University of Vermont

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Optometrists are primary vision care providers. They examine, diagnose and treat injuries, diseases and disorders related to sight and the visual system.  Optometrists provide routine preventative check-ups; prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses; prescribe medication, and provide non-invasive treatment for eye conditions.  If surgery is needed, the patient is referred to an Ophthalmologist (MD).

There are 23 optometry schools in the U.S. (and Puerto Rico) that grant the 4-year graduate OD or doctor of optometry degree.  Graduates must pass a state-licensing exam to practice.  There are over 300 one-year postgraduate residencies available to new graduates who choose to specialize, i.e. in pediatrics, geriatrics, ocular disease, and vision therapy.  Most optometrists are self-employed and work in private practice, while others work in   hospitals, ophthalmologic practices, retail settings, and community health centers.  Optometrists also teach, engage in research, and work as corporate consultants. 

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Pre-requisite coursework can vary from program to program, so be sure to review school-specific requirements.

Commonly Required and Recommended Course Work



2 semesters with lab

BIOL 1 & 2  OR
BCOR 11 & 12
(pending major)

General Chemistry

2 semesters with lab

CHEM 31 & 32

Organic Chemistry

1 semester with lab

CHEM 141


Most schools require 1 semester and may require lab if only 1 semester of organic chemistry taken



2 semesters with lab

Phys 11 & 12


1 semester generally required

MMG 101

Anatomy & Physiology

2 semesters required by many schools on West Coast
1-2 semesters recommended by some other schools

ANPS 19 & 20




1 to 2 semesters.  May accept courses recognized by UVM as equivalent to English.

Choose writing intensive courses, i.e. ENG 1, 6, 50, 57, etc.  Some TAP and Honors College Seminars may fulfill the requirement.



Most schools require at least 1 semester of calculus and 1 semester of statistics.

MATH 19, 20
MATH 21, 22 (for majors or AP)
STAT 141 - optimal
STAT 111 - acceptable
Statistics-heavy courses in other disciplines may be sufficient, i.e. PSYS 54.


Behavioral Sciences

Some schools require 1 to 2 semesters.  Psychology is commonly specified.


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Students can and should seek out opportunities to test and affirm their interest in optometry.  Moreover, some schools require a letter of recommendation from an optometrist, so shadowing, or preferably volunteer work or employment are highly recommended.  

Schools look for evidence of intellectual ability, altruism, interpersonal skills, leadership potential and a commitment to the optometry field.  Along with earning a strong academic record, successful applicants have engaged and distinguished themselves outside of the classroom through community service and leadership activities.
Step out of your comfort zone and find opportunities to work with diverse populations.  As a professional, you will need to be culturally responsive to a broad variety of patients.

Schools will assess your professionalism and integrity based on letters of recommendation and, very likely, your social media presence.  Start projecting a mature and professional identity now.

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The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a multiple-choice exam comprised of four tests: Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry), Reading Comprehension, Physics, and Quantitative Reasoning.  The computer-based test is administered year-round at Prometric Test Centers across the U.S.  Prior to scheduling your test date, you need to register for the test and obtain an eligibility letter.   Plan to schedule 60 to 90 days in advance of your desired date. 

Timing:  Students are encouraged to take the OAT no later than June in the year of application so they can submit a complete application early in a rolling admissions cycle. 

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You will need to submit two to three letters of recommendation with your application; check school-specific requirements for letters.  Be sure to choose reference providers who know you well and will support your candidacy with enthusiasm.

Some schools require a letter from an optometrist with whom you have worked or shadowed, and most require 1 to 2 academic letters from science faculty.

Most schools accept, and only one school, SUNY-O, currently requires a letter from the Pre Health Advisory Committee.  To obtain this letter, candidates must open a pre-health file in the Career Services Office and attend two formal interviews to participate in a formal review process.  An application “kick-off” information session is held in November, and completed materials, as outlined in the Pre-Health Application Packet, are due by the beginning of February in the year of application.  Please meet with the Pre-Health advisor to discuss specifics regarding application through OptomCAS.

All programs participate in OptomCAS, the centralized application service for graduate optometry programs. Candidates applying to these programs begin with the initial centralized application, and then may submit a school-specific or secondary application.

Find an OD Program

The application cycle begins at the end of June.  Deadlines vary by school and range from October 1st through April 1st.  Note that deadlines mark the date by which you must have submitted your initial OptomCAS application.  Check school-specific deadlines, and apply early in the cycle, as some schools follow a rolling admissions process.

Apply to Programs via OptomCAS

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Last modified October 11 2017 08:19 AM