Optometrist Education Requirements and Training Information
Optometrists are physicians who diagnose and treat vision problems. In order to practice in the United States, aspiring optometrists must complete a 4-year Doctor of Optometry degree program.
Doctor of Optometry
A post-baccalaureate Doctor of Optometry degree program is designed to provide students with the skills needed to gain licensure as optometrists. Students enrolled in the program must learn how to examine patients, diagnose vision disorders, treat vision problems and educate patients on common vision disorders.
The first few years of a Doctor of Optometry degree program cover basic human anatomy, ocular anatomy, basic vision science and neuroanatomy. The second half of such a degree program is made up mainly of laboratory and clinical work, where students are expected to learn how to manage vision care in a clinical environment. The fourth and final year of a Doctor of Optometry program is made up of clinical rotations and internships at hospitals and specialty eye clinics.
Many bachelor's degree programs are appropriate for students interested in one day becoming optometrists. Students should make sure that they complete courses in biology, calculus, laboratory science, physiology and chemistry. Also, students are required to complete an Optometry Admission Test given by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.
Doctor of optometry degree programs contain an intensive sequence of courses ranging from basic anatomy to advanced clinical practice. Some examples of such courses include:
- Ocular anatomy
- Introduction to vision science
- Advanced human physiology
- Community health optometry
- Ophthalmic optics lab
- Primary optometry
- Medical lab procedures
- Developmental optometry
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
There were 34,200 optometrists working in the United States in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). Many optometrists had their own practices, although some worked for other health practitioners' offices in that year. The annual median salary for an optometrist in May 2012 was $97,820 (www.bls.gov).
Just like medical doctors, optometrists are required to be licensed before they are allowed to practice. They must pass a national board examination as well as a state or regional examination, depending upon their particular state's requirements. The national board examination is given by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. Certification must be periodically renewed.
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