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Optometry Careers

¨  How do you get into optometry school?
¨  How many years of study does it take to become an optometrist?
¨  What is the starting salary for an optometrist?
¨  Do pre-optometry courses prepare me for optometry school?
¨  Will poor science grades in high school hurt my chances getting in higher education?
¨  Who is suited to become an optometrist?
¨  What classes do I need for optometry school?
¨  What classes should I take to prepare myself to become an optometrist?
¨  Do I need to be strong in math to complete optometry school or programs dealing with that?
¨  What is pre-optometry school?
¨  How difficult is it to become an optometrist?

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I was wondering how you get into a school and what you have to pass to become a optometrist?

ANSWER from Stephanie Wong on 26 August 2005:
To get into Optometry, you will have to do a pre-optometry program in university.  Generally, that is a general science program that should focus on biology or the biomedical sciences.  After about 3 years of study, you will have to write the OAT exam (Canada and US), and depending on your results, you will be offered admission into an optometry school.  The better you do, the more choices you have.

So, you will have to try to get very good marks while you are in pre-optometry, and to study hard and do well on your OAT, to even get a chance to get into optometry school.  There are a number of optometry schools in the US, but only one such program is offered in Canada, so it is tough competition.  Once you get admitted, work hard still, and then you'll be an optometrist!

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How many years of study does it take to become an optometrist?

ANSWER from Dr. Francis M. Terranova, O.D. on 18 June 2002:
About 95% of the people entering optometry school have a minimum of a bachelor's degree.  There are many pre-requisite courses needed, for example: four semesters of college chemistry, two semesters of college physics, biochemistry, biology, plus calculus.  I believe the minimum number of completed college semester credits is 90 just to apply to optometry school.

Optometry school is four years and during the last two years, the student must take three sets of National Boards and pass them.  If you do not pass them, you cannot apply for licensure in any State.  These three exams are each three days long and are very intense, testing in every area from clinical optometry to physics of a telescope, to human anatomy and physiology.  Each of the three exams has four parts and all four parts must be passed in order to move to the next exam.  So once you have completed the National Board exam and have graduated from optometry school, you may now apply for licensure.  However, many of the students do not know the results of the third part of the National Board exam until a month after graduation.

Now some students will elect to do a residency for one year in either pediatrics, low vision, hospital optometry, contact lenses, etc.  This is done at a very low income for one year but teaches the optometrist many extra skills that he/she did not learn while in optometry school.

Overall, it takes about nine years to complete a good optometric education prior to opening ones own practice.

Frank Terranova
Developmental Optometrist
California, USA

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What salary can a new optometrist expect to start out at?

ANSWER from Frank Terranova, O.D. on 14 December 2002:
You asked also what salary can a new optometrist plan to start?  The key word to your question is START.  If you are new at any job, you are considered inexperienced.  The same is true in optometry.  It also depends on the mode of practice (in private office, a commerical establishment, HMO, or for the government) which determines your salary.  The average person fresh from school and newly licensed can expect to make $40-$55/ hour while someone who has many years of experience can make as high as $300/ hour.  It may sound like a lot of money but remember you are paying back those student loans that gave you that education.  It usually takes 10-15 years to pay back the cost of your education.

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I am thinking about a career in optometry but I do not know much about the education aspect of it.  I am about to be a senior in high school and about to make my college decisions.  I plan on applying to Stephen F Austin in Texas, and they have a pre-optometry course offered there.  My questions are:

1) Will this course teach me everything I need to know about optometry, so I can later apply to optometry school?

2) Are all pre-optometry course three years?

3) Do I have to get a some sort of degree before applying to optometry school?

4) Is it better if I apply to a school that has a pre-optometry program and is an optometry school (U of Houston) or is it ok to apply at SFA and then apply to UH after I finish the pre-optometry course?

Thank you so much for your time.  Your webpage really answered a few of my other optometry questions.

ANSWER from Michelle Mock on 24 July 2005:
Congratulations are your decision to pursue optometry as a career.  Please read Frank Terranova’s interview at:
He gives a lot of interesting information as well as great links.

You should also contact someone at Stephen F. Austin to see if what they are offering is what you expect from it.  Also, you have a lot of regular classes to take towards your Bachelors degree.  I assume that the program at SFA is covering those courses but also including those you will need for Optometry school.  You don't have to make career decisions now.  You may find that something else catches your interest once you start your university studies.  Keep your mind and eyes open to all the possibilities.

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I'm a freshman in college right now and I am interested in studying optometry.  I was reading Dr. Frank Terranova's archive question and answers and I wanted to know since it takes 4 years to go to optometry school and within the last two years there needs to be 3 national tests taken and passed to have a state board license.  My question is if I do not pass that test, is it possible I could take the test over until I do pass or am I only allowed one chance to take the test.  Also my other concern is that, it's my first year in college, and I did not do so well in my biology and chemistry class.  I made C's in both classes.  Will this hurt my chances in getting into optometry school?

ANSWER from Michelle Mock on 1 February 2006:
This question is one that requires research, not an expert answer.  If I were you, I would go visit some optometrists where you live.  Ask them the questions you asked us and get their advice.  You can also talk to your college counselor and/or someone at a local school of optometry.  Research the requirements for entry into various Optometry Schools.

Science classes are clearly necessary for a field like optometry or anything in the medical field.  Your high school grades won't count as much as what you LEARNED.  Your further schooling is dependent upon what you learned earlier.  If you didn't learn very much in your high school science classes, it may make it more difficult learning those subjects at the university level.  However, sometimes as you get a litle older, things begin to make more sense and are easier to learn.  So, don't worry about past grades.  Do your best from here on and you should be able to enter the field of your choice.

When you take those exams, you may find, like Dr. Terranova did, that your strengths and interests may actually be somewhere else. :-)  Best wishes in your studies and future career.

Michelle Mock
Imagiverse Educational Consortium

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Who is suited to become an optometrist?

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 18 August 2006:
Like with any profession, you want to enjoy the job!  An optometrist must enjoy working with people.  There are different types of optometrists.  Some specialize in geriatrics, others with children.  Most see a variety of patients.  Probably the most important trait for an optometrist is the ability to work with people.  If you don't enjoy people, optometry would be one of the careers you don't want to pursue.  I hope that helps!

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I am a sophmore in high school and I'm interested in becoming an optometrist; where should I get my classes needed to get into a graduate school?

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 11 September 2006:
You will want to go to optometry school but first you will need to complete your 4 year degree.  Your high school counselor should be able to help you with the planning for this.  You can also check what the various optometry schools require as prerequisites.  The Southern California College of Optometry lists their requirements here: http://www.scco.edu/admissions/admreq.html

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I am a senior in high school and I am interested in becoming an optometrist.  I plan to go to San Jose State University.  I was wondering what is the best choice to major in and what classes should I take to prepare myself.

ANSWER from Jenny Alvarez on 16 November 2006:
There are a few places you'll want to look for more information about your question.  First, you'll want to look at this (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos073.htm#training) website.  It will tell you all the qualifications you will need to become a licensced optometrist.  Next, you will have to go to the San Jose State University website (http://www.sjsu.edu/) and make sure that they offer those courses required.  Happy Researching!

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Do I need to be strong in math to complete optometry school or programs dealing with that?

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 19 March 2007:
It depends on what you mean by "strong".  Math is required to complete a degree and enable you to go on to medical or optometry school.  There are related careers that may not require a degree but to be a well-rounded person, you will need some level of math.  Check into the school that you want to attend and find out from them what is required of applicants.  Good luck.

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I have been researching about being an optometrist, and it said you need to take pre-optometry school before the actual optometry school.  For the pre-optometry school, they said you could take a Bachelor's degree in science, and then they listed all these classes.  Does it matter where you take the Bachelor's degree?  Does the Bachelor's degree of Science count as the part of pre-optometry school?

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 7 May 2007:
The best thing for you to do is check with the Optometry school where you wish to attend.  Most schools have websites.  Find out what their requirements are.  If you think about pre-optometry the same way you think of pre-med, it'll give you an idea.  A Bachelor's degree on its own is not enough.  You will need to meet certain prerequisites in order to be accepted into optometry school.  The Southern California School of Optometry lists their application requirements and pre-requisites at: http://www.scco.edu/admissions/admreq.html

You ask if it matters where you obtain the Bachelor's degree.  It only matters to the extent that the "best" candidates are selected from all applicants.  Sometimes the university attended could make a difference, when they review your application, but they look at many things in order to come to a decision.

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Is it very difficult to become an optometrist?  Obviously I imagine quite difficult but how difficult?  I am planning in pursuing a career in optometry and have many questions on it.

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 13 May 2007:
"Difficulty" is a relative measure.  Contact optometry schools, universities and other optometrists and ask for their opinions.  Yes, it is not simple to get into optometry school, but so are many other things.  Do your research well and know the requirements.  If you put your heart into your studies, you can do wonders!

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Last Updated:
11 July 2007

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