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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. They examine the internal and external structure of the eyes to diagnose eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal disorders; systemic diseases like hypertension and diabetes; and vision conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia. Optometrists also do testing to determine the patient's ability to focus and coordinate the eyes and to judge depth and see colors accurately. They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, low vision aids, vision therapy and medicines to treat eye diseases. As primary eye care providers, optometrists are an integral part of the healthcare team and an entry point into the healthcare system. They are skilled in the co-management of care that affects the eye health and vision of their patients and an excellent source of referral to other healthcare professionals. A biology degree provides an excellent science background for optometry school. Biology majors who wish to attend optometry school will need to pursue the Medical Careers Science track in the biology department. Useful information about Optometry can be found at the Association of Schools of Optometry webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best majors for Optometry School?

Optometry schools do not require a particular major although they have science requirements in biology, chemistry, and physics. At Southern College of Optometry over half the students are biology majors. Chemistry, physics, and psychology are also common majors for optometry students.

What are undergraduate courses required by optometry schools?

Each optometry school has its own requirement and that may vary from school to school. Check the requirements of the optometry school that you are interested in. The Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN has the following math and science requirements (other requirements will be satisfied by the Mississippi College core curriculum):

  • Mathematics- Calculus I
  • Statistics - An introductory course in statistics, which can be taken in a math or psychology department.
  • Biological Sciences - One year of freshman biology, one semester of microbiology. Additional courses in physiology, comparative anatomy or vertebrate anatomy or recommended but not required.
  • Chemistry - One year of inorganic chemistry, one year of organic chemistry. Additional courses in biochemistry are recommended but not required.
  • Physics - One year of physics. Additional courses in optics are recommended but not required.

What is covered on the Optometry College Admissions Test (OAT) and when is it given?

There are 4 sections of the exam: Natural Science (Biology and Chemistry); Reading Comprehension; Physics; and Quantitative Reasoning. It is given twice a year in February and October. Registration deadline is usually about 6 weeks prior to the test date. For more information visit the OCAT website.

Write or Call:
Optometry Admission Testing Program
211 East Chicago Avenue
Suite 1846
Chicago, IL 60611-2678
(312) 440-2693

When is the deadline for applying to optometry school?

Southern College of Optometry starts accepting applications the August of the year prior to entrance into optometry school. The deadline is March 1. They interview between October and April.

What kind of courses will I be taking in optometry school?

Optometry school has two parts. In the first two years, you take science courses. The third and fourth years are clinical courses.

At the Southern College of Optometry you will take the following courses:


  • Gross Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Optics of the eye
  • Visual Perception
  • Pathology


  • Neuroanatomy
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical coursework in Optometry

Third-year & Fourth year: all clinical coursework

What kind of board exams will I be taking in optometry school?

You will be taking 2 board exams called the National Board of Examiners in Optometry Part 1 and II. Part I is given the August before your third year and covers the basic science covered the first two years optometry school. Part II is a clinical board and is taken the December of your fourth year. You are not allowed to graduate until you pass all board exams.

What non-academic things do I need to do that would help my optometry school application?

It is very important that you get experience in a clinical setting. This can be accomplished by spending time observing an optometrist.

What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

An Optometrist has a doctorate degree in Optometry (O.D.). In addition to fitting patients with glasses and contact lenses, they also treat diseases of the eye and they can write drug prescriptions. An Ophthalmologist has an MD degree from medical school and has had an additional 4 years of Ophthalmology training in a residency program beyond medical school. An Ophthalmologist is an eye surgeon.

How many years will I train from the time I begin Medical School until I start my own practice?

Optometry school is 4 years. Upon completion of optometry school, you can start practicing optometry.

What kind of salary will I make as an optometrist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay of optometrists was $97,820 in 2012.

Where can I find optometry schools?

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