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Factors to Consider When Selecting an Optometry School

Higher Education Articles March 31, 2015

The field of optometry will prepare students for academic study in optometry, clinical practice as optometrists, or careers in visual health research. Bachelor’s degree programs in pre-optometry are available, and advanced students may look into doctoral degrees leading to careers in clinical practice or research. Most students choose to earn a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Vision Science at the same time.

Selecting an Optometry School

Four-year universities and colleges offer optometry and vision science programs. In this article, we take a look at some important factors to consider when you select an optometry school:

Optometry Program Preparation

Coursework covering a variety of optical physiology topics is available through schools with competitive optometry programs. The educational path of many students is begun through the pursuit of bachelor’s degrees in pre-optometry, thereby providing the science skills needed as a foundation for graduate-level optometry curricula. However, not all schools offer such programs.

Career Goals

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) are available among doctoral programs in the field. Aspiring licensed clinical optometrists should take the second option. Those who opt for the O.D. may consider programs offering specialties that include eye surgery and visual aids, among others. Those interested in careers in research or academia may earn a Ph.D. in Vision Science.

Students can also seek a combined Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). This program would benefit students interested in both clinical practice and research.

Financial Aid

Substantial financial assistance, in the form of assistantships, fellowships, and tuition waivers, is provided by some schools. The highly competitive nature of tuition awards calls for the investment of ample time by students in preparing for them. Though schools offer financial aid at all degree levels, much of the funding is reserved for those pursuing doctoral degree programs.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Programs in Pre-Optometry

Various science courses relevant to the optometry field are available to students enrolled in a pre-optometry bachelor’s degree program.

Schools may involve undergraduate pre-optometry students in observations in clinics or volunteering as practice patients to aid students enrolled in Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree programs. Admission criteria in some schools require incoming students to satisfy minimum score requirements in the mathematics and science areas of standardized tests. Core coursework covers topic areas such as:

•Anatomy and physiology
•General physics
•Organic chemistry
•General chemistry
•General biology

Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) Programs

Students enrolled in this program are prepared to perform clinical work in vision health. Coursework includes practicum-based coursework and extensive lab experiences. Students gain first-hand experience working with patients, and they can expect to become adept at detecting and treating eye conditions.

Students need at least four years to complete most programs. Coursework includes a standard core of courses, but also covers elective options in areas such as a foreign language for optometrists and ocular prosthetics. Core coursework covers topic areas such as:

•Pediatric optometry
•Pharmacology
•Neuroanatomy
•Optics

Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)/Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Vision Science Programs

Students enrolled in some optometry schools are offered the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. and O.D. in Vision Science simultaneously, whereby the students will be enabled to seek careers in clinical practice, vision research, or an academic optometry.

A master’s degree in vision science is essential in order to satisfy eligibility criteria related to most programs. The student ends the program with preparation for state licensure for clinical practice after presentation of an original dissertation. Research topics cover various areas of vision science, such as contact lenses, and spatial navigation, and include neurophysiology. Apart from courses found in O.D. programs, Ph.D. courses feature:

•Ethics in vision science
•Teaching methods in vision science
•Experimental design

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