MCPHS is still accepting applications for Fall 2024.

Academics | 4/17/2024

How Long Is Optometry School?


Curious about pursuing a career in optometry? Get a clear understanding of the path to becoming an optometrist and gain insights into the world of eye care.

To see the world through the eyes of an optometrist, you must go to school. But, this doesn’t need to be a daunting task to accomplish. Assessing and correcting vision and preventing blindness is an important responsibility—one that must be trained for properly.

In the simplest terms, an optometrist is a type of eye doctor who provides general eye care to patients. 

This type of eye doctor: 

  • Evaluates a patient’s vision through testing.
  • Diagnosis conditions like farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism.
  • Gives patients eye therapy to improve vision.
  • Finds eye injuries that require treatment.
  • Prescribes corrective lenses.
  • Prescribes eye medications. 

Does this sound like a role you’d be interested in studying? Continue reading to learn more about becoming an optometrist at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). Use this blog as your guide to all things optometry. We’ll go over how long optometry school is, what students can anticipate, and the various styles of optometry. We’ll also answer common questions prospective first-year students have.

What Can An Optometry Student Expect?

To become a licensed optometrist, you must complete a pre-professional undergraduate education in a college or university and go through an additional four years of professional education at a college of optometry, earning a Doctor of Optometry degree. 

Applying to MCPHS

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences offers two optometry programs for your optometric education: the Bachelor of Science in Premedical Health Studies, Optometry Pathway, which enables students to earn both a Bachelor of Science in Premedical Health Studies (BS) and a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree in seven years instead of the traditional eight, or the four-year Doctor of Optometry program.

Applying To the Premedical Health Studies Optometry Pathway (BS/OD)

  • Application: Either fill out the Common App or MCPHS Application and answer University-specific questions.
  • Transcripts: Include all official transcripts from attended secondary schools as well as your first-quarter grades from your senior year of high school.
  • Essay: If applying with the Common App, you should write and submit an essay following one of the provided topic choices. 
  • Letter of recommendation: You’re required to send one letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor, math teacher, or science teacher. Ensure this letter is written on the official school letterhead and submitted through the application portal.
  • Test scores: While our school doesn’t require you to share your SAT or ACT scores, it is an optional part of the application. If you choose to submit your scores, you must directly send them from the College Board or ACT. 

Applying for the Doctor of Optometry Program

After applying to the university, incoming students must submit a completed OptomCAS application and submit:

  • A grade point average of 3.0.
  • All official college or university transcripts.
  • A completed 90 semester hours of 135 quarter hours prior to matriculation.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • The official OAT Score Report or GRE Score Report.
  • A resume.
  • Official AP or CLEP Scores if applicable.
  • Proof of English language proficiency if English isn’t your primary language.

Once you fill out your application, you’re off to the races! 

Optometry Through Your Seven Years

At MCPHS, we offer excellent training for students pursuing a career in eye care. If you’re coming as an undergraduate, you’ll start by getting your Bachelor of Science in Premedical Health Studies - Optometry Pathway (BS/OD). This three-year program enables you to earn a bachelor of science in just three years. After completing the undergraduate program, you’ll begin the Doctor of Optometry (OD) program—a full-time, four-year degree program. In total, you’ll be able to gain the necessary schooling in only seven years, which is less than the average eight years that other colleges often offer. 

Bachelor of Science in Premedical Health Studies - Optometry Pathway

Before diving into the world of optometry, you must have a firm understanding of the sciences and humanities necessary to move on to the professional phase of your training. Here’s what you can expect from your three years in the Bachelor of Science in Premedical Health Sciences program. 

The beginning of your three-year undergraduate path will include several foundational classes like biology and chemistry. You’ll also get hands-on learning experience through associated labs and a deep knowledge of human psychology and expository writing.

Your second year will pick up where you left off by building on your humanities and behavioral science classes from the previous year. You’ll be able to take electives and study organic chemistry and physics. This year will focus on creating further comprehension of optometry as a profession and help you build interpersonal communication skills that are critical for the job. 

The last year of your undergraduate degree will be a time for you to look at healthcare ethics, and study advanced anatomy, cellular biochemistry, physiology, medical microbiology, and physics. You’ll also look at social and behavioral sciences to prepare for the next step of your degree. After completing every required elective and participating in a semester-long Premedical Health Studies Capstone seminar, you’ll interview for admission into the Doctor of Optometry program

Pass the Optometry Admission Test

Taking part in an optometry program requires you to pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). This computerized exam evaluates what you’ve learned throughout your undergraduate experience, including science knowledge, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. 

As part of your application for the MCPHS Doctor of Optometry program, you’ll have to submit a copy of your results from this exam after receiving the required marks. 

Doctor of Optometry

Once you’re accepted into the MCPHS Doctor of Optometry program, you’ll advance to the four-year professional phase to wrap up your education before you begin working as an eye care specialist. 

In your first year of the Doctor of Optometry program at MCPHS, your professors will help you learn essential and foundational information about optometry theory, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology. You’ll also complete labs that go through the theories and methods of optometry. Because this job will take place in a clinical setting, you’ll also learn how to examine patients and professionally function on the job. 

In your second year, you’ll work through more advanced optometry theories and methods through a variety of class styles and lab work. You’ll participate in primary care clinics and be exposed to real-world work through our affiliated community health center clinics. The Eye and Vision Center at MCPHS is a fantastic place for you to work alongside experienced faculty and provide patient care in the Worcester area. You’ll work as an intern to provide high-quality care and get hands-on experience. 

Your third year will be your time to study pediatric and geriatric optometry, research and statistical methods, public health, and optometry practice and management. These semesters will also include an online clinical seminar that will cover additional educational topics necessary for deep insight into the field. 

Your fourth and final year of the doctorate program will include three 16-week rotations through a variety of patient care experiences. This will be your chance to explore specialty opportunities, including at community health centers, Veteran Affairs (VAs) sites, military bases, and private practices. 

Getting Your License

Working as an optometrist requires you to pass all four parts of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry assessment after you earn your Doctor of Optometry. This is a national requirement, but the state you reside in may have additional exams you must pass before you can legally practice. 

What Are the Different Types of Optometry

Students have an opportunity to explore specialties during their optometry training. While general optometry is definitely an option for you, there may be a more niche area of eye care that you discover during your years of school that is a better fit for you. 

When you become an optometrist, you have the chance to choose a specific focus. Some common specialties include:

  • General optometry.
  • Family practice optometry.
  • Cornea and contact lenses. 
  • Geriatric optometry.
  • Pediatric optometry.
  • Low vision rehabilitation.
  • Binocular vision and vision therapy.
  • Eye disease.
  • Sports vision optometry. 
  • Community health. 
  • Brain injury vision rehabilitation. 

General Optometry 

This is the most common choice, where optometrists provide comprehensive eye exams, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and diagnose and manage various eye conditions such as myopia, astigmatism, hyperopia, and presbyopia. 

Family Practice Optometry

A family practice optometrist specializes in comprehensive eye care services for patients of all ages, from infants to seniors. Like a general optometrist, this industry professional diagnoses, treats, and manages a wide range of eye and vision conditions. 

Cornea and Contact Lenses

Those who specialize in contact lenses and cornea treatment have the ability to fit and manage contact lenses for various vision needs. They see patients with astigmatism and presbyopia, and they prescribe specialty lenses for orthokeratology. 

Geriatric Optometry

Geriatric optometrists work with older individuals with age-related conditions that often can’t be corrected with standard eyeglasses or contacts alone. These doctors provide devices, strategies, and support to help people maximize their remaining vision. 

Pediatric Optometry 

On the opposite side of the age spectrum, pediatric optometry specialists work with children to diagnose and manage vision problems, such as amblyopia, strabismus, and other developmental issues. 

Low Vision Rehabilitation

Low-vision optometrists work with individuals with a significant vision impairment that cannot be fully corrected with standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, or medical treatment. These professionals work with patients to find strategies and support to make their vision situation easier to manage. 

Binocular Vision and Vision Therapy

These optometrists deal with problems related to how the two eyes work together—which is often referred to as binocular vision. They provide vision therapy to help patients improve eye coordination, focusing abilities, and other visual skills. 

Eye Disease

If you want to specifically work to diagnose and treat a wide range of ocular diseases, then an eye disease specialist would be a great path for you. Some of the most common diseases include glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. 

Sports Vision Optometry

Sports vision optometrists work with a variety of athletes to enhance their visual skills, such as depth perception, peripheral awareness, and hand-eye coordination to improve their performance in their designated sport. 

Community Health

A community health optometrist—or a public health optometrist—focuses on advocating for and promoting eye health within different communities or cities. These professionals highlight the need for equal access to eye care services, providing education about preventative measures and eye safety, as well.

Brain Injury Vision Rehabilitation 

Brain injury optometrists specifically work to evaluate and manage visual problems resulting from neurological conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and other neurological disorders. 

Job Outlook and Salary

Unfortunately for your future patients, vision problems will always be an issue that people have to face. But this means there will be a constant need for optometrists anywhere in the country—and throughout the world. 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 1,700 expected openings for optometrists annually. As people move jobs or retire, new opportunities open up for recent graduates to enter the field. 

Your salary will ultimately depend on what specialty you have, what location you end up in, and a few other factors, but eye doctors are generally paid a very high salary. On average in the U.S., optometrists make about $133,100 per year, as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning them a comfortable living with benefits.

Optometry-Focused FAQs

Jumping into a program that will get you closer to becoming an optometrist is a big step. You may still have some questions about what to expect during your education. Here are some common inquiries:

How many years does it take to become an optometrist in the U.S.?

It depends on the school you choose, but most colleges require you to do eight years—four in an undergraduate and four in a graduate program. However, MCPHS students can graduate in seven years, with the undergraduate program only taking three years. While you can choose to still take eight years, many students opt for the more accelerated path to get into the workforce faster. 

What skills are necessary to become an optometrist?

In addition to deep expertise in science and technical skills, eye doctors need soft skills to have a great working partnership with their colleagues and patients. They should be good listeners and communicators, and they should be able to empathize with people and pay attention to what those seeking their care need. On top of that, optometrists must be quick on their feet and be able to quickly problem-solve. 

What does an optometrist’s work environment look like?

Typically, optometrists work full-time hours in independent optometry practices, corporate vision centers, general care doctor’s offices, or pediatric centers. Most of their days are spent looking at patients in exam rooms, using specialized tools to test patients’ vision, fitting people for glasses or contact lenses, or coming up with strategic solutions to people’s vision problems. Most optometrists have fast-paced, busy schedules, seeing several patients daily. However, others choose to limit their availability to enable a slower work style.

Studying Optometry at MCPHS

In a 2022 U.S. News and World Report, optometry ranked the 13th best healthcare job. If you’re interested in joining a blooming medical field, you’ve come to the right place. MCPHS is an established leader in health and life sciences education, with a record of producing job-ready graduates. 

Apply to MCPHS to get started in a long and illustrious career in eye care.