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A doctor of optometry is a primary healthcare professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems and other abnormalities. Optometrists can prescribe optometric treatment such as corrective lenses, contact lenses or vision therapy that may be required to provide the patient with clear and efficient vision. Optometrists are different from ophthalmologists, who are physicians specializing in eye surgery and the treatment of eye diseases, and opticians, who fill lens prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists.

Optometrists need a Doctor of Optometry degree, which requires the completion of a four-year program at an accredited school of optometry. Requirements for admission to optometry schools include college courses in English, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.

Because a strong background in science is important, many applicants to optometry school major in a science, such as biology or chemistry, as undergraduates. Other applicants major in another subject and take many science courses offering laboratory experience.

Basic Requirements

One year of English WRI 10 – College Reading and Composition and
WRI 100 – Advanced Writing or
WRI 116 – Science Writing in Natural Sciences
One year of general chemistry CHEM 2 – General Chemistry I (includes lab) and
CHEM 10 – General Chemistry II (includes lab)
One year of organic chemistry CHEM 8/L – Principles of Organic Chemistry with lab and
CHEM 100 – Organic Synthesis and Mechanism with
CHEM 100L – Organic Chemistry lab
One year of biological science BIO 1/L – Contemporary Biology with lab and
BIO 2/L – Introduction to Molecular Biology with lab
One semester of microbiology BIO 120 and 120L – General Microbiology with lab
One year of physics PHYS 8 – Principles of Physics I or
ICP 1B – Integrated Calculus and Physics: Physics or
PHYS 18 – Principles of Physics I for Biological Sciences and
PHYS 9 – Introductory Physics II or
PHYS 19 – Introductory Physics II for Biological Sciences
One semester of psychology PSY 1 - Introduction to Psychology
One year of calculus MATH 21 – Calculus I for Physical Sciences and Engineering and
MATH 22 – Calculus II for Physical Sciences and Engineering or
MATH 11 – Calculus I for Biological Sciences and
MATH 12 - Calculus II for Biological Sciences
One semester of statistics MATH 18 – Statistical Analysis of Scientific Data or
MATH 32 – Statistics or
PSY 10 – Analysis of Psychological Data

Additional Required Courses

Human anatomy BIO 164 – Human Anatomy^
Human physiology BIO 161 – Human Physiology
Biochemistry BIO 101 or CHEM 111 – Biochemistry I
Humanities and social sciences Additional courses in the humanities and social sciences are highly recommended

*Course requirements vary from school to school. You should refer to the individual school catalogs and/or websites for specific information.

^Course currently unavailable at UC Merced. May be taken at community college.  Check with intended schools for more information.

Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)

The OAT, now computer based, is required by all 21 colleges of optometry in the United States and is offered throughout the year. It is recommended that you take the OAT before applying to optometry school. The test covers the following six areas:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Quantitative ability
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Reading comprehension

More information and OAT applications are available online or by calling 800-232-2159.

Internships and Work Experience

It is highly recommended that you obtain experience in the field of optometry before applying. Practically speaking, you can mention your experiences to strengthen your application, and, more importantly, you can get a realistic idea of what an optometrist does.

One way to gain experience is through an internship with an optometrist. The quality of the clinical experience you get will be much more important than the quantity of your experiences. Internship information can be obtained from the Center for Career & Professional Advancement. Other people- and health-oriented experiences are also helpful.

Letters of Recommendation

Supporting letters of recommendation should be from teaching faculty members, preferably in science and research, and from an optometrist, but there are other possibilities as well.


OptomCAS is a service of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and is administered by Liaison International (LI), an education information technology company located in Watertown, Mass.

OptomCAS allows optometry applicants to use a single web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple schools and colleges of optometry. Applicants who apply through OptomCAS submit a completed web-based application comprised of biographical data, colleges and universities attended, academic course history, letters of recommendation, work experience, extracurricular activities, honors and a personal essay. It is each applicant's responsibility to read and follow specific instructions for OptomCAS and the schools and colleges of optometry.

Please note: Applicants are encouraged to apply early.

Applicants may start and submit the OptomCAS application as soon as it is available. Application deadlines will vary for each school or college of optometry. Information on application deadlines can be found in the Directory of Schools and Colleges.


Each school requires an interview as part of the admission process. Some schools do give regional interviews, but it is a good idea to see each school for yourself. Interview invitations are extended to selected applicants after their application materials have been thoroughly reviewed.

California Schools