Optometry (OD) is a healthcare profession that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of conditions related to the eyes and visual system. Optometrists, also known as doctors of optometry, are primary eye care providers who examine, diagnose, and provide treatment for various eye conditions and vision problems.

What Does an Optometrist Do?

Academic Preparation

There are 23 Optometry Programs in the United States and the prerequisites can vary slightly. However, there are common prerequisites that most optometry schools require. It's essential to research the specific requirements of the optometry programs you are interested in to ensure you meet all the prerequisites.

Optometry Prerequisites by Program

Sample coursework can include:

General Biology I Lecture/Lab BIOL 105 & 105L 4
General Biology II Lecture/Lab BIOL 106 & 106L 4
General Chemistry I Lecture/Lab CHEM 111/112 3/1
General Chemistry II Lecture/Lab CHEM 113/114 3/1
Organic Chemistry I Lecture/Lab CHEM 230/232 3/1
Organic Chemistry II Lecture/Lab CHEM 231/234 4/1
Intro to Physics I Lecture/Lab PHYS 100/100L 4
Intro to Physics II Lecture/Lab PHYS 101/101L 4
Fundamentals of Biochemistry or Biochemistry I CHEM 356/CHEM 350 4
General Psychology PSYCH 101 4
1 Statistics Course  Any department 3-4
Calculus Course MATH 109 4
Other programs may require anatomy or physiology. It is important to look at the schools you are interested in for their specific requirements. Here are links to requirements for OD programs highly desired by USF applicants: 


Many optometry schools require applicants to complete a specified number of clinical observation hours under the supervision of an optometrist. These hours provide firsthand exposure to the optometry profession and demonstrate your understanding of the field. Here are a couple of opportunities to connect with an Optometrist: 

San Francisco Optometric Society

Southern California College of Optometry Shadowing Program for Pre-Optometry Students

Optometry Summer Programs

Additionally, you can take the following steps:

  • Clinical observation: Contact optometry clinics or private practices to inquire about opportunities to observe and shadow optometrists.

  • Volunteer or work in healthcare settings: Look for volunteer or employment opportunities in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, or eye care centers. 

  • Optometric technician or assistant positions: Consider working as an optometric technician or assistant in an optometry practice. These roles involve assisting optometrists with patient care, performing preliminary tests, taking patient histories, and operating diagnostic equipment. 

  • Research experience: Seek opportunities to get involved in research related to optometry or vision science. Many optometry schools value research experience, and it can demonstrate your interest in advancing knowledge within the field. 

  • Extracurricular activities: Participate in extracurricular activities that demonstrate your leadership skills, teamwork abilities, and commitment to service. 

  • Community involvement: Engage in volunteer work or community service related to eye health and vision care. Look for organizations that provide vision screenings, eye care education, or assistance to underserved populations. 

  • Networking and mentorship: Connect with optometrists or current optometry students through professional networking events, informational interviews, or mentorship programs. 

Application Components

Most programs use OptomCAS, a centralized common application service. The application opens each June and individual program deadlines can vary. 

  • Letters of recommendation: Optometry programs typically require letters of recommendation from professors, healthcare professionals, or employers who can speak to your academic abilities, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. Some require a letter from an optometrist.

  • Optometry Admission Test (OAT): The OAT is a standardized exam that assesses an applicant's knowledge and academic abilities in areas such as biology, chemistry, physics, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning.
    Some Optometry programs have made the OAT optional.