Optometry is a specialized field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems. To become an optometrist, individuals must complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree and pass exams to obtain a state license. This process, which includes undergraduate studies, can take up to nine years. Optometrists specialize in eye and vision care by providing comprehensive eye exams and diagnosing eye diseases or disorders.
They can repair most refractive errors by using corrective lenses (eyeglasses and contact lenses) or by providing low vision aids or vision therapy. The most common eye problems in the United States include refractive errors, such as myopia, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia. Doctors of optometry are considered doctors under Medicare, but they are not medical doctors. They are licensed to practice in their home states. Optometrists who have a doctor's degree in optometry and a state license can repair most refractive errors by using corrective lenses (eyeglasses and contact lenses) or by providing low vision aids or vision therapy. Optometry offers numerous specializations, including pediatric optometry (working with infants and children) and low vision rehabilitation (treating patients with non-optical aids or for low vision).
The scope of optometric practice varies by location. Some states allow optometrists to perform ophthalmic procedures related to the removal of foreign bodies from the eye, to inject pharmaceutical agents to treat eye diseases, and to prescribe controlled substances such as hydrocodone. The functions of the optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist differ in terms of their job roles, duties and responsibilities, level of education and average salaries. To become an optometrist, individuals must first earn a bachelor's degree in a scientific or premedical field. After that, they must complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree in a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Optometric Education (ACOE).In addition to the doctorate degree, all practicing optometrists must also have a state license.
To obtain this license, they must pass the National Board of Optometry Examiners (NBEO) exam. This three-part comprehensive exam covers basic applied science, patient evaluation and management, and clinical skills. In addition, the National Board administers specialized exams for professionals seeking to expand their scope of practice. Between undergraduate studies and obtaining a license in optometry, becoming an optometrist can take approximately nine years. People seeking to pursue an education as an optometrist must first earn a bachelor's degree.
They must also pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), which measures their knowledge of natural and physical sciences and evaluates their reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning skills. Optometrists must commit to lifelong learning. There are ample online opportunities to gain a general knowledge of optometry for those interested in the latest industry trends. In addition, for practicing optometrists looking for timely and relevant content to learn advanced concepts, the continuing education opportunities necessary to renew their license are available online. Finally, it is important to note that optometrists refer ophthalmologists for serious eye conditions that require surgery or specialized treatment.