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What Classes Do I Need to Take to Get Into Optometry School?

by Karen Farnen

Optometrists test patients for vision difficulties, prescribe lenses and check for eye diseases. Because eye problems increase with age, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 33 percent growth in positions for optometrists between 2010 and 2020, as the country's population ages. The job requires a Doctor of Optometry degree and a state license. Before pharmacy school, however, you must complete undergraduate prerequisites, especially in physics, biological sciences and math.

Degree and Major

Most students complete a bachelor's degree before beginning optometry school. Only four programs require the degree, but many schools give preference to graduates in admissions, according to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Although you can major in any undergraduate subject, most pre-optometry students major in the sciences.

Science Requirements

Each optometry program sets its own prerequisites, but all prospective optometry students should take professional-level science classes that include lab sections, according to ASCO. Optometry schools typically require a minimum of one academic year each of biology or zoology, physics and microbiology, although you may take bacteriology instead of microbiology. Programs also require one year of general chemistry and one to two semesters of organic chemistry, according to ASCO.

Other Sciences and Math

Most optometry schools also recommend or require classes in anatomy and physiology, and many allow either separate or combined classes. Biochemistry is recommended or required, but you may substitute it for a second semester of organic chemistry for some programs. All schools require a least one year of college math, including at least one semester or two quarters of calculus and a class in statistics. ASCO recommends pre-optometry students take college algebra, trigonometry, calculus and statistics.

Other Classes

Applicants to optometry school need one academic year of college English, per ASCO. Most colleges also require one semester or two quarters of psychology, although some accept one quarter. In addition to these typical requirements, the ASCO website also recommends a semester of history and speech and electives in social science and humanities.

Application Information

All 21 optometry schools in the U.S. and Puerto Rico use the online OptomCAS application service, so you can apply to multiple schools at one time. In addition to grade transcripts, you must also submit Optometry Admission Test scores. Other application requirements generally include letters of recommendation, a personal essay and information on your extracurricular and work history. Admissions officers look for hard-working, well-rounded students with leadership abilities.

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