up close photo of hands holding glasses in front of eye chart

So You Want to Be an Optometrist?

Optometrists are health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system. Optometrists are responsible for examining patients, diagnosing eye and vision problems, testing patients’ depth and color perception, and testing patients’ ability to coordinate and focus their eyes. They also prescribe contact lenses and glasses, treat eye problems like glaucoma, and refer patients to other doctors.

To practice as an optometrist, you must earn an O.D. degree. In 2015, there were 23 accredited O.D. programs in the United States, one of which was in Puerto Rico. Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR is the only optometry school in the Pacific Northwest. Most students have a bachelor’s degree with a pre-medical or biological sciences emphasis before enrolling in an O.D. program. Applicants to O.D. programs must also take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), a computerized exam that tests applicants in four subject areas: science, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.

After finishing an O.D. degree, some optometrists complete a 1-year residency program to get advanced clinical training in the area in which they wish to specialize. Additionally, all states require optometrists to be licensed. Prospective optometrists must have an O.D. degree from an accredited school and must complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. Some states require individuals to pass an additional clinical exam or an exam on laws relating to optometry. All states require optometrists to take continuing education classes and to renew their license periodically.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of optometrists is projected to grow 27% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. As aging baby boomers begin to encounter vision problems, the number of people with chronic conditions continues to rise, and more individuals have access to vision or eye care insurance, more optometrists will be needed to monitor and treat eye conditions.


*Adopted from literature of the American Optometric Association and the Bureau of Labor Statistics