Optometrist examining a patient.

Optometry is a primary health care profession focusing on the visual system (eye). Optometrists do a variety of things from examining, diagnosing, treating, and managing disease, injuries and disorders of the eye. Optometry is a four-year program and requires a state license.  Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, are medical doctors that have gone to medical school and done additional years of training.  Opthamologists are MDs or DOs and can do everything an optometrist does in addition to surgery of the eye.  For more information on optometry visit the website of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) at

Optometry School Prerequisite Courses

An overview of the prerequisites for the 23 schools that use the OptomCAS system can be found on the web at

In general most programs require:

  • One year of Biology with labs
  • One year of General Chemistry with labs
  • One year of Organic Chemistry with labs
  • One semester of Biochemistry
  • One year of Anatomy and Physiology with labs
  • One year of Physics with labs
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

Other coursework that may be beneficial:

  • Immunology
  • Sociology
  • Second semester of Biochemistry

Applying to Optometry School

Optometry Admission Test (OAT): Students interested in pursuing a career in Optometry are required to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).  Applicants should take the OAT exam with enough lead time to allow score release early in June at the latest.

Letters of Recommendation: Students will submit up to three individual letters of recommendation from professors. In most cases, two of these letters must be from professors who have instructed you in science courses and one letter must be from a faculty who has taught a non-science course. However, each school has specific numbers of letters that they will accept and has rules about how many must be from science or non-science. Check with the specific school’s website to determine which letters need to be sent to which school.  Schedule a meeting with the professors to directly ask them to write the letters. Don’t just drop in as the request might get shuffled off and forgotten. Be intentional about asking. Bring a list or short narrative of the work you completed in the classes taken under the professor. Professors see many students over the years and don’t always remember specific course assignments or course experiences like you will. Remind them of these experiences. Provide an estimated date for submission of their letters. Give your professors enough time to write a thoughtful letter.

Shadowing and experiences:  With admissions becoming more competitive, it is important for students to set themselves apart from others by accumulating significant experience shadowing, volunteering, or clinical work.  Specifically, these hours should be within optometry rather than the general medical field.

Personal statement: A personal statement is a well thought out explanation of why optometry is right for you based on the experiences that have led you to this conclusion.  Experiences from your life, work, research, or shadowing that are pertinent to explaining your call to optometry need to be included as part of this statement.  Journaling is a convenient way of keeping track of formative experiences and their impact on you as they occur.

Application timeline:  Applications are submitted approximately one year prior to entrance into optometry school.  Applicants can begin to build their application in June of the year in which they apply.  Applications are built within and submitted through the Optometry Central Application Service (OptomCAS).  Secondary applications from individual schools begin to arrive in August or September of that year and they must be completed and returned immediately.

Optometry Schools Attended by Butler Graduates

Recent Butler graduates have attended the following Optometry Schools:

  • Illinois College of Optometry
  • Indiana University
  • New England College of Optometry
  • Ohio State University
  • Salus University
  • University of the Incarnate Word