Optometrists are physicians that care for your eyes. If you’re having a vision problem, an optometrist will examine your eyes and provide you with a diagnosis. In some cases, an optometrist may prescribe corrective lenses to treat your vision problem. If you have an eye disease, such as glaucoma, your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist. Optometrists also provide your vision care before and after a surgical procedure, and the optometrist may administer prescriptions and vision therapy.
If you want to become an optometrist, you’ll need about eight years of education. Depending on how fast you work, you might be able to graduate sooner if you take on additional credit hours or complete coursework during the summer. A bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject, like chemistry or biology, is the first step. Under normal circumstances, this degree takes four years to acquire.
After that, you’ll begin your optometry program. This program lasts four years and results in a Doctor of Optometry degree. As of November 2013, there were 23 schools accredited by the American Optometric Association, the accrediting body for optometry schools (www.aoa.org). Classes you’re expected to complete in these programs include applied ocular anatomy, geometric and theoretical optics, vision science, and ocular physiology.
In order to start working, you’ll need to be licensed by your state. You must provide proof that you graduated from an accredited school with a Doctor of Optometry degree, and you’ll need to pass a state and national examination. The exam includes written and clinical portions to ensure you not only know the appropriate information, but that you can correctly perform procedures. Continuing education credits are necessary to renew your license every one to three years.
Internship and Work Experience
While not a requirement, you may want to acquire some work experience before or directly after graduation. Residency programs provide an opportunity to obtain some real work experience. Normally requiring a year to complete, a residency program can give you access to special training and experience in area of optometry like family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, rehabilitation, and ocular disease.