Optometry is one of the most rewarding fields in healthcare. It’s also one of the most competitive, but it’s not impossible to enter.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), optometrists have an expected job growth rate of 9 percent by 2030 which is faster than average. This means that there will be more jobs available for optometrists in the next decade than ever before.
If you’re thinking about studying online optometry courses rather than in-person and becoming an optometrist afterward, read this article and then follow up with some research on your own terms.
Here are tips for choosing a program that will teach you what you need to know to succeed in this field.
What is Optometry?
Optometry is the science and clinical practice of eye care. It is concerned with the health of the eye and visual system.
Optometrists examine patients to determine their vision, diagnose diseases and injuries of the eye, prescribe glasses or contact lenses to correct refractive error, and treat diseases such as glaucoma, strabismus (squint), amblyopia (lazy eye), and redness/pain in or around the eyes.
Optometrists are different from opticians who fit eyeglasses and contact lenses by selecting frames that best suit each individual’s face shape or prescription.
Differences Between the Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, and Optician
Optometrists are primary care professionals who diagnose and treat eye problems.
They don’t specialize in surgery but instead provide vision screenings, administer tests for glaucoma, diabetes, and other diseases that affect the eyes plus assist with contact lens fittings for patients.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in diseases or conditions of the eye; they have completed additional training after medical school in order to practice as an ophthalmologist (MD).
Ophthalmologists may perform surgeries such as cataract removal or laser surgery but they can also prescribe glasses or contact lenses along with other types of treatment options like chemotherapy drugs if necessary.
Opticians are trained professionals who fit eyeglasses and contact lenses on behalf of their customers/patients; they often work at optical retail stores where they help people choose frames within budget while ensuring that everything fits properly since improper fitting could lead to discomfort.
Education Requirements to Become an Optometrist By Region
North America Region (USA and Canada)
Optometrists need a bachelor’s degree in order to practice, which means that they must complete four years of undergraduate school.
Most optometry schools require at least two years of clinical experience following graduation. Furthermore, you will need to earn a doctorate degree (O.D) and proper licenses afterward to be able to practice the profession.
To recap, to be able to practice optometry full-time in the North American regions like the United States and Canada, you will need a/an:
- Undergraduate bachelor’s degree with prerequisite courses completed.
- Good Optometry Admission Test (OAT) score. It is scored from 200 – 400; 320 is considered a competitive score.
- Doctorate degree (O.D) in Optometry. Depending on your school, this takes 2 to 4 years. Apply to optometry schools using the OptomCAS.
- Pass your NBEO test.
- Apply for licensure in the region where you want to practice optometry.
- Sit for licensure test.
- Obtain a license and become a licensed optometrist.
- Apply for a job.
- Maintain your license by taking continuing education classes.
If you want to become an optometrist, it’s best to enroll in an accredited college or university and complete your required coursework with high grades.
You should also make sure that your desired program meets all state requirements for licensure before applying.
European Region (UK)
Becoming an Optometrist in the UK takes lesser time to complete (four to five years) unlike in Canada (eight years).
However, optometrists who complete an optometry degree in the UK are not considered “Doctors” like in the U.S. But still, they are allowed to practice once they’ve gained their license.
Pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree (doctorate) in the UK is not compulsory, unlike their American counterparts where an entry-level degree to practice is a doctorate degree.
Here are the steps to becoming an Optometrist in the UK:
- Complete GCSEs and A-levels. Here, students are not required to have an undergraduate degree.
- Complete your BSc Optometry degree from an accredited optometry school, like Aston.
- Complete the Scheme for Registration, which takes up to a year.
- Pass the professional qualification exams set by the College of Optometrists.
- Apply for registration with the General Optical Council.
- Earn your license and practice the profession.
- To study further to earn a doctorate degree (to command better pay), You can decide to:
- Complete a Ph.D. by research, or
- Complete a Doctor of Optometry degree.
This takes four years to complete. Thus, to complete your doctorate degree in the UK, it will take a total of nine years (although a doctorate degree is not compulsory like in Canada).
Australasian Region (Australia and New Zealand)
The “Australasian” region consists of Australia, New Zealand, and parts of the Pacific Ocean islands. Becoming an Optometrist in this region requires that you complete an optometry degree accredited by the Optometry Council of Australia & New Zealand.
- First, you will have to complete a relevant degree like a Bachelor of Vision/Master of Optometry degree. Entry is based on your Year 12 results and performance in the University Clinical Aptitude Test.
- Complete a doctorate degree in Optometry. Entry is based on prior academic performance and excellent in the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT).
- Register with the Optometry Board of Australia to practice optometry in the region.
Related: Best Dental Schools in Australia
Job Outlook for Optometrists in the United States
Optometry is a growing field, and there are more than 100,000 licensed optometrists in the United States.
You can find an optometry job just about anywhere you’re willing to relocate.
The job outlook for optometrists is expected to increase by 9 percent from 2020 to 2030. This is as fast as average compared with other occupations that require similar levels of education.
The List of Best Online Optometry Courses
The following is a list of the best online optometry courses we’ve found:
# North American Region:
In the North American region, there are only two optometry courses offered online.
Northeastern State University, NSU College of Optometry
Location: Oklahoma, United States.
Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma is a great choice for those who want to get their doctorate in optometry from one of the most respected schools.
The university is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), and its School of Optometry offers an online Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree program. There are about 200 students in this school.
The NSU College of Optometry also has a residency program that welcomes optometrists looking to complete further training at its facility before they start practicing as doctors.
You can also take up some courses online if you want to get your education faster and earn your doctorate sooner than later.
# European Region:
Location: Cardiff, Wales.
Cardiff University’s online optometry program is a great option for students who want to specialize in the eye care field.
The program is offered through the College of Medicine and Surgery, and it follows the same requirements as its on-campus program. The online optometry program includes courses such as optics, glaucoma, ocular disease, and pharmacology.
Students in Cardiff’s online optometry program will learn about the latest developments in ophthalmic technology, which will help them provide better care for their patients.
Location: Birmingham, England.
Aston University is a public university located in Birmingham, United Kingdom. The university was formed as a result of a merger between several colleges in the city of Birmingham.
Aston University offers an online optometry program that is accredited by the International Association of Universities (IAU).
The program provides students with a combination of online and on-campus learning opportunities to help them develop their skills and knowledge in the field of optometry.
# Australasian Region:
The University of Melbourne
Location: Victoria, Australia.
The University of Melbourne is an Australian public research university located in Melbourne, Victoria. Founded in 1853, it is the second oldest university in Victoria. The University’s main campus is located in Parkville, an inner suburb of Melbourne, with several other campuses located across Victoria.
The University of Melbourne offers a 100 percent online Master of Clinical Optometry program that takes four years to complete.
The program can be completed entirely online or through a combination of on-campus and online study if you choose.
Students who choose the online option can expect to spend 15 hours per week studying, while students who choose the hybrid option will spend 10 hours per week studying online and 5 hours on campus.
While the majority of classes are delivered online, students also have access to on-campus laboratories and classrooms where they can meet with their classmates and professors face-to-face.
The final year of this degree requires students to complete a placement at an optical outlet or company where they will receive hands-on training from working professionals in their field.
Tuition Information of Online Optometry Programs
|Schools Offering Online Optometry||Tuition Fee for:|
(i) resident, and
(ii) international students per year
|Northeastern State University||(i) US$ 18,850|
(ii) US$ 37,550
|Cardiff University||(i) £9,000|
|Aston University||(i) £9,250|
|The University of Melbourne||AUD$ 48,576|
Factors to Consider When Deciding to Study Optometry Online
If you’re considering studying optometry online, here are the factors you should consider:
- How long will it take to complete the course? Before investing in a program that takes three years (UK Optometry schools) or more to finish, make sure that your goals align with this timeline.
If they don’t, it might be better for you to choose an on-campus program instead of an online one.
- What is the cost of this course? The cost of optometry school can vary widely depending on what type of program you attend (online or campus) and where it’s located. Some students receive financial aid for their education; others do not.
If money is tight for you right now but still want to pursue higher education in this field, then consider looking into scholarships for optometry students first before committing yourself financially by enrolling in a program without knowing whether or not there will be any help available from outside sources later down the road when tuition bills start coming due.
How Much Do Online Optometry Courses Cost?
The cost of an online optometry program depends on the school and the type of degree you’re pursuing.
Some schools offer two-year associate’s degrees (diploma) in optometric technology, while others offer four-year bachelor’s or master’s degrees in clinical science or optics.
The price tag for these programs can range from $16,000 to $50,000 per year in tuition alone.
But keep in mind that there are also other expenses associated with earning your degree online—such as textbooks, lab materials, and equipment rental fees—that should be factored into the total cost of attendance.
How Long Does It Take To Become An Optometrist Via Online Learning?
Most people who complete their formal education through an accredited institution will spend three years studying at college/university before they earn their first degree or certificate; however, this process could take longer if you attend part-time only (which is common among adults returning to higher education after raising children).
When it comes time for postgraduate studies like optometry school or residency training programs like otolaryngology surgery residencies then four years isn’t uncommon either because these highly specialized fields require more intense study than what was needed during undergrad days when generalists were trained instead of specialists were trained so quickly!
How Much Do Optometrists Make?
Optometrists are very comfortable earners, especially in North America and Australia. In fact, they are the fifth highest-paid healthcare professionals in the field, only behind the likes of Surgeons and Dentists.
- In the United States, optometrists earn $124,300 on an annual average.
- In Canada, optometrists earn $130,000 on an annual average.
- In the United Kingdom, optometrists earn as much as £55,000 per year.
- In the Australasian region, optometrists earn US$120,000 on an annual average.
How Many Years of School Does It Take to Become an Optometrist?
The answer depends on a couple of things like:
- What region are you asking about?
- Do you plan for specialty programs afterward?
In the UK, you can become an optometrist in five years (without a doctorate degree) while this is at least seven to eight years in the United States.
But generally, we’ll say that becoming an optometrist takes six to eight years – all regions considered.
And that is if you are not planning on taking specialty programs like maxillofacial prosthetics, for example.
What Degree Do You Need to Become an Optometrist?
Optometry is a four-year degree, which you can obtain by attending an accredited optometry school.
The degree is called the Doctor of Optometry, or OD. Graduates who pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) are eligible to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) to become an Optometrist for animals and/or humans.
The American Optometric Association provides accreditation for twenty-six colleges and schools of optometry that offer education leading to licensure as an optometrist in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries
Wrapping It Up
We hope this list of the best online optometry courses has helped you make a decision about where to learn more about becoming an Optometrist.
If you’re looking for more information about any of these schools, just click on their name and it will take you directly to their website. Do you have suggestions on these online optometry courses? Please comment below.