Optometrists, also known as doctors of optometry, or ODs, are the main providers of vision care. They examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, and they test patients' depth and color perception and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. Optometrists may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, or they may provide other treatments, such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation.

Optometrists also test for glaucoma and other eye diseases and diagnose conditions caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, referring patients to other health practitioners as needed. They prescribe medication to treat vision problems or eye diseases, and some provide preoperative and postoperative care to cataract patients, as well as to patients who have had corrective laser surgery. Like other physicians, optometrists encourage preventative measures by promoting nutrition and hygiene education to their patients to minimize the risk of eye disease. (bls.gov 2010-07-19)

Tips for students interested in pursuing an optometry degree:

  • Optometrists need a Doctor of Optometry degree, which requires the completion of a 4-year program at an accredited school of optometry.  Because a strong background in science is important, many applicants to optometry school major in a science, such as biology or chemistry, as undergraduates.   Some schools will accept students who have completed at least 90 credits of college level work. 
  • Start looking at the schools you would eventually be interested in applying to in order to meet their requirements.  You can find a list of schools accredited by the American Optometric Association at their website.
  • Become familar with the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS) site.  To be considered for admission, all optometry schools require students to apply thorugh this web-based application service.  Check with the individual schools to see if they require other documents outside of the ones submitted through the web-based application service.
  • Prepare to take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT), a standardized exam which measures academic ability and scientific comprehension. The OAT consists of four tests: survey of the natural sciences, such as biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry; reading comprehension; physics; and quantitative reasoning. As a result, most applicants take the test after their sophomore or junior year in college, allowing them an opportunity to take the test again and raise their score.
  • Gain experience through paid employment or by volunteering in an optometrist office.  Qualified optometry applicants will be able to demonstrate an interest in and awareness of optometry as well as show a solid understanding of the daily practice of an optometrist.

Courses required for admission by most Optometry schools**

UAF Course(s)
General chemistry with lab


Chem 105X, 106X
General biology with lab


Biol 115X, 116X
Organic chemistry8Chem 321, 322 (also Chem 324 if lab required)
General physics with lab8Phys 103X, 104X or Phys 211X, 212X
Microbiology4Biol 342
Psychology3Psy 101


Math 200X
Statistics3Stat 200X



Courses RECOMMENDED by many optometry schools (varies by school):

UAF Course(s)
Additional biology such as human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and biochemistry


Biol 111X, 112X, 303, 342
Psychology and sociology courses


Psy 101, 240, 245; Soc 100X, 101
World history or western civilization courses3-6Hist 100X, 101, 102
Public speaking


Comm 131X or 141X
Computer literacy3CIOS/CITS courses
Humanities/social sciences


UAF core courses



**Admission requirements vary by school. This chart was compiled by researching a majority of optometry schools. However, it is important to check the admission requirements of the specific school that you are interested in to be sure that you will meet all of the prerequisites required by that school. A course listed as recommended here may be required by your school of choice.

For students attending UAF, bachelor's degrees in Psychology, Biological Sciences, a combination of these or a number of other degrees require many of the same courses (see the degree worksheets ). Students considering a career in optometry should contact the Academic Advising Center or the department of their intended major.

Attending Health Care Programs Outside of Alaska

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