Optometrists provide general eye and vision care. However, optometry involves more than just prescribing and fitting contact lenses and glasses. According to the American Optometric Association, “Doctors of Optometry are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions.” Optometrists perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye, diagnose problems and diseases, and prescribe appropriate treatment. Optometrists also evaluate vision, diagnose visual abnormalities, and prescribe appropriate corrective treatment. In addition, many systemic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes often involve the eyes in the earliest stages; optometrists can detect these changes and refer the patient for further medical evaluation.
Approximately 2/3 of the country’s eye care is delivered by Doctors of Optometry (ODs). Optometry is one the nation’s largest independent healthcare professions, and typically offers regular working hours, minimal emergency duty, and geographic mobility. There is an increasing demand for ODs, due in part to the aging of the U.S. population and the vision requirements of an increasingly mechanical and technological society.
Most ODs are in general practice, but there are opportunities to specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, sports vision, occupational vision, vision therapy, and scientific research.
Most schools of optometry require at least 3 years of college work (90 semester hours) to be eligible to apply to the optometry program. Several schools require completion of a bachelor’s degree. Following the undergraduate years, accepted students must complete 4 years of study at an accredited college of optometry. There are 23 schools of optometry in the continental U.S., and 1 in Puerto Rico. There are currently no schools of optometry in North Carolina.
For a complete list of U.S. Optometry Schools click here.
Recommended Core Courses
The following classes are recommended for completion of the basic pre-optometry core at UNC Charlotte. The classes are recommended to cover the minimum basic requirements at the majority of optometry schools and/or prepare you for the OAT exam.
|General Biology with labs||BIOL 2120+2130|
|Microbiology with lab||BIOL 4250||Some schools will accept BIOL 2259.|
|General Chemistry with labs||CHEM 1251+1252|
|Organic Chemistry with lab||CHEM 2131|
|Biochemistry||CHEM 3165 or CHEM 4165|
|Physics with labs||PHYS 1101+1102 or PHYS 2101+2102|
|Human Anatomy & Physiology with labs||BIOL 2273 +2274||Some schools accept EXER 2168 + 2169.|
|Calculus||MATH 1241||Some schools will accept MATH 1120, Business Calculus.|
|Statistics||STAT 1220, 1221, or 1222|
|English||UWRT 1103 or 1104||Optometry schools require 6 hrs of English. Some schools will accept 1103 or 1104 alone to meet the 6 hours. Contact individual optometry schools for their current policy on the English prerequisite, or contact Pre-Health Advising.|
|Psychology||PSYC 1101||Lab not required.|
|Social/Behavioral Science||Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science||Need 6 hours total.|
Each optometry school establishes their specific prerequisites; always check the websites of the schools that you want to attend.
Currently, there is no active student club for Pre-Optometry students.
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
- Information for prospective students
- Links to all professional schools of optometry
- Information/Registration for the OAT
- American Optometric Association
- Main professional organization
- News and current events in the profession
- American Optometric Student Association
- American Academy of Optometry
- Scientific and research meetings
- Links to research organizations
- Review of Optometry
- Popular online magazine for optometrists and students
- Optometric Management
- Business and practice management online magazine
- National Board of Optometry
- National Eye Institute
- National Optometric Association
- World Council of Optometry