Optometrists are trained to provide eye-care for people who have vision problems or develop them as a result of reduced ability to adjust their eyes to changing light and distance, a problem that often appears as we age. Optometrists spend much of their time assessing the vision status of each patient to provide individualized lenses, in the form of contact lenses or glasses. Recently, optometrists have also begun to perform laser surgeries on the eye and to specialize in low-vision care. The scope of optometric practice does extend into general medicine because checking for eye diseases involves viewing the light-sensitive layer in the eye, which also changes its structural characteristics when systemic diseases -- such as diabetes -- are present. More general career information can be found in the Occupations Outlook Handbook, 2002.
The University of Iowa provides the preparatory course work needed to make an application to one of the seventeen graduate-level Optometry Educational Programs (4 years in length). Iowa does not have an undergraduate "major" in pre-optometry studies nor a graduate program for training Optometrists. We do track students planning to pursue Optometry with a special "major" code (119). It signifies that a student has the goal of completing the requirements for admission to one of the seventeen Colleges of Optometry. As most schools require their students to have an undergraduate degree completed (or nearly so), many students plan to finish a degree here as well. The same pre-Optometry code facilitates a connection between students and specialist advisors in the Advising Center who are familiar with the Optometric profession. Call the Advising Center, at (319) 353-5700, to make an appointment with one of our pre-optometry advisors. This code also helps to make connections among students with the same interest. Pre-optometry students are invited to join the Pre-Optometry Club.
The minimum pre-Optometry preparatory science courses, all requiring laboratory components, are one year each of: Principles of Chemistry (4:11-12/ 8 s.h.), Organic Chemistry (4:121-122 & 141, 9 s.h.), Principles of Biology (2:10 - 11/ 8 s.h.) and College Physics (29:11 - 12/ 8 s.h.--with a minimum pre-requisite of trigonometry). Furthermore, a semester of calculus (22M:25 or 22M:16) and one year of English are required (10:1 - 2 or 10:3 and 8G:1 will often do nicely). Additional courses, such as microbiology, physiology or anatomy, statistics, biochemistry and psychology are often either required or recommended. It is the potential applicant's responsibility to identify programs of their choice and to determine the entry requirements of each program. See the Association of Schools & Colleges of Optometry web site for more information.
For any of the seventeen education programs for optometry in the US, a set of scores from the OAT (Optometry Admission Test) will be needed. The web site just above provides general information about this test, more details on careers available to an optometrist- including potential salaries, and contact with potential mentors for undergraduates to job shadow.