How Long Does It Take To Become An Optometrist?

Becoming an optometrist takes hard work, diligence and dedication. Answer questions such as how long is optometry school, how long does it take to become an eye doctor, and more.

TCM Staff

18th July 2021

Did you need eye glasses at a young age? Do you remember those sight tests that you took in the doctor’s office? That doctor who prescribed you the glasses was an optometrist. A specialized eye doctor, optometrists embark on a long educational and professional journey to get where they are. You might be wondering, “How long does it take to become an optometrist?”

How To Get A PhD
How To Get A PhD

To become an optometrist, you must complete a doctor of optometry, as well as other educational tasks. Overall, the optometry school length is quite long. It usually takes 8-9 years 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.

Young girl undergoing an eye exam at an optometrist’s office

 

Who is an Optometrist?

In 2019, approximately 41,000 people were practicing optometrists. Optometrists, also known as doctors of optometry, or ODs, provide the most basic and complex 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 as treatment. 

Optometrists also administer drugs to the patients to help diagnose vision problems, and prescribe drugs to treat some eye diseases.

Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, and Opticians

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. They also provide the most specialized eye treatments and therapy. The distinction between an optometrist and ophthalmologist is similar to that between a doctor and a surgeon. 

Dispensing opticians make, sell, and/or fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following the prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists. More specifically, a dispensing optician is anyone who dispenses lenses, contact lenses, artificial eyes, grames, and optical devices. Any follow-up care or evaluation should be done by an optometrist, or general prescribing physician.  

Ophthalmologist performing a medical procedure

 

Degrees Related to Optometry

The degrees constituting optometry are:

Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)

Someone with a Doctor of Optometry is a primary health care professional for the eye. They identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye, and prescribe treatments for any conditions and treatments of 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. Furthermore, it 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)

A Master of Education/Vision Function in Learning (MEd/VFL) program is a specialized program 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 a person is recognized by their colleagues as a knowledgeable and experienced professional who has met the highest 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. Approximately how long is optometry school? The doctorate degree is 4 years, but the overall school process will eat up approximately 8 to 9 years. 

Here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide for all prospective optometrists:

    1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree

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 a three-year bachelor with courses in Zoology or Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and English.

 

    2. Pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

Before applying to an optometry program, you must take and pass the OAT (Optometry Admission Test). The OAT is a computerized, multiple-choice exam that tests an applicant in four main areas:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences
  • Physics
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning

 

    3. Enroll in a Doctor of Optometry program 

To become an optometrist, you need to complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. This program combines classes and supervised clinical experience. Coursework includes physiology, optics, anatomy, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders or diseases. Here’s a list of optometry schools and colleges for you to choose from.

 

    4. Pass the Exam 

After completing your doctorate degree, you must take and pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exam. 

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

 

    5. Get Licensed

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 Money Does an Optometrist Earn?

The average salary of an optometrist is $115,250 per year. Depending on the type of specialization, the median annual salary varies for optometrists. 

Industry 

Salary 

Health Stores

$116,370

Offices of Physicians 

$122,800

Offices of Optometrists

$110,930

Top 10 Schools for Optometry

Rank

Institution 

Tuition Cost

1

Southern College of Optometry

$76,416 (Regional)


 $138,816 (Non Regional)

2

University of Alabama School of Optometry

$99,763 (Resident)


 $202,052 (Non Resident)

3

Indiana School of Optometry

$102,834 (Resident)


 $152,978 (Non Residents)

4

Ohio State University College of Optometry

$103,584 (Resident)


 $124,630 (Non Resident)

5

Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry

$112,176 (Resident)


 $168,264 (Non Resident)

6

Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry

$149,400

7

Midwestern University

$153,048 (Arizona College)


 $158,880 (Chicago College)

8

Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry

$154,560 (Traditional Program)


$158,000 (Scholars Program)

9

New England College of Optometry

$160,148

10

Illinois College of Optometry

$170,995

 

Man wearing glasses in front of a vision board commonly seen at a doctor’s office

Conclusion

So, how long does it take to become an eye doctor? A long time! But, with hard work and dedication, you can fulfill your dream of becoming an optometrist. 

To recap: how many years does it take to become an optometrist? It takes between 8 to 9 years to complete the schooling and examinations required to become an optometrist. 

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.

Fun Facts - Did You Know?

  • Optometrists wear white jackets to keep the bacteria they encounter during the day off of their clothes, similar to how other medical personnel wear scrubs.
  • Optometrists see an average of 67 patients per week.
  • 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.

Recent Articles

Undergraduate vs Graduate: What Is the Difference?

What is the Highest GPA? How to Calculate and Increase Yours

What Is the Highest Degree in College?

What is the Difference Between a Degree in Economics and a Degree in Finance?

Regional vs. National Accreditation - Which is better for Online Colleges?

What is ROTC? (Reserve Officers’ Training Corp)