What is an Optometrist?

Doctors of Optometry (O.D.s/optometrists) are the independent 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 as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

  • Doctors of Optometry prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, spectacle lenses, contact lenses, and perform certain surgical procedures.
  • Optometrists counsel their patients regarding surgical and non-surgical options that meet their visual needs related to their occupations, avocations, and lifestyle.
  • An optometrist has completed pre-professional undergraduate education in a college or university and four years of professional education at a college of optometry, leading to the doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree. Some optometrists complete an optional residency in a specific area of practice.
  • Optometrists are eye health care professionals state-licensed to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the eye and visual system.

Looking for an undergraduate pathway to optometry? Check out our Premedical and Health Studies, Optometry Pathway program.

Questions about our optometry program? Connect with our Worcester Admission Office at 508.373.5607.

Distinguished History

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy was founded in Boston in 1823 and is the forerunner of MCPHS University, which was established in 1979.  Expansion to the Worcester campus occurred in 2002 and recognizing the unmet need for eye care in central Massachusetts, the School of Optometry was founded in 2012.  The inaugural class of 59 students graduated in 2016.  Over this short period, the school has enjoyed strong growth of the academic and clinical programs.  Excellent clinical rotations have been established in external sites for third and fourth year professional students.  The school is part of a large health science university that promotes interprofessional education and service to the community.

Modern Facilities

Featuring advanced equipment and technologies in class, lab, and clinic, where students are educated to provide comprehensive eye and vision care to patients.

Clinical Experience

In addition to an on-site Eye and Vision Center, students have additional patient care opportunities in challenging and varied clinical facilities, including Veterans Administration centers, health departments, hospitals, and community health centers.

Low Faculty-to-Student Ratio

Students enjoy a small class size of just 64 students and a very low student-to-faculty ratio, enabling them to gain critical interaction with their professors and instructors.

Early Introduction

Students begin seeing patients independently during their second professional year and progressively increase their clinic time during each successive semester, including summers.

Prestigious Affiliations

The School of Optometry is affiliated with more than 60 clinic sites across the United States. In addition, students in the third year of the program rotate through additional community clinical facilities in the area. External sites are continually being developed and monitored to ensure excellent clinical experiences for students.

Residency Placement

Over the past two years, 30% of graduates have been placed in one-year clinical residency programs, an accomplishment that reflects the superior clinical preparation students receive during their time at MCPHS (2017).

Service-Based Training

Free clinics and other volunteer service opportunities locally and regionally enable students to serve others while receiving course credit. Students can also participate in international service volunteer trips.

Combined Baccalaureate/Doctoral Program

This unique educational opportunity allows select, highly motivated students to complete their optometry education in a combined, straight-through, seven-year program.

Dual Degree

Select students in the optometry program will have the opportunity to earn a dual degree with a Master of Public Health (MPH), enhancing their education and marketability.

Scholarship Opportunities 

Throughout the program, optometry students are encouraged to apply for scholarships from optometric associations and industry partners. The University keeps students up-to-date about new scholarship opportunities throughout the year. These scholarships recognize a variety of achievements, including clinical experiences, leadership, community service, and military optometry service, and can be applied to tuition or living expenses. 

Recognizing Excellence

The School of Optometry recognizes students who demonstrate academic achievements, clinical excellence, and leadership roles within the classroom and the community. Awards are presented during the “Eye Ball,” a formal dance held each spring, as well as during a formal award ceremony for fourth year students, held in the weeks before commencement. 

A field of growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for optometrists is expected to grow at a much faster rate than many other occupations, with a potential 27% increase in jobs needed by 2024. This growth is partly driven by an aging population, with vision problems tending to occur more frequently later in life.


With innovative training and immersive clinical opportunities, our graduates are extremely well prepared to enter and advance in the field of optometry. Clinical education experiences are varied so that students are prepared as independent practitioners of contemporary optometry.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for optometrists was $103,900 in May 2015, with the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

Job satisfaction

Optometrists rank #11 in the U.S. News’ list of the 100 Best Health Care Jobs of 2016 and #12 in U.S. News’ list of the 100 Best Jobs of 2016. Jobs are ranked according to their ability to offer an elusive mix of factors, including salary, the number of expected openings, advancement opportunities and career fulfillment.

Students gain hands-on experience working with real patients at our on-site clinic and retail location on our Worcester, MA campus.

At the Eye and Vision Center, students work alongside professional faculty to provide comprehensive eye and vision care to patients from the greater Worcester area in an accessible clinical facility that features twenty exam rooms.

We are committed to providing the highest levels of clinical education by rotating students through a variety of clinical programs, including primary care, cornea and contact lens, low vision, pediatrics/binocular vision, glaucoma, and developmental disability clinics.

Students gain insight from professional faculty members who are board certified optometrists, many of whom are Fellows of the American Academy of Optometry and clinical researchers. These faculty members have published papers in professional journals, authored optometry textbooks, and are actively engaged in community organizations, making them invaluable as instructors and mentors.

At 10 Optical, student interns work alongside registered dispensing opticians in a retail setting. Students help patients choose the perfect pair of glasses for a great look, and educate them on the latest in lens technology for the most comfortable vision possible.

At MCPHS, you will discover a variety of Optometry-specific professional organizations and clubs, all designed to empower optometry students to gain hands-on experience, leadership skills, and networking opportunities.

American Optometric Student Association (AOSA)

The American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) represents more than 6,700 students attending the 24 school and colleges of optometry across the US and Canada. The MCPHS chapter supports AOSA’s mission to promote the profession of optometry, improve the visual welfare and health of the public, and enhance the education of optometry students. AOSA hosts a number of events each year, including “Mock Bowl,” a trivia night, a Welcome Night for first year students, “Eyeball,” an annual optometry formal dance.

College of Optometrists in Vision Development – Pediatric Optometric Club (COVD-POC)

A new organization on the Worcester, MA campus, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development Pediatric Optometry Club (COVDPOC) is focused on enriching the local pediatric community through vision screenings and community service events. The organization, which works closely with the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), focuses on specialized vision care services, with the goal of enhancing visual abilities and correcting vision issues in infants, children, and adults.

National Optometric Student Association (NOSA)

The National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) is focused on the advancement of minority optometric students, as well as empowering future optometrists to provide the best possible care to minority populations.

NOSA focuses on recruiting and retaining minority students and placing them into appropriate practice settings upon graduation through mentorship opportunities. The organization also educates students on how to enhance the care given to minority populations. As part of this mission, the organization hosts Spanish-language eye exam seminars.

Private Practice Club (PPC)

The Private Practice Club (PPC) at MCPHS works to educates optometry students on a variety of different optometry practices and business management skills, as well as on how other professions impact the optometric profession.

Award Winner: PPC was the first ever Optometry-focused organization to win the Organization of the Year award. They took home the top prize in 2016-2017.

Student American Academy of Optometry (SAAO)

The Student American Academy of Optometry (SAAO) is the MCPHS chapter of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), a nationally recognized organization. The chapter promotes the art and science of vision by fostering lifelong learning.

Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH)

The Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH) organization is focused on giving back, both in our local communities and on the international stage. SVOSH hosts community vision screenings in the city of Worcester, MA, as well as fundraisers and other volunteer opportunities. The organization also hosts an annual trip to Nicaragua, where students provide complete eye exams to underserved populations.

“It was honestly such a humbling experience to travel to Nicaragua and provide care for so many wonderful people. Not only is it relevant to what I will be practicing in the future as an optometrist, but it taught me a lot about patience, appreciating other cultures, and working towards an end goal. This trip has changed me as a future optometrist and as a person.
— Hyder Almosawy, Doctor of Optometry '19, SVOSH officer

NBEO Scores for the Class of 2016

Pass rate NBEO I


Pass rate NBEO II


Pass rate NBEO III


Ultimate NBEO Pass Rate


Graduation Rates

  • 80% of 2012 matriculates graduated in 4 years as part of the class of 2016
  • 93% of 2012 matriculates graduated in 5 years
  • 80% of 2013 matriculates will graduate in 4 years as part of the class of 2017
  • 92.5% of 2013 matriculates are expected to graduate in 5 years

Residencies Placement

  • 37% of the graduating class of 2016 successfully matched with Optometric Residency
  • 33% of the graduating class of 2017 successfully matched with Optometric Residency
  • This compares favorably to the 19% of optometry graduates, nationally, who have completed Optometric Residencies

Competitive Awards 

  • 42% of the graduating class of 2017 had posters selected for publication at the June 2017 meeting of the American Optometric Association(AOA)     

Improve vision, provide quality eye and health care, and support the optometric profession by educating future optometrists within an interprofessional, state of the art, and community oriented environment, while providing care to all members of society, especially those who are underserved.


  • Continuously monitor, develop, and improve our curriculum so that it is relevant, efficient, and effective.
  • Recruit, admit, and retain students with diverse backgrounds and skills that will promote a culturally sensitive and educationally stimulating environment.
  • Recruit, hire, and retain faculty with diverse educational background, experience, and areas of focus to support the needs of our students, patients, and the advancement of the profession through research and scholarship.
  • Continuously monitor, develop, and improve our clinical program so as to deliver the best care possible to our patients.
  • Strive to develop a culture and environment that embraces and demonstrates respect, community, and trustworthiness.
  • Teach, mentor, and support our students to develop the knowledge and skills to practice ethical, compassionate, and evidence based eye care.
  • Promote lifelong learning, dedication to community service, and cultural sensitivity.
  • Promote interprofessional education in our academic and clinical programs to develop an appreciation of and an ability to interact with other health care professionals.
  • Support our many communities by delivering high quality care, serving within a referral network, and developing relations to all sectors of our communities.
  • Provide, maintain, and improve our facilities and environments to support student education and patient care.

Core Values

  • Empowerment – encourage people around you to be their best
  • Inspiration – be a role model
  • Optimism – carry a positive attitude
  • Selflessness – do what is best for our community of students, faculty and patients
  • Courageousness – Take risks and plant seeds that can bear fruit in five or more years
  • Perserverance – Achieve more by working harder and smarter

The Doctor of Optometry (OD) program on the Worcester campus has been granted the classification of Accredited with Conditions by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141; phone: 800.365.2219).


Helping patients see clearly – and live their best lives

Ryan L. Maurer

Ryan L. Maurer OD ’18 on the importance of providing compassionate patient care.

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Student Spotlight: Melissa Atencio OD/MPH ’20

Melissa Atencio OD/MPH ’20

A current student shares insight into her degree program and looks to her future as an optometrist.

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