What does an optometrist do?

Optometrists are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In some states, optometrists are allowed to perform corrective laser surgeries. Most optometrists are in general practice, but optometrists have the opportunity to specialize in contact lenses, geriatrics, low vision services, occupational vision (to protect and preserve workers vision), pediatrics, sports vision, and vision therapy. Optometrists have the flexibility to work in their own independent practice, partner with a few other optometrists, or work at an established nation chain practice. There are few emergency calls in optometry, and flexible hours allow for a personal life.

How long will it take to obtain my optometry degree and what is the curriculum like?

The doctor of optometry degree generally takes 4 years to complete. In a typical optometry school, the first two years are spent on basic science - gross anatomy, neuroscience, histology, biochemistry, etc. In the third and fourth years, students complete clinical rotations in the optometry school facilities and with practicing optometrists in the community to get supervised hands-on work with patients.

Pre-Health Advisor

Matthew Collier, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
BDK Science Center 207
(937) 327-6395

What tests will I need to take to become a licensed optometrist?

Board certification for optometry students is divided into three parts. The first board exam occurs in the middle of the third year of optometry school and covers basic science along with ocular physiology. The second part of the board is a written exam which covers the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases and occurs in the fourth year. The final part of the board is a practical exam in which you are evaluated as you work with a patient.

What courses should I take at Wittenberg to prepare for optometry school?

Most optometry schools require the following courses:

  • 1 year of General Biology (170 and 180)
  • 1 year of General Chemistry (121 and 162)
  • 1 year of Organic Chemistry (201 and 302)
  • 1 year of Physics (201 and 202 or 280)
  • 1 semester of Calculus (131 OR 201)
  • 1 semester of Statistics (DATA 227)
  • 1 year English (101 and another English A course)
  • 1 semester of Biochemistry
  • 1 semester of Microbiology
  • 1 semester of Human Anatomy and Physiology

While the above prerequisites apply to most optometry schools, some schools add their own requirements. Be sure to check the schools that you are interested in applying to for other required coursework, such as:

  • 1-2 semesters of Psychology ( Indiana, Michigan)
  • 1-2 semesters of Humanities ( Wittenberg's A or R courses)

Required courses can be found at:

What major should I pursue at Wittenberg if I am interested in optometry?

You can choose any of Wittenberg's 20+ majors if you apply to an optometry program upon graduation from Wittenbergas long as you take the prerequisite courses required by the schools to which you apply. Most students who apply major in Biology, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, or Chemistry. As far as the optometry schools are concerned, they do not put much emphasis on whether you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree - that choice is yours. Look at the prerequisite requirements for the schools that you are interested in and the degree requirements for your major to determine which degree is the best match for you.

Do I need to have medically related hours when applying to optometry schools?

Yes. While most optometry programs do not have a specific minimum requirement for number of paid or volunteer hours spent with an optometrist, they expect you to have enough experience in the profession to affirm that it is for you. The schools usually prefer that you spend time with an optometrist in private practice to get a feel for the profession. Volunteering for 2-3 hours each week during the semester demonstrates to the schools your loyalty and commitment to the profession at a time when they know you are already busy.

Is it important that I participate in extracurricular activities while at Wittenberg?

Yes. While the schools do not require a specific number of extracurricular activities or leadership positions, they look for both in your application materials. They consider how many years you spent with each organization and how involved you appear to be with each one (e.g., leadership roles). The schools use your experiences in this area to better understand your ability to socially interact with others, your leadership potential, and your time management skills. They seek to recruit well-rounded individuals who can successfully balance a heavy academic load with medically related experience and extracurricular activities. If successful, they infer that you will rise to the challenge of their academic program when you have fewer non-academic commitments.

How can I locate the optometry program that is best for me?

Start early. Identify 3-5 schools of potential interest before registering for classes in the spring of your SOPHOMORE YEAR. The courses listed above are common to many optometry schools, but there may be additional requirements for the schools you are interested in. It is best to know about those requirements while you still have room in your schedule to fulfill them.

Do research. Go to the schools' websites and make a table of courses required, average GPA of their incoming class, and number of hours in a medical setting (if any). These will give you some idea of where you need to be academically when you graduate from Wittenberg, and the courses you need to take inside your major and in the general education program to make you a good candidate for that particular set of schools. Schools consider both your science GPA and your cumulative GPA, so it is not wise to prioritize your grades in science courses over those taken for your general education requirements.

Summarize your findings. Create a sample table of school information assuming all require general biology and general chemistry. Add a column for each different course as you encounter them as prerequisites at your schools of interest.


Human A&P





Average GPA

Optometry hours

School 1







School 2







School 3






Evaluate your findings. Match your cumulative GPA and OAT scores with the averages for the last incoming class at each school. Read all web pages for clinics/medical centers that have a specialty that interests you. Look for data that report on the percentage of students that have passed the board exams.

Always apply to the schools in the state where your parents are living and paying taxes. You have the best chance to get into the public schools in that state, and the tuition at your in-state school is much less than at a private or out-of-state public school. Apply to the optometry school in your home state if there is one. If your parents live in Indiana, you should definitely apply to the optometry school in Indiana. Indiana residents who lived in Ohio for 4 years while attending Wittenberg get no preference from Ohio State (Ohio's only optometry school). When choosing to apply to schools outside of your home state, choose schools that accept at least 30% out of state students, which are usually private schools. This ensures that you at least have a chance to be interviewed. Apply mainly to private optometry schools outside of your home state. Consider applying to between 2 and 4 optometry schools.

How and when should I apply to optometry schools?

  • If you intend to go directly from Wittenberg to optometry school, apply to the schools of your choice by the end of October of your senior year.
  • You should take the OAT prior to your application (see below).
  • Typically, schools will require official transcripts and three letters of evaluation sent on your behalf in addition to the regular application materials. It is best to have at least one faculty member and one optometrist send letters on your behalf.
  • Some optometry schools do not require on campus interviews, but many do. It is in your best interest to at least visit with the schools in which you are interested to better evaluate their faculty, facilities, and students in order to determine if the school is a good match for you.
  • Wait for the results of your application after the interview (if you had one) to find out if you have been accepted, wait listed, or rejected by that particular school.
  • You are at a disadvantage if you opt to take the OAT late or submit your materials late in the cycle - applications are often considered as they arrive, not at the time of the deadline. Complete and send your materials in a timely manner.

Do I need to go through the Pre-Health Professions Committee when applying?

No. Optometry schools do not require its applicants to have a composite letter of evaluation that is generated by Wittenberg's Pre-Health Professions committee. Instead, you will usually be required to have three letters of evaluation submitted directly to the schools on your behalf. When choosing your evaluators, consider asking at least one optometrist and one faculty member, but be sure to follow the specific directions given to you by each school.

What is the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)?

All applicants to the schools and colleges of optometry are required to take the OAT which test is designed to measure your general academic ability and comprehension of scientific information. Because this is a content based test, you should have taken General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Math, and Physics prior to taking this examination. The test is computerized and can be taken multiple times, with a mandatory wait period of 90 days. The examination lasts approximately 5 hours and consists of:

  • Quantitative Reasoning: tests your ability to perform mathematically using conversions, word problems, and formulas. Calculators are not allowed for the OAT.
  • Survey of the Natural Sciences: tests your knowledge of General Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.
  • Reading Comprehension: tests your ability to read passages, understand the material, and then apply the information.
  • Physics: tests your knowledge of physics ranging from vectors to optics.

Website for the OAT:

Do I need to coordinate my application through a service?

No. There is no central application service for applying to optometry schools. You must request and fill out separate applications for each optometry school to which you apply.

Do you have any tips for preparing an attractive application?

Filling out applications for these professional schools can be difficult and tedious, but require your best effort. Applications must be filled out completely and correctly or they will be returned to you. Having your application returned for further information delays contact with the admissions offices of your target schools. Pay particular attention to the required one page personal statement. Have someone assess your essay (i.e. Career Center staff, Writing Center, etc.) prior to submission. Remember that you are trying to sell yourself to an admissions committee. Irrelevant details, poor sentence and paragraph structure, incorrect grammar, misspelling, typographical errors, etc. detract from the image you wish to create as their ideal candidate.

Which optometry schools have accepted Wittenberg students in the last 10 years?

  • Illinois College of Optometry
  • Indiana University
  • New England College of Optometry
  • The Ohio State University
  • Pennsylvania College of Optometry
  • Southern College of Optometry

What are some of the optometry programs in the nation?

Optometry SchoolsAverage GPAAverage OAT
University of Alabama3.57336
Southern California College of Optometry3.38341
University of California, Berkeley3.42358
Nova Southeastern University3.20317
Illinois College of Optometry3.18320
Indiana University3.47326
New England College of Optometry3.11320
Michigan College of Optometry3.38319
University of Missouri - St. Louis3.20315
State University of New York3.35347
Northeastern State University3.47318
The Ohio State University3.53344
Pacific University3.40330
Pennsylvania College of Optometry3.26320
Inter American University3.04280
Southern College of Optometry3.30331
University of Houston3.41328

These statistics were taken primarily from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry

A great website for gaining reliable information is the one owned by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) found at

Back to top