Optometrists are primary care professionals who work specifically with the eye. They examine, diagnose and treat injuries, diseases and disorders related to vision, the eye and related structures.


Students who plan to go to a college of optometry can pursue any major, as long as they have completed the prerequisite coursework required for admission. Most colleges will require students to complete a bachelor’s degree prior to matriculation, however, some may accept academically strong students who have completed only three years of undergraduate coursework. In either scenario, you should begin preparing early in your academic career to be sure to fulfill all requirements for admission.


Is this career right for you?

  • Are you comfortable working in close proximity to other people?
  • Do you enjoy working in collaboration with others to solve problems?
  • Can you handle repetition in your career, both in action and communication?

Undergraduate Timeline


First Year

  • Select a major that interests you and in which you will perform well. If your major is not in the natural sciences, be sure to take optometry prerequisite courses as electives.
  • Connect to tutoring, supplemental instruction, attend professor's office hours to ensure that you are mastering the material covered in all courses.
  • Establish a strong GPA from your first semester.
  • Start shadowing an optometrist.
  • Become familiar with college of optometry admission requirements.
  • Become involved on campus through social and academic organizations.

Second Year

  • Maintain a strong GPA and continue to build relationships with faculty. Start thinking about who you might ask for letters of recommendation.
  • Consider getting involved in undergraduate research.
  • Gain additional shadowing experiences in a variety of different settings. Also consider gaining practical work experience in a medical setting, by volunteering or getting employment.
  • Begin to research and identify the colleges of optometry to which you think you will apply.

Third Year

  • Continue to maintain a strong GPA in your prerequisite courses and overall degree.
  • Visit the colleges of optometry to which you plan on applying.
  • Line up letters of recommendation. It is strongly recommended you request at least one letter from a practicing optometrist who is familiar with you and your demonstrated knowledge of the field.
  • Prepare additional application materials (i.e. personal statement); varies between colleges.
  • Research application deadlines (based on preferred start date) for the colleges to which you plan on applying.
  • Begin preparations to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT); register for an exam date and study throughout the year.
  • Set up an account with OptomCAS, the Optometry Centralized Application Service. All schools and colleges of optometry participate in OptomCAS. The application with open in late June/early July; plan to apply in late summer or early fall going into your senior year. Application deadlines will vary by college.

Fourth Year

  • Be sure to submit secondary application materials, if necessary.
  • Prepare for interviews.
  • Research alternative graduate programs, post baccalaureate premedical programs and jobs to have a parallel plan if not accepted by an optometry college on the first attempt.

Most colleges of optometry do not require a particular major. Students planning to attend an optometric college should choose a primary major that best fits their interests. Regardless of major, programs are looking for students who have done well in their coursework and demonstrated proficiency in natural science and mathematics curriculum. Be certain to incorporate all necessary prerequisite coursework into your degree either through your major or as electives. Some schools or colleges may prefer a Bachelor of Science degree. You should verify this for the institutions to which you plan to apply. It is also important that you demonstrate knowledge of the profession by gaining shadowing or volunteer experience and prove your leadership potential through involvement in various clubs and activities.

Professional Degree

Colleges of optometry award the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after a four-year, doctoral-level course of study. This is the only degree that qualifies you to become an optometrist. Once you graduate from an accredited professional optometric degree program, you are then able to obtain licensure.

Length of Professional Training

After completing an average of four years of undergraduate work, students who pursue the OD degree will complete another four years of doctoral-level study. While it is not required to complete a one-year residency program after graduation, it is recommended if you wish to pursue employment as a clinical faculty member. A number of private practices and hospitals are also looking favorably at job applicants who have completed residencies.

Prerequisite Coursework

Prerequisite coursework varies between institutions, so it's important you review the admission requirements for the colleges to which you plan to apply. This may require you to directly contact admissions representatives at these institutions.


  • BSCI 10110: Biological Diversity
  • BSCI 10120: Biological Foundations
  • BSCI 30130: Human Physiology OR BSCI 21010: Anatomy and Physiology I and BSCI 21020: Anatomy and Physiology II
    • Should be verified with specific school
  • BSCI 30171 General Microbiology


  • CHEM 10060 and CHEM 10061: General Chemistry I and II
  • CHEM 10062 and CHEM 10063: General Chemistry I and II Laboratory
  • CHEM 30481 and CHEM 30482: Organic Chemistry I and II
    • Or choose, CHEM 20481 and CHEM 20482: Basic Organic Chemistry I and II
  • CHEM 30475 and CHEM 30476: Organic Chemistry I and II Laboratory
    • Second lecture and lab not required for every institution
  • CHEM 30482: Introductory Biological Chemistry OR CHEM 40245: Biochemical Foundations of Medicine


  • MATH 12002: Analytic Geometry and Calculus I OR MATH 12021: Calculus for Life Sciences
  • MATH 30011: Basic Probability and Statistics OR MATH 12022: Probability and Statistics for Life Sciences


  • PHY 13001 and PHY 13021: General College Physics I and Laboratory OR PHY 23101: General University Physics I
  • PHY 13002 and PHY 13022: General College Physics II and Laboratory OR PHY 23102: General University Physics II

other requirements

  • ENG 11011: College Writing I and ENG 21011: College Writing II
  • PSYC 11762: General Psychology
  • Humanities: 2-3 courses
  • Social Sciences: 2-3 courses (includes sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, or additional psychology)


Testing Requirements
Application Services

All schools and colleges of optometry participate in OptomCAS, the Optometry Centralized Application Service. Applicants will file one application and send it to as many optometry programs as they wish to apply.

Advising for Pre-Optometry

General advising for any pre-optometry student in a College of Arts and Sciences major: Erin Lawson, elawson1@kent.edu