The number of optometry schools in America is limited – there are 20 schools in all, including the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. That makes it just 19 schools in the whole of USA. There’s more grief – the class size of each school is restricted. That means to get into optometry schools, a student must get great grades. Here’s how such schools deliver education:
The Doctor of Optometry (OD) Degree
Optometry schools offer the OD degree. The program is full-time and takes four years to complete. Every school offers its students access to physical and human resources to supplement their studies. Students have to engage in research and clinical work as well. After graduating, the student becomes competent enough to practice in any part of America.
Optometry Schools – Minimum Requirements
The minimum requirements are demanding because the schools are few. The most demanding schools require applicants to complete courses in psychology, biology, physics, statistics, chemistry (general, organic, and biochemistry), and physiology. Though non-demanding optometry schools include these subjects in their first year curriculum, it is best that the student prepares and includes these courses in his field of study before applying for an OD degree.
Getting a OD degree is tough work. Students must complete courses in bacteriology, immunology, basic sciences, genetics, neuro-anatomy, etc. They also must complete an OD thesis.
Students also have to participate in clinical activities and assist in patient care. They have to gain experience by working in clinics where they must learn to examine patients, understand how medicine is prescribed, prescribe therapies, and manage procedures including emergency and advanced diagnostic procedures. They also get to work in specialty clinics where they must participate and assist in the treatment of ocular disease, binocular vision, occupational vision and other complex conditions impacting the visual system.
Reputed optometry schools typically sign teacher-exchange agreements with other schools. Students are also required to participate in community welfare programs.
OD degree holders can start their practice after obtaining a license from the state. Optometry schools sufficiently prepare the student for the state licensing exams. Here’s what the graduate has to go through in order to get a state license. The following state exams are based on laws prevalent in the state of California. Graduates should note that every state has its own laws.
All students who want a license in California must pass a 3-part exam conducted by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. The exam includes a hands-on test in clinical skills. In addition to these exams, the graduate must also pass the State Board’s Optometry Laws and Regulation exam.
All practicing graduates are also required to complete a certain number of hours in continuing education every 2 years. The continuing education must cover specific eye conditions like ocular infections, glaucoma, steroid use, etc.
Residency Programs and specializations offered by Optometry Schools
About 20% of new students choose a residency. A residency is typically a 1-year program and is considered very important. Residency students are expected to specialize in any one of the following:
- Primary care
- Contact Lenses/Cornea
- Low vision/Geriatric
- Binocular vision
- Ocular disease
Residents also must complete a research project related to their specialty and help teach other OD degree students. Every residency program is impacted by the funding that a college receives.
The market for fresh OD degree holders
There is a huge clinical faculty demand across USA for ODs with residency training. The paycheck’s handsome and so, many graduates choose to teach after completing their residency program. Every OD must obtain a state license before starting a practice or getting employment in a healthcare setting.
Optometry schools – Strengths
- The number of optometry schools is limited and demand for admissions is high, and therefore every school is picky and choosy about new admissions. This is why most schools boast that they are host to top-ranking students.
- Most optometry schools give access to a wide range of educational opportunities. Students participate in clinical work, research, studies, work at externship sites, and more, and can expect to get a 360-degree experience of the profession.
- The school also prepares students adequately for state licensure.
Optometry Schools – Challenges
- Optometry students represent a confluence of cultures, race and ethnicities. Students can be Asian, Caucasians, Hispanic, African or from any other race. Managing such a culturally diverse body of students sometimes poses a challenge.
- Getting top-class faculty is another challenge. There is a shortage of optometry faculty across America even though the number of colleges is small.
- Funding gets in the way of residency training and many times funding limitations make the school accommodate a lesser number of residents per year.
This was all the information you ever needed to know about optometry schools. If you want to become an optometrist, then you must plan very early because the number of schools and faculty is not going to increase in a hurry. Good luck.