Optometrists provide general eye and vision care. However, optometry involves more than just prescribing and fitting contact lenses and glasses. According to the American Optometric Association, “Doctors of Optometry are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions.” Optometrists perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye, diagnose problems and diseases, and prescribe appropriate treatment. Optometrists also evaluate vision, diagnose visual abnormalities, and prescribe appropriate corrective treatment. In addition, many systemic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes often involve the eyes in the earliest stages; optometrists can detect these changes and refer the patient for further medical evaluation.
Approximately 2/3 of the country’s eye care is delivered by Doctors of Optometry (ODs). Optometry is one the nation’s largest independent healthcare professions, and typically offers regular working hours, minimal emergency duty, and geographic mobility. There is an increasing demand for ODs, due in part to the aging of the U.S. population and the vision requirements of an increasingly mechanical and technological society.
Most ODs are in general practice, but there are opportunities to specialize in pediatrics, geriatrics, sports vision, occupational vision, vision therapy, and scientific research.
Most schools of optometry require at least 3 years of college work (90 semester hours) to be eligible to apply to the optometry program. Several schools require completion of a bachelor’s degree. Following the undergraduate years, accepted students must complete 4 years of study at an accredited college of optometry. There are 22 schools of optometry in the continental U.S., and 1 in Puerto Rico. There are no schools of optometry in North Carolina.
For a complete list of U.S. Optometry Schools click here.