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What classes would be best to take in order to become an optometrist? What schools should I look into after high school graduation?

I am a freshman in high school and my dream job is to be an optometrist after witnessing my uncle lose his vision in the span of 3 years. I want to start planning my academic route but would like recommendations for classes. Also what schools give good degrees in biology and are more likely to get you accepted into an optometry school?

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Jeff’s Answer

Hi Marina,

I'm sorry to hear about your uncle, but he'd be proud of your motivation and your aspirations. If you're pursuing a career into becoming an optometrist and you are currently in high school, you'll best benefit from taking as many AP/IB or Dual College Credit courses in Biology, Chemistry, or any Health Sciences as possible, and as advanced as possible to what your high school allows.

Not only will this allow you to build foundational knowledge early on which will improve your quality of life in college, certain classes will allow you to be exempt from intro-level classes at specific colleges, depending on their transfer credit policy.

For example, a score of of "4" on the AP Bio Exam will give you credit for intro level courses in Biology when in college.

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In regards to your major of choice, you'll likely benefit from Biology, Chemistry, BioChem, or Health Science or something similar at your accepted university. You'll likely want to prioritize schools with strong research programs in the sciences. Here is a list for you to review:

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities/united-states/biology-biochemistry

Remember that there is more to what school you attend that will factor into admissions for optometry school - extracurriculars will matter quite a bit too and other things accomplished during undergrad.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for giving me advice. Marina
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Karin’s Answer

Hi Marina,

Congratulations! It seems like you are well on your way to your dream career.

In high-school you would take science classes and any health-related classes if offered, AP/IB or dual credit, whatever is available at your school. Also, English, a second language, and psychology or sociology would be useful.

Make sure you get some experience with an optometrist, either interning or shadowing. That will be part of you entrance requirements to optometry school.

I have attached some general resources for you as well. Make sure to check the exact pre-requisites of schools you would consider. It seems in CA you have a choice of 3 schools.

You find a list of schools with undergrad degrees in biology and biochemistry here:

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities/biology-biochemistry

https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges-with-biochemistry-and-molecular-biology/

I hope this helps! Good luck!

KP

Karin recommends the following next steps:

https://optometriceducation.org/
https://optometriceducation.org/future-students/resources/
https://www.aoa.org/education/studying-optometry?sso=y
https://optometriceducation.org/future-students/resources/pre-optometry-clubs/
https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/how-to-become-an-optometrist-and-tips-on-optometry-school
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Marina
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Rita’s Answer

In high school, be sure to take all the science classes you can. See if you like studying science and have confidence in your abilities.

After high school, you should attend a university or college that you can obtain a bachelor's degree. You can major in any subject, but you need to take all the required prequisite classes for optometry school admissions (generally biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, calculus, anatomy, physiology). Because of this, many people who attend optometry school are science majors. Because becoming an optometrist is a long, expensive road, I would recommend you minimize your costs in undergraduate as much as possible. You have lots of options in studying biology at many universities in California and while the reputation of the university matters, what matters even more is how well you do in your studies. Optometry schools accept people who attend a variety of undergraduate colleges.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Rita! Marina
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Patrick’s Answer

Marina, thank you for your interest in the field of optometry and for reaching out with your questions. I'm glad to provide some guidance to help you navigate your journey.

Your ambition to become an optometrist at such a young age is truly commendable, especially since it's driven by a personal experience that deeply touched you. Starting to plan your academic path early is a smart move that can make your journey towards becoming an optometrist smoother.

To start, it's crucial to build a solid foundation in the sciences during your high school years. Core subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, and maths are key prerequisites for a career in optometry. These subjects equip you with essential knowledge and skills that will be directly useful in your optometry studies. Strive to excel acadically and maintain a high GPA, as this will be vital for getting into reputable undergraduate programs and optometry schools.

After high school, aim for a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as biology. Most optometry schools require a bachelor's degree for admission. While the specific major may vary, choosing a program with a strong focus on sciences, especially biology, can be beneficial. Also, look for opportunities to gain practical experience in the field of optometry, like internships or volunteer work at eye clinics. These experiences not only offer valuable insights into the profession but also show your dedication to becoming an optometrist.

When choosing a university for your undergraduate studies, research institutions known for strong programs in biology and pre-health sciences. Schools with reputable biology departments and ample research opportunities can provide a challenging academic environment that will prepare you for optometry school. Consider factors such as location, campus culture, and available resources when making your decision.

Here are some universities known for their academic excellence, robust biology programs, and resources that can help you build a strong foundation for your future career in optometry:

• University of California, Berkeley's Department of Integrative Biology offers a strong undergraduate biology program with various specializations and ample research opportunities.

• Harvard's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology provide rigorous biology programs with world-class faculty and research facilities.

• UCLA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology offer comprehensive biology programs and strong connections to the healthcare industry in Los Angeles.

• The University of Pennsylvania's Department of Biology offers a diverse range of courses and research opportunities in biology and related fields.

• University of California, San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences is known for its innovative research and interdisciplinary approach to biology education.

• The University of Michigan's Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology offer rigorous biology programs.

• Johns Hopkins is renowned for its excellence in biomedical research and education.

• UNC's Department of Biology offers a strong foundation in biological sciences, with opportunities for research and experiential learning.

• Stanford's Department of Biology offers a comprehensive undergraduate biology program with opportunities for research and interdisciplinary study.

• University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Integrative Biology and Department of Genetics provide rigorous biology programs with opportunities for hands-on research and interdisciplinary study.

• University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's School of Molecular and Cellular Biology offers a comprehensive biology program with opportunities for specialization and research.

Your journey towards becoming an optometrist will demand dedication, hard work, and strategic planning. By focusing on your academic studies, gaining relevant experience, and choosing the right undergraduate program, you can establish a solid foundation for success in optometry school and achieve your dream of helping others maintain their vision and eye health.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Marina
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