How to become an Optometrist

This article provides in-depth information into What is an Optometrist? What Optometrists do? Degrees for Optometrists, Steps to become an Optometrist and much more

While the world is following a path towards achieving their career goals, yet another profession is becoming an optometrist. Treating eye has now become a painless procedure due to the inventions of medical and optical instruments and advanced equipment. In this article we will discuss all the necessary steps to becoming an optometrist.

What does Optometrist do ?

Optometrists are eye doctors who specialize in vision care. They are well versed in determining eye conditions such as short sight, long sight, lazy eye, astigmatism and other eye disorders and correct them by suitable eye examination and prescribing contact lenses.

They are also referred to as doctors of optometry (DO) where they are not required to go to medical school. Some specialists also provide vision therapy and low vision care.

Their duties include,

  • Conduct examination and analyze the results

  • Determine the disorders and deficiencies of the eye and suggest measures

  • Examine sight problems and eye diseases such as glaucoma,hypermetropia, 

  • Prescribe glasses, lenses and medication however not licensed to conduct surgeries.

  • Treat patients with vision therapy and low-vision rehabilitation

  • Create awareness about eye health, counselling patients and on how to maintain the lenses.

Steps for becoming Optometrist


Complete Your Education

You are required to complete a Bachelor’s degree in science or pre-med before taking up the optometry program. The programs mainly require you to complete coursework  in biology, chemistry, physics, english, and mathematics. Research well before entering the optometry program about what are the requirements and the coursework to complete in the undergraduate program.


Gain Experience

After completing the minimum education required, it's better to gain hands-on experience in the field of optometry. You could get an internship or a training program to gain experience and practical knowledge on how the career works and how the optometrist works. Working under the guidance of a professional optometrist helps in learning the roles and performance to help work effectively in the professional field.


Complete The Doctor Of Optometry Program

The Doctor of Optometry(DO) Program is a four year program necessary to become an optometrist. The program includes both core classes with hands-on experience at clinics under the supervision of professionals. It consists of a diverse coursework relevant to the field and you are required to pursue an accredited optometry school. You also get training on the concentrations related to the biological sciences.


Clear The Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

You must clear the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) before applying for the accredited optometry programs. This test checks on the candidate's ability, knowledge of science, comprehension and reasoning skills. Your performance in this test gives you eligibility to get into the program. You took up this test which is administered throughout the year at Prometric Test Centers.

You could also consider the  OAT preparatory course to practice well and ace the test as this enhances your overall performance.


Earn License

After completing your education, you must take up the licence exam according to the state and country requirements to practice optometry. Passing the exam gives you the authority to treat patients at state nursing homes and organizations. This test is usually taken after successful completion of the  O.D. (Doctor of Optometry). Addition to this you will also have to clear the exam conducted by the national board of professionals which combines a theoretical and clinical exam in the license exam process. However some states also require candidates to take up other exams before earning a license in that particular state.


Complete Residency Program

The residency program is an optional step to be chosen after completing the postgraduate program. This helps you advance your career better and increase your potential to land on a job with high earnings. After completing the O.D. (Doctor of Optometry) for years, you can complete a residency program for one year to practice and work under experienced optometrists.

This also helps you gain experience with specialising at a particular field. Some programs are,

  • Residency programs recognized by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE).

  • residency programs in the field of low vision rehabilitation, pediatric optometry, geriatric optometry, ocular disease, and family practice.

Optometrist Degree Levels


A bachelor's degree is a 4 years program that offers core and general courses as a formal education. With this you are given the opportunity to pursue an internships program to gain hands-on experience on the courses learnt in class. The  experience could be gained at labs, training or internship programs. It is necessary for you to complete a bachelor's degree in science or relevant field to medicine to enhance your knowledge to enter into the career path. The coursework includes microbiology, immunology, vertebrate biology, human anatomy, evolution, organic chemistry, and general physics. This helps in learning the basics and gives a foundational knowledge for the long run.

It is better to know about this career from all the perspectives prior. Consider all the potential alternatives and the time it takes to become an optometrist to get better idea about what to expect in the future. 


Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree is a four years program pursued after completing the bachelor's degree which mainly focuses on understanding the eye structure, determining the disorders of the eye and the visual system and learning the professionalism required for patient care.this program includes traditional education in class with several hours of clinical training under experts on treatment of eye and vision related disorders. You could apply for an accredited Optometry School after completing the OAT exam. Admission for this program is highly competitive which requires a high GPA, high OAT scores, and strong backgrounds in physics, chemistry, and math.

The coursework includes vision science, optics, pharmacology, biochemistry, human anatomy and physiology, general and ocular pathology, diagnosis and treatment process, managerial aspects,  eye disease and vision disorders. 

Optometrist’s Salary

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, in 2020 the average salary offered to an Optometrist is $125,428 and it typically ranges between $111,061 and $138,999. The salary vastly depends on the education acquired, certification, additional skills possessed and the amount of experience gained in the field.

Job growth

The employment opportunities of optometrists is expected to increase about 10 percent from 2018 to 2028 which is faster than the average growth of the job. The rapid growth is due to the increasing vision problem in the population and aging results in the demand of optometrists.

Career concentrations

The degree you earned to become an optometrist will also fetch you other jobs and opens a door of opportunities. Hence you must also be aware of career concentrations available to you. Here are few you can choose,


Median salary- $83,329

An audiologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in determining and analyzing the problems related to hearing and ear related issues which include the balance (vestibular) disorders, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) disorder and rehabilitation of  individuals and with hearing loss and related disorders. You require a doctoral degree or a professional degree to settle at this job which offers a salary typically ranging between $76,708 and $90,993 per year.

Dispensing Optician:

Median salary-  $46,880

A dispensing optician is a trained professional who is skilled to read the optical prescription prescribed by the Optometrists or Ophthalmologists to supply optical wear to patients. They also advise patients on the glass types, other optical aids required for the patient. They also dispense contact lenses and eyeglasses according to the customer’s fit. This job is reported to have a growth of 15% through 2016 to 2026 and the annual wage ranges between $43,310 and $56,530. You could earn this job by completing a high school degree or an associate’s degree or certification in postsecondary institutions by getting suitable training. 


Median salary- $150,471

Chiropractors are professions who are concerned with the treatment and diagnosis of patients with neuromuscular disorders. Their role includes the adjustment techniques of equipment to adjust spine alignment and reduce misalignments in the spine causing issues to patients. This field also deals with problems related to the neuromusculoskeletal system including the nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. You must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and state license with several hours of experience to land on this job. The salary offered ranges between $127,865 and $207,438 based on education, experience and additional skills.

Stand out skills required for an Optometrist

As an Optometrist, caliber, academic excellence, personal qualities are higher. The professionals are experienced in programs such as internships. However, the additional skills required to stand out and become successful in this career. They are,

Excellent communication skills: optometrists must communicate effectively with patients to understand the problems being conveyed. With a clear and compassionate tone, they make their patients comfortable to open up about their issues. After examining, they must also clearly explain what is being prescribed as a corrective measure.

Detail-oriented: Paying attention to the details helps in bringing up an accurate solution to the patient’s problems. Understanding what the patients need and giving suitable medications helps in treating patients better.

Active listeners: Listening to what the patient tells is important and to determine the patient’s issue. This helps in analyzing well and deciding on what treatment should be given.

Interpersonal skills: After communicating and listening to a patient's problem, you must also understand the non-verbal signals to understand and instruct them better. 

Problem-solving: Optometrists must think effectively and identify problems and use their thinking capabilities to solve those problems. This helps in coming up with better solutions and treating patients faster.