9 Top Optometry Schools in New York

Optometry is the field of health care that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders. It is a specialty within the field of vision science, with many optometrists working closely with ophthalmologists to treat eye diseases and injuries.

Optometry is widely regarded as one of the most satisfying jobs in healthcare. Aside from the fact that optometrists command better pay, many of them find fulfillment in helping their patients regain their vision – with the eye being complimented as the “window to the soul,” and arguably the most important organ of the body.

So, you want to become an optometrist?

This is the article that will teach you everything that you need to know about optometry, and what optometry schools in New York are like.

Who is an Optometrist?

An optometrist is a primary health care provider who diagnoses and treats vision problems. They’re also skilled at fitting contact lenses and prescribing eyeglasses. 

Optometrists are trained to examine the eyes, test visual acuity (how well you see), diagnose eye diseases, and make recommendations for treatment.

In many cases, they can diagnose certain conditions that other medical professionals might not recognize as being related to vision problems.

Optometrists also prescribe medications for treating glaucoma, or dry eye syndrome, among other conditions affecting eyesight. Some optometrists specialize in areas such as pediatric ophthalmology (children’s eyes) or low-vision rehabilitation (assisting people with their vision).

How to Become an Optometrist in New York

Generally, becoming an optometrist practicing in New York requires you to obtain licensure as most healthcare professions do. What this means in New York is that you must:

  • Be a US citizen or have permanent residency.

  • Be of good moral character.

  • Be at least 21 years of age, and

  • You must have completed the education and examination requirements to become an optometrist in New York.

Thus, after completing your education and education requirement for becoming a practicing Optometrist in New York, you will need to submit a license application to the NYS Office of the Professions at the address specified in your form.

Subsequent follow-up and other licensure information required of you will be communicated via the Office, according to the New York healthcare governing laws. [1] [2] [3]

[Related: How to Become an Optometrist in Canada]

Education Requirements and Examination for Optometrists

Before you can obtain your practicing license to become an Optometrist, you must first obtain your education qualifications. It’s simple logic: a baby does not walk before it crawls. 

Here are the outlined steps to receiving an Optometry education generally:

  • First, you must enroll in a program in any of the high schools in New York and the United States as a whole. Usually, aspiring Optometrists major in science disciplines; although “this is not compulsory,” as quoted in U.S News.

  • The second step is to complete a four-year bachelor’s program at any university of your choice and earn a high GPA. The prerequisites also require that you complete science-related coursework including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

  • Afterward, you will be required to sit for the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and perform well in it.

    The OAT is an online special test for undergrad optometrists that is administered by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry(ASCO), a top professional body in the field. 

The examination tests the abilities of these students in important areas such as natural sciences, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.

The test is scored from 200 to 400 with 300 considered a median score; a reasonable competitive score that students should aim for will be 320 and above. 350 is considered an excellent score for all 23 ASCO-accredited optometry schools in the United States, should you consider any of them.[5] Your OAT test scores will only last for three years before it is considered invalid.

  • After completion of your postsecondary education, it is advisable to gain useful practice experience by enrolling in survival trade schools or working under the supervision of an Optometrist as an assistant. Alternatively, you can enroll in pre-optometry schools in New York instead. This is optional.

  • After completion of your undergraduate degree, you must pursue a Doctorate program. Altogether, this may take six years or more.

  • After completing your studies with a good GPA, you will receive an optometry degree from a reputable optometry school in New York like the SUNY College of Optometry.

  • Consider doing a clinical residency program in a specialty like glaucoma or ocular disease. This helps you build competence for the profession.

  • After passing the NBEO test, you will need to obtain your practicing license. In New York, before a license is conferred on you, you must pass an examination organized by the New York State Education Department and accredited by the American Optometric Association Council on Optometric Education (AOACOE). Passing your NBEO test qualifies you for this exam. 

  • An additional test will also be needed if you are seeking the use of therapeutic medication.

  • Afterward, the license to practice optometry in New York will be conferred upon you.

    You should also note that fees associated with this vary in different states in the United States.

    In New York, “the fee for licensure and first registration is $377,” according to NYSED, as of 2022.

The fee that is required for certification in the administration of topical diagnostic pharmaceuticals is $60.

Also, if you are applying for both, you may submit one check for $437 for both fees.

  • After obtaining your optometry license, you can practice in New York. You can take continuing education courses to maintain your license.

Requirements for Optometry Schools in New York

  • You must have a bachelor’s degree.

  • You must have taken the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).

  • High school students must take physics, general chemistry, and biology courses.

    College students must complete physics, organic chemistry, and biology courses before applying to optometry schools. However, some optometry schools do not make a science background compulsory to gain entrance.

These are the requirements for gaining admission into an optometry school, from a general perspective.

Any other specific requirement will be stated by the school you are enrolling in.

Tuition Information for New York Optometry Schools

SUNY College of Optometry: Tuition Information valid for 2022/2023 Academic Year

Program OptionsIn-state Tuition Fee/year(in USD)Out-of-state/Canadian/Foreign Students Tuition Fee/year(in USD)
OD Program$29,820$51,150
Graduate Program$5,655$11,550
Graduate Assistantship stipend (per year)$35,670 (as of April 2019)

Salary of Optometrists

Optometrists earn $124,300 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; more than triple what opticians earn in the United States.

It is also noteworthy that the entry-level qualification for an optometrist is a doctoral or professional degree. This will take more than seven years of study to obtain. 

Job Prospects for Optometrists in New York

Optometry is a growing field in New York and in the world; there are many opportunities for optometrists of all ages to find good-paying positions in the public and private sectors.

Optometrists are also among the highest-paid healthcare professionals in the world. Furthermore, the job will see a 9 percent increase in demand which is faster than average.

This makes the outlook for job prospects in the optometry field slightly competitive, but highly rewarding.

Some of the most common places that optometrists work include:

  • Hospitals. Optometrists can work at hospitals as salaried employees or through contract-based practices, which means they’ll be paid by the hour on an hourly basis.

  • Clinics/private practice. Optometrists who want to own their own practice may choose this option instead of working at a hospital or clinic where they’re employed by someone else.

    This type of position consists primarily of seeing patients who come into the office to receive vision care services such as eye exams or contact lens fittings.

However, there might also be some administrative duties involved (for example, patient billing). 

In addition to these responsibilities, running your own practice also requires doing marketing and outreach efforts so that people know about what you offer—and so you can find new clients.

[Related: What are Speech Pathology Programs and How Do They Work]

The List of Optometry Schools in New York

There is only one accredited optometry school in New York. All the other schools on this list only offer a Pre-Optometry program that may be useful if you plan to study in one of them before enrolling in SUNY.

SUNY College of Optometry

SUNY College of Optometry is a top optometry school in New York. The college was established in 1971 by the then governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, and has an incredibly low acceptance rate. 

SUNY College of Optometry is a public institution, which means that tuition and fees are lower than at most private universities. It is cheaper for in-state students to study at SUNY College of Optometry than students coming from anywhere else besides the United States.

The school’s Doctorate of Optometry program is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) as well as the American Optometric Association (AOA).

The SUNY College of Optometry offers a unique curriculum that emphasizes clinical education in addition to classroom learning. 

In fact, students spend most of their time in the clinic and only spend about one-third of their time in the classroom. The school’s Doctor of Optometry program is designed for students who want to become optometrists with a focus on research or clinical work.

SUNY College of New York offers a doctorate program, as well as graduate assistantships and scholarship opportunities to candidates who merit them. 

Being a top school, SUNY College of Optometry is a difficult school to get into. Getting in means being better than the best and beating many other competing candidates. This means achieving insanely high scores in required tests like SAT and OAT to name a few.

[Related: How to Find Scholarships]

Pre-Optometry Schools in New York

What is a Pre-Optometry program?

Well, first, it is not a program that grants you a degree. It is a program designed for students intending to study in an optometry program (doctorate) afterward. 

These kinds of programs show you what to expect in the main optometry schools, as well as give you some basic clinical experience.

[Related: Medical Schools in Europe]

Here are the pre-optometry schools we found in New York:

Columbia University in the City of New York

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City.

The university is organized into twenty schools, including numerous graduate and professional schools. 

It operates eight constituent undergraduate colleges and schools within its three campuses—Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), Teachers College at Columbia University (TC), Barnard College for women located on Morningside Heights, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) located on the main campus at 116th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue; and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science to mention some of these schools.

If you are considering a pre-optometry program to set yourself up for a career in Optometry, then Columbia University is the best place to look.

CU is an Ivy League university and is widely known as one of the best universities in the world.

Cornell University

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York, and is a private university. Cornell University has a medical school that offers a widely-acclaimed pre-optometry program, as well as a dental school. It also has an engineering school.

Cornell University is ranked in the top 50 by US News & World Report for its health professions programs.

This includes the schools of medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, and public health.

Stony Brook University Health Sciences Center at Stony Brook

The Stony Brook University Health Sciences Center at Stony Brook is a public research university located in Stony Brook, New York.

It is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The school was established in 1957.

Starting with only 890 students and 52 faculty members, Stony Brook has grown into one of the largest universities in New York state with over 25,000 students and 2,200 faculty members across three campuses: Stony Brook University Hospital Medical Center; the William E Belmont Jr School of Medicine; and the Charles B Wang College of Pharmacy on Long Island.

Stony Brook University is ranked as one of the top 50 public universities in the country and is also ranked among the top 100 research universities worldwide by the academic ranking of world universities.

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

University of Rochester School of Medicine is one of the top pre-optometry schools in New York.

The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry ranks among the top 20 medical schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 rankings.

The school offers an undergraduate degree as well as a graduate program through its College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (CASE).

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is located in New York, NY. The school offers an ophthalmology program that could prove to be useful to students who want to study optometry.

Those interested in attending this prestigious medical school should know that the student population is 4,913 students.

The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry is one of the top pre-optometry schools in New York.

The school is known for its research programs, including stem cell and gene therapy research.

They have pioneered several new treatments for eye diseases, including glaucoma.

Albany Medical College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Albany Medical College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a private nonprofit institution, with an emphasis on health sciences.

It was founded as the Albany Medical College, making it one of the oldest medical schools in New York State.

The school has two campuses: one in downtown Albany and another in Schenectady (the latter being its primary campus).

The Albany campus houses several buildings on Delaware Avenue, including their flagship building; you can take tours of this building to see where notable figures like Louis Pasteur once walked.

The school offers a pre-optometry program.

New York Medical College

New York Medical College is located in Valhalla, New York. This is a private college and it has a 31 percent acceptance rate. 

The student/faculty ratio at New York Medical College is 8:1, which implies that there are 8 students for every single faculty member (including adjuncts).

This school is also highly recommended if you are looking for a decent pre-optometry program.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a private research university in Troy, New York. It is one of the lesser-known pre-optometry schools in New York, but a decent one anyway.

Students will enjoy this program due to its low-class size and outstanding teaching approach.


How long does it take to become an optometrist?

To become an optometrist, you will need to earn a Doctor of Optometry degree.

Optometry schools typically require a bachelor’s degree in science, such as biology or chemistry.

Most students take four years to complete their undergraduate studies and then another two to four years to complete their Doctor of Optometry degree.

In total, becoming a professional optometrist may take as little as six years or as much as eight years.

What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

Optometrists are the primary eye care professionals in the United States. Optometrists examine, diagnose and treat vision problems, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and provide complete eye health care.

They also perform comprehensive eye exams for people of all ages, from infants to seniors.

Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in diseases, injuries, or defects involving the eye and visual system.

They provide surgical and nonsurgical treatment for eye disease and perform eye examinations for those with or without an appointment. They are literally “eye surgeons.”

The third related profession, Opticians are technicians trained to verify, fit, and design eyeglass lenses and frames; mostly according to the prescription given by optometrists.

While optometrists and ophthalmologists are not the same, the range of their work, however, crosses in one aspect; as they can both conduct eye examinations for patients. But optometrists are known to have more autonomy.

How much does it cost to go to optometry school?

Optometry school in New York is a great investment, but it can be expensive.

The average tuition for an optometry degree at one of the state’s public universities is within the region of $28,000 to $35,000 per year.

For example, SUNY College of Optometry charges just over $29,000 in annual tuition.

However, private schools charge more than twice as much. And if you are an international student applying to optometry schools in New York, you should expect to pay over $55,000 in annual tuition.

But also, some of these schools offer scholarships, financial aid, and graduate assistantships. You should look out for those.

What are the pros and cons of becoming an Optometrist?

Pros of becoming an optometrist:

  • You’ll have a job that lets you help people.

  • You’ll have the opportunity to make a difference in your community.

  • You’ll get well-paid and have a rewarding career.

Cons of becoming an optometrist:

  • The hours of study are long and the work can be stressful.

  • Studying optometry takes a longer time than normal to complete, considering the education and licensure process.

Final Thoughts

To sum it all up, you should think carefully before deciding to become an optometrist. The profession is rewarding and interesting, but it’s not for everyone. 

If your personality is best suited for this line of work, then by all means pursue it! 

Optometry school takes years to complete—and even longer if you decide to get graduate degrees—so make sure that you’re ready for the challenge before applying. 

Once you’ve been accepted and completed your training, be prepared: there are plenty of rewards waiting for those who stick with this career choice over time.

Wrapping It Up

We hope you enjoyed reading our list of the top optometry schools in New York. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.


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