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How Long Do You Have to Go to School to Be an Optometrist?

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Optometrists provide vision care for patients such as diagnosing vision problems, prescribing corrective lenses and testing for eye disease. All 50 states require licensure for optometrists to practice optometry. Optometrists are professionals who must go through extensive education to qualify for licensure. According to PayScale, the average salary of an optometrist is between $78,147 and $105,269 as of December 2010.

Undergraduate Education

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most optometry students complete an undergraduate degree before entering a school of optometry. Undergraduate students focus on science courses such as biology, chemistry and physical science. Some schools of optometry accept students with three years of undergraduate education. Students who enter optometry school with three years of undergraduate education may complete a degree program while attending optometry school.

School of Optometry

Optometrists must complete four years of study in a school of optometry. The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education provides accreditation for schools of optometry. Students must pass the Optometry Admissions Test to qualify for entry into an accredited school. The examination tests the students in the four areas of quantitative reasoning, physics, reading comprehension and natural sciences. The training a student receives in optometry school consists of classroom studies and clinical training. Optometry students study optics, pharmacology, biochemistry and diseases.


Optometrists can complete one year of residency after completing optometry school. Graduates can choose residencies in specialties such as pediatric optometry, geriatric optometry or family practice.

Licensure and Continuing Education

All 50 states require candidates for an optometrist’s license to pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry national examination. The student may also be required to pass a state examination to qualify for licensure. The state examination may cover state laws regarding licensure and the practice of optometry in the state. Optometrists must stay current in the field, and most states require physicians to complete continuing education courses to renew their state license.


Luanne Kelchner works out of Daytona Beach, Florida and has been freelance writing full time since 2008. Her ghostwriting work has covered a variety of topics but mainly focuses on health and home improvement articles. Kelchner has a degree from Southern New Hampshire University in English language and literature.