An optometrist may treat a variety of illnesses and conditions associated with the eye, such as vision problems, complications from aging (such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration), and accidents. In addition, they can apply laser surgery to improve vision, and identify related disorders that affect the eye such as diabetes. In some states, optometrists can dispense prescriptions.
Programs in optometry are four-year programs. The degree earned is a Doctor of Optometry. Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery, in addition to diagnosing and treating eye conditions. Opticians fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists.
About half of optometrists work in independent offices, while others work in association with stores, clinics, and hospitals.
Admission to a School of Optometry generally does not require completion of the Bachelor’s degree. A small percentage of students are accepted into optometry programs for enrollment after only three years at an undergraduate school.
Courses required for admission to a School of Optometry vary widely. However, the following courses are required by most programs:
- Calculus, 1-2 semesters
- Anatomy with lab
- Physiology with lab
- Physics, two semesters
- Organic chemistry, 1-2 semesters
- Microbiology with lab
After completion of the Doctor of Optometry, one must pass the National Board of Optometry, administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. Some states require passing another exam in addition to this. Continuing education coursework is generally required to maintain licensure.