Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

Today, the profession of optometry involves much more than just prescribing and fitting glasses and contact lenses. ODs are trained to evaluate any patient’s visual condition and to determine the best treatment for that condition. ODs are viewed increasingly as primary care providers for patients seeking ocular or visual care.

Conditions typically cared for by ODs are:

  • Corneal abrasions, ulcers, or infections; glaucoma; and other eye diseases that require treatment
  •  Visual skill problems such as the inability to move, align, fixate, and focus the ocular mechanism in such tasks as reading, driving, computer use, and in tasks related to hobbies and employment
  •  The inability to properly process and interpret information requiring perception, visualization, and retention, such as that needed for most learning tasks
  •  Poor vision–body coordination when one interacts with the environment, as in sports, occupations, and other everyday activities requiring spatial judgments
  •  Clarity problems such as simple near- or far-sightedness or complications due to the aging process, disease, accident, or malfunction

ODs also work to:

  •  Diagnose, manage, and refer systemic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and others that are often first detected in the eye
  •  Provide pre- and postsurgical care of cataracts, refractive laser treatment, retinal problems, and other conditions that require pre- and postsurgical care
  •  Encourage preventative measures such as monitoring infants’ and children’s visual development, evaluating job/school/hobby–related tasks, and promoting nutrition and hygiene education

– American Optometric Association


Undergraduate requirements (varies by program):

 Biology (2 courses)  BIO 150, BIO 233
 Microbiology (1 course)  BIO 231
 General Chemistry (2 courses)  CHEM 125, CHEM 126*
 Organic Chemistry (1-2 courses)  CHEM 247/253, CHEM  248/254
 Physics (2 courses)  PHYS 124, PHYS 125
 Calculus (1-2 courses)  MATH 120, MATH 126
 Statistics (1 course)  STATS 110 or STATS 212
 Psychology (1 course)  PSYCH 125
 English (2 courses)  Variety of course options

*St. Olaf General Chemistry options:

  1. CHEM 125 (Fall), CHEM 126 (Spring)
  2. CHEM 121 (Fall), CHEM 123 (Interim), CHEM 126 (Spring)
  3. CH/BI 125 (Fall), CH/BI 126 (Interim), CH/BI 127 (Spring, also counts as a semester of General Biology)

Be sure to check the admission requirements for the specific programs you will be applying to!


Most schools consider an applicant’s exposure to optometry to be of vital importance. Each applicant should become acquainted with at least one optometrist and if possible gain some firsthand experience to see what optometrists do on a daily basis. Most schools require personal interviews for admission, and experience/exposure to the field is often a topic for discussion.

– Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry

Entrance exam:

Optometry Admission Test (OAT) – A four-hour computer-formatted exam covering reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, natural science, and physics. The OAT costs $226 and is offered throughout the year.

General application:

OptomCAS – Costs $150 for the first school and $50 for each additional school.

Graduate programs are four years with coursework and clinical experience. 


Professional organizations:

Student organization:

List of graduate programs: