Optometrists are committed to providing primary vision care through the diagnosis, treatment, and management of changes and problems to the visual system that result from diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. Optometrists commonly work in private clinics, but opportunities also exist for working in physicians’ offices and optical goods stores.
Majors and Coursework
Optometry schools do not give preference to particular majors over others, nor do they give preference to students with multiple majors or minors. Likewise, they do not give preference to a Bachelor of Science degree over a Bachelor of Arts degree. Most optometry schools seek to construct a class of students that is diverse in academic and experiential backgrounds. They look at the depth and richness of a student’s undergraduate experience rather than the quantity of titles and certifications earned. As such, pre-optometry students should select their majors based on their interest in a subject and their passion for studying it.
Although optometry schools do not give preference to certain types of majors over others, there is a common set of prerequisites that students must fulfill regardless of their area of study. Generally, the requirements for optometry school include:
- 2 Semesters of General Chemistry with Lab
- 1-2 Semesters of Organic Chemistry with Lab
- 2-3 Semesters of Biology with Lab
- 1 Semester of Microbiology with Lab
- 2 Semesters of Physics with Lab
- 1 Semester of Calculus; 1 Semester of Statistics
In addition to the core Biology-Chemistry-Physics sciences, many optometry schools require courses in other subject areas. Due to the variation among the optometry schools’ requirements, students are encouraged to identify what schools they plan to apply to early in their junior year in order to determine the specific requirements they need to complete over their last two years as an undergraduate student. The most common requirements include:
- 1 Semester of Biochemistry
- 1 Semester of Anatomy and 1 Semester of Physiology
- 1-2 Semesters of English Composition
- 1 Semester of Psychology
While slight differences exist (e.g. pre-optometry students do not have to take introductory sociology), the recommended sequence of courses for pre-optometry students is similar to pre-medical students and can be found on the Medicine page. The sequences cover the most common requirements.
Deciding to pursue a career in optometry is a significant commitment. Although the personal and professional rewards of the career can be great, so are the demands. As such, gaining formal exposure to the practice of optometry is an essential component of a student’s exploration of the field. While most optometry schools do not require a minimum amount of job shadowing/work hours, most expect applicants to have spent some time observing the work of optometrists. It is recommended that applicants complete at minimum of 40 hours of job shadowing/work during their undergraduate career. It is also recommended that pre-optometry students diversify their experiences by shadowing in both corporate and private offices. Finally, students are encouraged to shadow ophthalmologists at one of the area hospitals in order to learn about the professional relationship between optometrists and their physician counterparts.
The application cycle for optometry schools is an extensive process that takes over a year (including preparation of application materials) and requires numerous, well-informed decisions and keen attention to details. Support for the application process is provided by the pre-health advisor. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment to discuss any matter related to the application process. Individual appointments may be scheduled in My Journey.
Letters of Recommendation
CWRU undergraduate students applying to optometry schools may request a Composite Letter Packet to be submitted by the pre-health advisor. The packet consists of individual letters of recommendation from faculty, professional mentors and supervisors, and a letter of evaluation from a pre-health advisor. Visit the Advisor Letter Services page for instructions on how to request a composite letter packet for the current application cycle and to submit letters of recommendation.