Reader question: I want to be an eye doc, but I dont how much college is needed. Also, how long is optometry school? Can you answer my questions? Thanks.
Before we tackle the questions, lets learn a little more about what optometrists do.
What do optometrists do?
You will often find optometrists practicing their profession in their private clinics, although a significant number work in doctors’ clinics, hospitals, and retail stores.
They are licensed to examine patients’ eyes for defects, conduct diagnostics, prescribe lenses, treat visual problems, and provide pre- and post-surgery eye care to patients.
There are only around 33,100 of these specialists per 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with projected increase of 8,100 in the year 2022.
They earned a median pay of $97,820 in 2012. There will be a continuous demand for the profession considering that a huge part of the population is aging and vision is one of the top health concerns.
Eye and vision concerns also come into play in patients with other health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus and other chronic diseases. The job outlook for optometrists is pegged by BLS at 24%, faster than the average for all jobs nationwide.
How long does it take to become an optometrist?
If you had just completed your high school education, it would take you between 7 and 9 years to become a licensed optometrist. Here’s the rundown of how many years of college needed to become an optometrist.
Complete the prerequisite courses
Most applicants to Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) schools enter the program with completed bachelor’s degrees, although it is not required to gain entrance into the program.
What the program actually requires is the completion at least 90 creditable units of the pre-requisite science courses.
Most O.D. schools require 4 semesters of College Chemistry, 2 semesters of College Physics, Biology, Biochemistry, plus units in Calculus and English. On the average, this translates to around 3 years in college.
Take the Optometry Test (OAT)
If the prerequisite courses are complied with, you may then take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) which is one of the bases for getting admitted into an optometry school.
Every school may impose additional requirements, so it is always a good idea to visit the school’s admission office or check out their website.
Get into the program
The O.D. program takes 4 years to complete. The first two years will focus on pharmacology, physiology, optometry theory, ocular anatomy, and other courses through classroom instruction and laboratory procedures.
The last two years will give emphasis on clinical training, or externship, at eye care clinics and hospitals.
Take 3 sets of optometry board exams
When O.D. students reach third year in the program, they must start taking the National Board Exams which is a 3-part set. These exams are each made up of 4 sections, and students must pass all four sections of a particular exam before they can proceed with the next exam.
Take the licensure exam
Assuming that you hurdle all the exams in the National Board and complete the O.D. program successfully, you may take the state licensure exam to be authorized to practice your profession.
How long is an optometry residency?
If you wish to specialize in a particular area, you may do a 1-year residency field to deepen your knowledge, skills and experience in that field.
Optometrists usually earn during this residency training, albeit at a very low salary rate. The field chosen can be pediatrics, geriatrics, contact lenses, hospital optometry, vision therapy, community health optometry, or other specialty areas.
There are very few O.D. schools in the country, and this makes entry to the program highly competitive. If you have anticipated this career path long before now, good for you! You must have acquainted yourself well with the prerequisite courses. Prepare for the OAT and perform well in it. Your grades in the prerequisite college courses and your OAT score will determine your admission to the program.
The prerequisites will take 3-4 years; the O.D. program will take 4-5 years. Consider, too, that the National Board exams will be within those 4-5 years and could be quite intense.
Overall, that’s 7-9 years of learning and training. Apply for a license. Add 1 year for residency to increase your competitive edge in the industry. Like in other healthcare professions, a specialty area will push you forward and provide you a niche in the market. That’s a well-laid plan and bright future ahead of you!
I hope that answers the question. How long is optometry school?