A doctor of optometry (O.D.), often referred to as an optometrist, is one who specializes in examining, measuring, and treating certain visual defects in order to improve or preserve a person’s vision.  An optometrist does not require a license as a physician.  An ophthalmologist, however, is distinguished as being a licensed physician with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye.  The term oculist is not clearly defined and is sometimes used in reference to both an ophthalmologist and a doctor of optometry.  Conversely, the term optician is used specifically for one who makes or sells optical goods.

There are many different technologies used in examining the eye and in measuring visual defects.  For example, after taking a visual health history, an optometrist may use one or more of the following instruments: ophthalmoscope, biomicroscope, tonometer, eye charts, contrast lighting and many other techniques to examine the physical, physiological and functional aspects of the patient’s visual system.

Modes of treatment vary also depending on a diagnosis of the cause of poor sight.  They include provision of eye glasses, contact lenses, or artificial eyes, orthoptics, i.e. vision therapy, and perceptual training procedures.  Referral to a physician may be necessary for the care of a general health problem, e.g. high blood pressure or diabetes, or of a specific disease of the eye.


Generally, eight years of college level coursework following high school graduation is required.  Most students complete an undergraduate degree before entering a four year accredited degree program at one of the schools or colleges of optometry.

Requirements to gain admission to a college of optometry vary and it is important to contact the school of your choice for a list of required courses.  In general you should take at least one year of pre-professional science courses, i.e. general and organic chemistry, physics, biology or zoology, as well as English, college mathematics, statistics, psychology, sociology and other courses which help you to understand and communicate with people.

All schools and colleges of optometry require applicants to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).  This is a standardized examination designed to measure general academic ability and comprehension of scientific information.  Students usually take the OAT during their third year of college in preparation to submit their application for optometric training early in their fourth year.


You will have considerable choice of type and location of work.  First, however, you must be state licensed.  All states require graduation from an accredited professional degree program and a licensure examination, both written and clinical.  The AOA Practice Resource Network is a computerize placement service free to all fourth year optometry students.  This service will match your requests to openings available.  Alternatively you may choose to return to your home town and practice there, especially if it is an area with a shortage of eyecare professionals.

Most optometrists are self-employed, establishing their own flexible working schedule and receiving few emergency calls.  Others prefer a more structured work style choosing a career in the military, public health, or other government service.  Locations such as hospitals, clinics, teaching institutions and community health centers may offer openings for optometrists, and the opthalmic industry may be an option as well.


Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
6110 Executive Blvd, Suite 420
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 231- 5944