Featured Image

See Optometry in Your Future?

Optometrists help the world see as perfectly as possible. But what exactly do optometrists do, and how to they learn to do it?

If the notes on your teachers’ whiteboards are hard to read, what do you do? Chances are you visit an optometrist. You may need glasses, or you may get fitted for contact lenses. Whatever the solution, optometrists help the world see as perfectly as possible. But what exactly do optometrists do, and how to they learn to do it?

In the most basic terms, optometrists counsel patients and help improve vision needs related to their occupations and general lifestyle. This can be through noninvasive treatments, like glasses or contact lenses, or in some instances through surgical options such as laser, refractive, or glaucoma operations. Optometrists examine the internal and external structure of the eye to diagnose systemic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, and vision conditions, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia.

A career in optometry can be a rewarding one, both because it improves patients’ quality of life and it provides many professional advantages. In 2010, an AOA member survey found an average net income of $142,645 for the primary practice of optometry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment will grow by 33% from 2010–2020, more than double the average of all occupations.

But it’s about much more than money for many O.D.s. Optometrists will often open their own practice, providing them with ample independence. Other common career paths include those in public health, hospitals and clinics, government, military, corporate practices, or teaching institutions. Optometrists, like many specialists, have very reasonable working hours as well.

If you spent a day in the shoes of an optometrist, you would probably do things like:

  • Prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Treat an eye infection with antibiotics
  • Improve patients’ eye function through vision therapy
  • Provide critical eye health education for patients coping with changing vision
  • Perform comprehensive eye examinations to correct astigmatism, nearsightedness, and other vision problems
  • Assess patients after surgery and manage postoperative complications

In general O.D.s practice “full-scope” primary care optometry, in which they treat and manage all forms of visual and ocular conditions. Sometimes optometrists choose a specialty, such as ocular disease or geriatrics. And because a four-year optometry curriculum prepares grad-uates for all areas, residencies aren’t required to develop a specialty.

So how can you become an optometrist? Most optometry programs require a bachelor’s degree, or a minimum 90 semester hours of college credit. Prerequisite programs vary, but most include biology, general and organic chemistry, physics, math, and English.

All schools of optometry in the United States and Canada require a passing score on the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), a standardized exam designed to measure general academic ability and comprehension of scientific information. The OAT measures students on four areas: natural sciences, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning. At least one year of college is required to take the exam, but most students elect to complete two or more years before doing so.

When applying to an optometry program, prospective students need to use the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS). This enables applicants to fill out one application and send it to multiple optometry programs. All 21 ASCO member institutions accept the OptomCAS, and the application fee depends on the number of schools you want to receive your application.

ASCO encourages prospective students to have some exposure to optometry, in addition to collaborating with at least one optometrist to observe what they do on a daily basis. Most schools also require an admission interview, where prior experience can be a significant asset.  

For compassionate, dedicated students, optometry may be a clear vision for your future.

This article was written in collaboration with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Recruitment Materials Task Force.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Hailey Riddile

Hailey Riddile

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships to apply for and look into more colleges. While there are many websites similar to CollegeXpress, every website is different, and I've found a lot of good insight on this website. Receiving emails from CollegeXpress about scholarships is extremely useful, and getting insight about colleges near, far, and anywhere in between helps me narrow down my choices to what I want, which is also super helpful. The articles are always really good reads, and I can't stress enough how helpful this website has been to me. Anything related to college is beneficial to me as a senior, and I have learned lots of useful things to help me on my college journey this year.

Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me greatly during my college search. I used their college search feature often and it helped in comparing schools I was looking at. Now that I’ve found a college the scholarship search feature is helping me find a way to find my college experience. CollegeXpress has many helpful features and resources for anyones college search, it truly is a wonderful tool for anyone entering college level!

Fernando Ponce

Fernando Ponce

High School Junior

College is a way of life that helps us find out who we are as a person, and CollegeXpress is a great way to stay connected with our future, even for students with little time on their hands due to the challenges of high school we face.



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

College Matches