treat eye diseases and to deal with the broad range of physiological, physical, environmental and sociological issues that have an impact on effective patient care in a broad range of health care settings. Doctors of Optometry deliver most of the eye, vision, and related health care services that people need.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or dispensing opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery. Like optometrists, they may also examine eyes, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and diagnose and treat eye disease and injuries. Dispensing opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses and in some states may fit contact lenses according to prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists.

Job Market and Salaries

Employment of optometrists is expected to grow by 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 11,300 new jobs over the 10-year period. Because vision problems tend to occur more frequently later in life, more optometrists will be needed to meet the health needs of an aging population. Also, the number of people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, has increased in recent years. These diseases frequently cause vision problems and require treatment from optometrists. In addition, an increasing number of insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, provide some vision or eye-care insurance coverage.

The median annual wage of optometrists was $94,990 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,630, and the top 10 percent earned $166,400 or more.

Credentials

Optometrists need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. In 2011, there were 20 accredited Doctor of Optometry programs in the United States, one of which was in Puerto Rico. Applicants to O.D. programs must have completed at least 3 years of postsecondary education, including coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and mathematics. In practice, most students get a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a Doctor of Optometry program. Applicants must also take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) to apply to O.D. programs. Doctor of Optometry programs take 4 years to complete. They combine classroom learning and supervised clinical experience. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics and visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the visual system. After finishing the O.D., some optometrists do a 1-year residency program to get advanced clinical training in a specialty. Specialty areas for residency programs include family practice, primary eye care, pediatric or geriatric optometry, vision therapy and rehabilitation, cornea and contact lenses, refractive and ocular surgery, low vision rehabilitation, ocular disease, and community health optometry.

Program & Requirements

Admission to the College of Optometry, for qualified students, usually occurs after completion of the bachelor’s degree. Occasionally, some exceptionally well-­qualified students are admissible after three years of undergraduate studies under what is known as the Bachelor’s Degree Option. If admitted to the College of Optometry after three years of undergraduate study, these students may receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Visual Science as they are completing their Doctor of Optometry degrees. The Visual Science degree is awarded after 90 semester hours of undergraduate study and completion of the first year of study in the College of Optometry. Students should have a backup plan in place to complete their bachelor’s degree in the College of Arts and Sciences in case they are not admitted to the College of Optometry under the Bachelor’s Degree Option. Students are encouraged to contact Graduate Admission early in their undergraduate careers for more information and assistance in preparing for admission to the College of Optometry.

Prerequisites

Biological Sciences (12 credits)

Microbiology with lab
Human or Vertebrate Anatomy or A&P I with lab
Human or Vertebrate Physiology or A&P II with lab

Chemistry (12 credits)

General Chemistry, standard one year series, with lab
Organic Chemistry, standard one year series, with lab
Biochemistry with lab recommended;
* May be substituted for O-­Chem II

General Physics (8 credits)

All classes must have labs

Calculus (3 credits) Statistics (3 credits)

Recommended from a department of psychology, sociology, statistics, or mathematics
* Business or Economics statistics courses will not count

General Psychology (3 credits) English Writing (3 credits)

* FYS can count towards part of this requirement

Pre-­Optometry students are advised to complete the Arts and Sciences core requirements. It is wise to begin immediately in Mathematics. In addition, strong students take General Chemistry in their freshman year. Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics together are a heavy freshman science and math schedule, to be taken with care. Freshman students choosing this schedule in the spring semester should discuss it with their advisors.

The School of Optometry at Pacific University will accept Biol 304 as the second writing course.

All schools and colleges of optometry require students to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). The test includes sections on biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, quantitative ability, physics, and reading comprehension. Many schools require a minimum number of hours of observation by applicants and many schools suggest that at least one letter of recommendation should be written by an optometrist.

More Information

Pacific University College of Optometry
Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
American Optometric Association
American Academy of Optometry

Program Contact

Jennifer L. Smythe, Dean of Optometry
503-352-2770
smythej@pacificu.edu