What is Optometry?

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. They also identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye. Optometrists are different than Ophthalmologists, who are physicians who can perform surgery to the eye.

 Optometrists typically do the following:

  • Perform vision tests to check for sight problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Check for eye diseases, such as glaucoma.
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and medications.
  • Provide other treatments, such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation.
  • Provide pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery—for example, examining a patient’s eyes the day after surgery.
  • Evaluate patients for the presence of diseases such as diabetes and refer them to other health care providers as needed.
  • Promote eye health by counseling patients, including explaining how to clean and wear contact lenses.

 Explore these resources and organizations:

Source: ADEA: ExploreHealthCareers. 31 May 2013. American Dental Education Association. 6 June 2013 < http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/Career/11/Optometrist>.

Source: United States Department of Labor: Occupational Outlook Handbook.  24 May 2012. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 6 June 2013 <http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm#tab-2>.


  • Individual optometry programs may also have their own, unique, course requirements for competitive applicants. It is the applicant's duty to check the school's requirements and preferences to ensure that all pre-requisites are accounted for. 
  • Please check with the schools you plan to apply to regarding their policy on AP Credits. Some schools may or may not accept AP Credit.  If they do accept credits, an additional upper level course with a lab may be required.
  • Please see a PHMO advisor to create an academic plan that meets your timeline and goals.
  • Below are the most common optometry pre-requisites; remember that this list is of the CORE classes, and some schools may require or recommend additional courses. 

    • Biology 141* and 142 with labs 
    • Chemistry 141 and 142 with labs
    • Chemistry 221 and 222 with labs 
    • Physics 141 and 142 with labs 
    • Biochemistry (Biol 301 or Chem 301)
    • QTM 100 or Math 107
    • 6-8 semester hours of college English/writing (CWR classes in the English language can fulfill this requirement)
    • Some exposure to Psychology, Sociology, and/or Anthropology 

    *If you use AP credit for Biol 141, you must still take the Biol 141 Lab. We recommend taking Biol 240 along with Biol 141 Lab if you plan on using AP credit to replace Biol 141.  Please discuss with a pre-health advisor if you have any questions.

Application Process

Admissions Exam: Optometry Admission Test  (OAT)

Application Service: OptomCas: Optometry Centralized Application Service

  • Review the Student Application FAQ’s
  • Review a list of schools that participate in OptomCas

Application timeline/deadline: The centralized application opens in July. You should verify specific deadlines with each individual school

Letters of Recommendation:  Medical schools typically require a minimum of 3 letters of recommendation. You should verify specific recommendation requirements with each school. Emory’s Career Center offers a Credentials File to collect letters of recommendation that will be sent to the appropriate professional schools.  The PHMO offers a Composite Letter for  students who have completed the Composite Letter application requirements by their given deadlines.  

Applicant Preparation:  The PHMO offers support for pre-health students to prepare their application, personal statement, and interviewing skills. Workshops are offered at certain points throughout the year, so pay attention to announcements in the PreHealth Newsletter (register here) or check the Upcoming PreHealth Events frequently. Start early to ensure you have ample time to prepare and practice.

Personal Statement: The PHMO offers personal statement workshops on particular dates during the semester. Check the PHMO newsletter for upcoming events. Once you complete a draft of your personal statement, you may submit your draft to the Career Center Document Critique Service for feedback.