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Optometrists examine people's eyes, assess eye health, diagnose vision problems, treat eye diseases, prescribe contact lenses and glasses, and some even perform laser eye surgery. All of these things involves using delicate instruments to examine one of the most delicate parts of the human body. If this sounds like something that you may be interested in, you may to consider pursuing a degree in optometry. An optometric degree program will teach you how to examine an eye; how to recognize, diagnose, and treat diseases and impairments; how to use optical instruments; and also will prepare you for the licensing exam that is required in every state to work as an optometrist.
Classes and Assignments of an Optometry Major
A doctoral degree is required to practice optometry, but students should gear their undergraduate degree toward the optometry field by focusing on areas of study like biology, anatomy, organic chemistry, calculus, biochemistry, and physics. The pre-optometry requirements vary by school, so check with the school you're interested in to learn exactly what courses you need to take prior to enrolling. Once in a graduate optometry program, some of the courses you can expect to take include optics, advanced human anatomy and histology, neuroanatomy, vision science, corneal disease, and orthokeratology. Outside of the classroom, you will be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours, where you will shadow an optometrist and acquire hands-on education in the field.
Degree Levels for an Optometry Major
- Bachelor's. This is commonly referred to as a pre-optometry program, and will cover all of the required general studies courses, such as mathematics, history, social sciences, and English, as well as the prerequisite courses — listed in the previous paragraph — to prepare and qualify you for an optometry graduate program.
- Doctoral. The courses in a doctoral program in optometry will focus extensively on the human eye, how to examine it, diagnose problems, and address those problems. Earning this degree will prepare you for your licensing exam and a career as an optometrist.
A Future as an Optometry Major
Every state requires optometrists to have a doctoral degree from an accredited school of optometry and to obtain a state license before they are able to practice. So, when considering a school, check the U.S. Department of Education's database to make sure the school is accredited. Then, check with your state to learn what you need to do to gain licensure.
The majority of optometrists either have their own practice or work in offices of optometrists. There are also opportunities available at hospitals, optical stores, outpatient care centers, and with the government. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see an increase in employment by 24%, and they show the average annual income for optometrists to be $106,750. But remember that this amount can vary depending on where you are located in the country, the practice you work for, the amount of experience you have, and more.
Students with a degree in Optometry are considered well prepared for becoming Optometrists.