Optometrists are members of the primary general health team who specialize in the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions or impairments in the vision system. They are non-medical doctors who study for four years in a college of optometry. The first two years emphasize classroom and laboratory work in the basic biomedical and physical sciences while the remaining two years are composed primarily of supervised patient care in hospitals, private practices, and clinics. This curriculum leads to the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Optometrists must be licensed by the state. Since the optometrist is not a medical doctor, he or she cannot treat the eye surgically, but can deal with the anterior segment of the eye. However, an optometrist can be licensed to administer some diagnostic and therapeutic drugs relevant to vision care.

The optometrist prescribes corrective ophthalmic lenses, contact lenses or other optical aids, as well as other vision therapy to restore and preserve maximum efficiency of vision. Optometrists can practice in a variety of settings, including solo and group practice, hospitals and clinics, government and public health institutions, community health centers, and the military. Within these settings, optometrists engage in primary care practice, or they can emphasize within their practice such areas as: scientific research and teaching, pediatrics, contact lenses, sports vision therapy, geriatrics, and occupational vision.

Employment opportunities for optometrists are expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. The demand for optometry is expected to increase due to the aging of the population and an increased need for optometric services.

Academic program as a major in cell and molecular biology

Undergraduate requirements for entry into one of the nation's twenty-three schools of optometry vary somewhat with the specific school considered, but always consist of selected courses in the life sciences, physics, chemistry, calculus, psychology, statistics, and microbiology in addition to general education courses. These programs are coordinated by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. An example of the minimal academic requirements for admission to the Southern College of Optometry (Memphis) is as follows:

  • Life Sciences with labs: 1 year
  • General Chemistry with labs: 1 year
  • General Physics with labs: 1 year
  • Organic Chemistry with lab: 1 course
  • Biochemistry of Molecular Biology: 1 course
  • Microbiology or Bacteriology with lab: 1 course
  • Calculus: 1 course
  • Statistics: 1 course
  • General Psychology: 1 course
  • Social Sciences: 1 year
  • English: 1 year

Recommended courses

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Histology
  • Immunology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Business or Accounting

The preferred framework in which to complete these requirements on the Missouri State University campus is the major in Cell & Molecular Biology (CMB). Within this major, a student can select those electives that satisfy the exact requirements for any specific optometry school.

The requirements for this major are given below, and a sample four-year schedule has been constructed with those electives that would favor excellent preparation for optometry school admission. Because of sequential prerequisites, limited class schedules, and tight course scheduling, students seeking formal admission to the CMB degree program must begin planning their program with the pre-optometry advisor in the Biomedical Sciences Department early on, and during their freshman year.

All schools and colleges of optometry require application to a central clearinghouse, called OptomCAS (online at www.optomcas.org). The application period is from July 15 to March 1, and there is an application fee plus an additional fee for each school to which the applicant wants his or her application sent. Essays, official college or university transcripts, three letters of recommendation (at least one of which must be from a pre-health professions advisor or science faculty member), and scores from the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) must be submitted as part of the package sent to OptomCAS. The OAT consists of four tests: Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry), Reading Comprehension, Physics, and Quantitative Reasoning. The OAT is administered twice a year and the test dates are in early February and late October. Deadlines for application are about six weeks before the examination date. Preparation for the OAT is suggested. One of the most popular preparation programs is offered by Scholarware and is called Top Score Pro (for the OAT).

Admission to the CMB program as a pre-optometry student

Students planning to major in Cell and Molecular Biology should meet with the BMS pre-optometry advisor before declaring the major at the Advisement Center. Formal admission to the major requires completion of at least 25 hours of course work including BMS 110, BMS 111, BMS 231, and CHM 160 and an overall and science GPA of 2.50 or higher. In the terminal semester, each CMB major is required to take an assessment examination in the areas of cell and molecular biology. Also see the Health Professions Scholars Program information below.

Health Professions Scholars Program

Required courses as a CMB major (47-51 credit hours)

Biomedical Sciences (Total 20 hours)

BMS 110 (3) Intro. to Biomedical Sciences (lecture) and

BMS 111 (1) Intro. to Biomedical Sciences (lab)
BMS 231 (4) Human Genetics with Laboratory
BMS 321 (4) Biomolecular Interactions

BMS 494 (1) Senior Seminar
BMS 521 (4) Molecular Cell Biology
BMS 525 (4) Molecular Biology

Chemistry (Total 17-19 hours)

CHM 160 (4) General Chemistry I
CHM 170 (3) General Chemistry II
CHM 171 (2) General Chemistry Laboratory
CHM 342 (5) Organic Chemistry I
CHM 343 (3) Organic Chemistry II 

Physics (Total 8-10 hours)

PHY 123 (4) Introduction to Physics I or PHY 203 (5) Foundations of Physics I
PHY 124 (4) Introduction to Physics II or PHY 204 (5) Foundations of Physics II

Mathematics (Total 3-5 hours)

MTH 287 (3) Computational Calculus with Analytic Geometry or MTH 261 (5) Analytic Geometry with Calculus I

NOTES: PHY 123 requires CSC 111 or computer proficiency examination; PHY 203 and 204 also require MTH 261. BMS 525 was formerly BMS 358. See current catalog for course descriptions and prerequisites.

Advisor-approved electives (minimum 17 credit hours)

Electives must be at the 300 level or above. Ten credit hours must have a BMS prefix. Approved electives will take into consideration the post-graduation objectives of the student. The electives marked below with asterisks are those strongly recommended for pre-optometry students.

List of possible electives: See Catalog for Course Descriptions and Prerequisites.

BMS 308 (4) Human Physiology*
BMS 558 (3) Recombinant DNA Techniques
BMS 582 (382) (4) Embryology*
BMS 569 (3) Neurobiology*
BMS 497 (1-4) Topics in the Biomedical Sciences
BMS 585 (4) Histology*
BMS 514 (2) Scanning Electron Microscopy*
BMS 524 (3) Virology
BMS 529 (3) Molecular Genetics*
BMS 561/562 (4/1) Pathophysiology
BMS 570 (3) Pharmacology*
BIO 312 (3) Microbiology*

BIO 313 Microbiology Lab

BIO 511 Immunology

NOTES: BMS 582 and 585 require BMS 307 or BIO 380.

Sample 4 Year CMB Schedule

Primary web sites for pre-optometry students

For more information

Dr. Amy Hulme 

Pre-Optometry Advisor
Professional Bldg., Room 341