In 2012, CNN Money ranked optometrist as No. 12 on its list of the 100 best jobs in America, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth in the field of optometry of 33 percent between 2010 and 2020. While colleges of optometry are not ranked, excellent schools are located in the U.S. and Canada -- 19 currently accredited colleges of optometry and four new programs that have received preliminary accreditation approval.
University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry
The optometry program at the University of California, Berkeley is an intensive clinical training program; UCB estimates that once a student has completed its O.D. degree, she will have worked with approximately 2,500 patients over four years. The teaching clinics at UCB operate year-round, and students receive comprehensive training in all clinic areas including low vision, cataracts, diabetes and geriatric and pediatric care. UCB also operates a home vision-care clinic where faculty and students visit elderly and disabled patients who cannot visit a clinic themselves.
New England College of Optometry
In addition to the traditional four-year O.D. degree, the New England College of Optometry in Boston also offers dual-degree programs leading to the D.O. degree with either a master's degree or a Ph.D. Students who already hold an M.D. or Ph.D. are eligible to apply to a two-year accelerated program to earn their D.O. Students can complete training experiences at 70 field sites, allowing for broad training with a host of different populations in the community. NECO also offers a joint degree with Wenzhou Medical College in China and is working to create other international programs in Italy, Spain and South Africa.
Southern College of Optometry
Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee, is known for its outreach and service programs. Students participate in several initiatives to help educate the community through vision screenings in local schools, nursing homes and health fairs as well as remote-area medical care in rural areas. Students can volunteer to travel to Central America for 10 days each year to provide vision care and services. The Hayes Center for Practice Excellence at SCO works with optometrists after graduation to educate them about managing their own optometry practices and offers a free online placement service where current students can browse opportunities to enhance their clinical practice experience.
Indiana University School of Optometry
At the Indiana University School of Optometry, students take a problem-based learning course called integrative optometry. Students work in small groups with a facilitator to solve clinical problems that cover a variety of areas in vision science, genetics, physiology and pharmacology. The community outreach programs at IUSO allow students to participate in vision screenings for elementary school children and for the Junior and Special Olympics. Additionally, students can travel to the IUSO clinic in Guanajuato, Mexico where many patients are able to receive their first eye exams and glasses that they could not afford on their own.
- CNNMoney: Best Jobs: Optometrist (#12)
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Optometrists
- University of California at Berkley Optometry Program: OD Program: Introduction
- New England College of Optometry: Educational Programs: Overview
- Southern College of Optometry: Prospective Students
- Indiana University School of Optometry: Student Administration
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images