Doctors of Optometry and their Education
Doctors of optometry are the nation’s largest eye care profession, serving patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, where in more than 3,500 of these communities, they are the only eye doctors.
- Doctors of optometry are trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders that affect the eye or vision.
- After attending a university or college for their undergraduate education, optometry students concentrate specifically on the structure, function and disorders of the eye for 4 additional years during their graduate education to earn their doctoral degree.
- While concentrating on the eye and visual system, optometrists also study general health in courses such as human anatomy, biochemistry and physiology.
- In addition to their formal, doctoral-level training, all optometrists participate in ongoing continuing education courses to stay current on the latest standards of care and to maintain their licenses to practice. Optometry is one of the only doctoral-level health care professions to require continuing education in every state for license renewal.
As primary eye care providers, doctors of optometry are an integral part of the health care team, earning their doctoral degree just as dentists, podiatrists and other doctors do.
- Prior to admittance into optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor’s degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics courses.
- Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral-level study concentrating on the eye, vision and associated systemic disease. In addition to profession-specific courses, optometrists are required to take systemic health courses that focus on a patient’s overall medical condition as it relates to the eyes.
- Upon completion of optometry school, candidates graduate from their accredited college of optometry and hold the doctor of optometry (OD) degree.
- Some optometrists participate in residency programs following optometry school. This experience offers doctors of optometry training in an optometric sub-specialty such as pediatric optometry, low vision care, or geriatrics.
Optometric Education in Practice
- Optometrists must pass a rigorous national examination administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). The three-part exam includes basic science, clinical science and patient care.
- All optometrists are required to participate in ongoing continuing education courses to stay current on the latest standards of care.
- Curriculums and continuing education are updated on an ongoing basis to reflect technological advances, including surgery techniques, prescriptive medications and other medical treatments related to eye diseases and disorders.
- In addition to being the experts on eye and vision diseases and disorders, doctors of optometry have the education and training to diagnose the ocular manifestations of diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes and hypertension. They also are qualified to evaluate their patients for surgery when appropriate and often manage their patients’ care pre- and post-operatively.