How Long Does It Take To Become An Optometrist?

Becoming an optometrist takes a lot of hard work, diligence and dedication. In this article, we aim to answer how long does it take to become an optometrist along with a step by step guide and with time breakdown and few optometry related FAQs. Read on.

Updated by TCM Staff on 5th October 2020

To become an optometrist, completing the doctor of optometry is necessary. It usually takes 8-9 years long to become an optometrist (after high school). The timeline is divided into 3-4 years of undergraduate study (with a primary focus in science/maths) + 4 years of optometry school to become an Optometrist, though the one-year clinical residency program is optional.

But before going further, let’s understand the meaning of Optometrist and the time breakdown at various steps of becoming an optometrist.

Who is an Optometrist?

Optometrists, also known as doctors of optometry, or ODs, provide the most basic vision care. They diagnose, manage, and treat conditions and diseases of the eyes and visual system. ODs examine people’s eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases, and they prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Optometrists also administer drugs to the patients to aid in the diagnosis of vision problems and prescribe drugs to treat some eye disease.

Optometrists vs Ophthalmologists

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or dispensing opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery, in addition to diagnosing and treating eye conditions. Dispensing opticians fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following the prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists.

Various degrees related to Optometry

The degrees constituting Optometry are:

Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)

A primary health care professional for the eye. They identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

MS, Vision Science

The Master of Science in Vision Science (MSVS) program engages students in advanced study and research of the visual system and prepares them for career success in teaching and research in academic settings or applications in the ophthalmic industry.

Master of Education/Vision Function in Learning (MEd/VFL)

Master of Education/Vision Function in Learning (MEd/VFL) program is designed for optometrists and other optometry students who wish to extend their knowledge of vision problems as they relate to children’s reading and learning processes.

Ph.D., Vision Science

Ph.D. students participate in a series of courses, seminars, tutorials, and journal clubs and receive intensive training in selected areas of vision research. The Ph.D. in Vision Science requires the completion of 80 semester hours of course credit

FAAO: Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry

The designation-FAAO means that they are recognized by their colleagues as knowledgeable and experienced professionals who have met the high standards of professional competence in a broad range of issues related to eye care. 

What are the steps to become an Optometrist?

Becoming an optometrist takes a lot of hard work, diligence, and dedication. You need to invest approximately 7 to 9 years. Here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide for all the Optometrist aspirants.

Step 1- Get a bachelor’s degree- 4 years

The process to become an Optometrist starts with getting a bachelor’s degree, preferably with pre-med or biological sciences significance. Or you may only need at least three years of post-secondary education with courses in Zoology or Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and English.

Step 2- Pass the OAT

Before applying to an optometry program, you must need to take and pass the OAT (Optometry Admission Test). OAT is a computerized exam that tests for an applicant's understanding of Science, Physics, Reading comprehension, and Quantitative reasoning.

Step 3- Doctor of Optometry degree- 4 years

For becoming an optometrist you need to complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree which combines classes and supervised clinical experience. The coursework will include physiology, optics, anatomy, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders or diseases.

step 4- Pass the exam and Get Licensed

One must need to pass all the sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam after having an O.D. and then you can obtain a license to practice in whichever state you’ll be employed in.

You can take and pass any other exams, such as those on clinical practice or rules that may be required by your state. 

After getting your O.D. degree, you may complete a one-year residency program to get advanced clinical residency training in your area of specialization like family practice, pediatric optometry or geriatric optometry, low vision rehabilitation, and ocular disease.

How much does an Optometrist earn?

The average salary of optometrists is $115,250 per annum. Depending on the type of industry, the median annual remuneration varies for optometrists. 



Health stores


Offices of Physicians 


Offices of Optometrists


Top 10 schools for Optometry



Tuition Cost


Southern College of Optometry

$76,416 (Regional)

 $138,816 (Non Regional)


University of Alabama School of Optometry

$99,763 (Resident)

 $202,052 (Non Resident)


Indiana School of Optometry

$102,834 (Resident)

 $152,978 (Non Residents)


Ohio State University College of Optometry

$103,584 (Resident)

 $124,630 (Non Resident)


Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry

$112,176 (Resident)

 $168,264 (Non Resident)


Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry



Midwestern University

$153,048 (Arizona College)

 $158,880 (Chicago College)


Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry

$154,560 (Traditional Program)

$158,000 (Scholars Program)


New England College of Optometry



Illinois College of Optometry



Students pursuing an undergraduate degree from all types of academic backgrounds (e.g. English, Business, Art, or Psychology) can also apply to optometry school, provided they’ve taken necessary prerequisite coursework.

FAQs-Did You Know?

  • Optometrists wear white jackets to keep the bacteria they encounter during the day off of their clothes, just as other medical personnel wears scrubs.

  • There is no legal reason why an optometrist can’t do an exam on his/herself, but physically he/she may not be able to perform this duty.     

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