Preprofessional Health Advising Office, San Diego State University 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-1017

Phone: (619) 594-6638 FAX: (619) 594-0244 E-mail:



In addition to providing a general introduction to an optometry career, this handout is designed to acquaint SDSU preoptometry students with preparation and application processes. The following information is offered as an overview, and is not intended to answer all of your questions or replace advising services. Read the following pages and open a file now.



Optometrists are independent primary health care providers. Common services provided include diagnosing vision problems and eye diseases, testing various aspects of vision, prescribing lenses, providing vision therapy, administering drugs to treat some eye diseases, providing pre- and post-operative care to eye surgery patients, and diagnosing conditions caused by diabetes and high blood pressure.


Certification: All states and the District of Columbia require that optometrists be licensed, which requires a doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited optometry school and passing both a written and a clinical State board examination.


Income: According to the Occupational Handbook, the median income of salaried optometrists was $68,500 in 1998. Salaried optometrists tend to earn more initially than do optometrists who set up their own independent practice. In the long run, those in private practice usually earn more. New optometry graduates in their first year of practice earned median net incomes of $55,000 in 1998. Overall, optometrists earned median net incomes of $92,000.


Outlook on the Profession: Employment growth will be fastest in retail optical stores and outpatient clinics.


For additional information, here are web addresses you may find useful.

American Optometric Association: http://

Assoc. of Schools and Colleges of Optometry:

(From the Preoptometry section of our web page, click on "ASCO Student and Advisor

Information" for a profile of the most recent entering class.)




ADVISING: The Preprofessional Health Advisor is available most Wednesdays and Thursdays during the semester individual appointments. In addition, Peer Advisors, students who are familiar with the application process, provide informal advising. During the academic year, the Preprofessional Health Advising Office is open Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The Peer Advisor schedule varies; please check the schedule posted outside GMCS 323.


RESOURCES: The advising office maintains a collection of materials for your use, including:

      Test registration materials

      Library of medicine-related fiction and non-fiction to improve your reading skills

      Information on volunteer opportunities

      Leadership opportunities

      Student club information


The PPHA web page has links to national organizations (including ASCO), all 17 accredited optometry schools, student web pages, discussions of medicine-related issues, and application tools such as a GPA calculator.



Beginning 16 months prior to your application, you are expected to attend a series of meetings to learn about the steps you must take to prepare yourself for the application process. You will be designated as the Class of XX, where XX = the year you will enter optometry school.



Bio 249, Careers in the Health Professions


This seminar course, Bio 249, is offered in the spring. Speakers from a variety of health careers provide insight into allied health fields such as podiatry, optometry, physician assistant and pharmacy. You are encouraged to take this course early in your academic program.


Bio 348, Internship


Currently there are no established internships for optometry. However, you can enhance your application by successful participation in an "on your own" internship. Reference the PPHA web page for more information.



If you have an active file with the Preprofessional Health Advising Office and meet other qualifications, you may choose to go through committee. Three faculty members or practitioners in your field will review your application, interview you, and provide an evaluation (Outstanding, Strongly Recommended, Recommended, Recommended with Reservations, or Not Recommended) to the Preprofessional Health Advising Office. If you receive a Recommended or better evaluation and provide an autobiography, a Committee Letter will be written to support your application. This letter is SDSU's official endorsement of your application and provides the committees evaluation, quoted comments and a narrative of your background.




Any major is acceptable to optometry schools; however, a major in the sciences may already include optometry school prerequisites. Plan to complete a degree program before entering optometry school. As of 2001, four schools, including UC Berkeley and the Southern California College of Optometry, require a bachelor's degree; most other schools prefer a degree, and the percentage of those accepted without a degree is low.



These are the admission criteria of a typical optometry school:

      Strength and breadth of academic record.

      Optometry Admission Test scores.

      Essay responses.

      Evidence of observation (minimum of 30 hours) under the supervision of one or more optometrists, (preferably within a private clinic setting).

      Strength of letters of evaluation.

      Content of application forms and the care with which they have been prepared.

      Extracurricular and community activities.

Also, they say, "The Admissions Committee strongly encourages applicants to take the October OAT and apply by the preferred application deadline. Those who apply late place themselves at a disadvantage. Well qualified applicants who apply early are more likely to gain admission."




The OAT is a standardized exam given twice a year, usually in February and October, that will test your knowledge and abilities in natural sciences (general and organic chemistry, biology), physics, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning.


Before taking the OAT, you should have completed at least one year each of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Many study guides are available; it is strongly suggested that you purchase a manual when you begin your preoptometry coursework and use it as a study guide as you take the introductory science courses.


Commercial courses are available through Kaplan and Princeton Review, frequently in conjunction with the DAT (Dental Admission Test) course, because of the many similarities in format and subject matter. The decision to utilize their services is a matter of personal choice, but they are expensive. If you are receiving financial aid, you may apply to the PPHA office for one of a limited number of partial scholarships. Scholarships are announced in the semester before the classes are given.


Plan to take the OAT no later than October of the year you apply, so your scores will be available when application processing begins in January. Note that UC Berkeley and several other schools do not accept scores from the February exam following application.



There are seventeen accredited colleges of optometry in the United States and Puerto Rico, all of which grant the O.D. degree.


For the 2000 entering class, the average OAT scores of the sixteen U.S. schools ranged from 315 to 358, and the average GPA ranged from 3.11 to 3.57. For UC Berkeley's 2000 entering class, the average OAT score was 358, the average GPA for prerequisite courses was 3.42.


All schools accept non-residents.


Preprofessional Health Advising Office, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-1017

Phone: (619) 594-6638 FAX: (619) 594-0244 Web:



These courses will satisfy the requirements for most optometry schools. Contact each school you are interested in and obtain exact requirements. Science courses should be pre-professional level designed for science majors and should include a lab. SDSU courses that fulfill the requirements for optometry school include (Refer to the SDSU Catalog for prerequisites):


SDSU Course #

Course Name



Bio 201A

Bio 201B

Bio 212

Bio 261, 336/466 or


Bio 350

Prin. of Cell & Molecular Biol (4)

Prin. of Organismal Biology (4)

Human Anatomy (4)

Human Physiology (4)






Required for SCCO


Bio 215 is prerequisite


Chem 200

Chem 201

Chem 231

Chem 365

Chem 431

General Chemistry (5)

General Chemistry (5)

Organic Chemistry (4)

Biochemistry (3)

Organic Chemistry (4)




Required for SCCO

Optional for most schools


Math 121 or Math 150


Bio 215, STAT 119 or

STAT 250

Calculus (3)


Statistics (3)


Consult your department (major) advisor


Phys 180A/182A

Phys 180B/182B


Phys 195/195L

Phys 196/196L

Phys 197/197L

Fund. of Physics I/Lab (4)

Fund. of Physics II/Lab (4)


Principles of Physics (4)

Principles of Physics (4)

Principles of Physics (4)


Consult your department (major) advisor


RWS 100

RWS 200

College Composition (3)

Intermediate Composition (3)


OR a literature course


Psy 101

Introductory Psychology (3)

PLUS one additional semester


Recommended courses:

Bio 366 & 366L

Biochem, Cell & Molec. Biol (6)

Bio 352

Genetics and Evolution (3)


Suggested elective courses:

Phil 330

Medical Ethics

Comm 103

Oral Communication

RWS 508

Scientific Writing

CHE 362

International Health

RWS 503W

Technical Writing

CHE 561

Health and Medical Care

Span 101 and 102 or higher

Introduction to Spanish



The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is required by all schools.


As of the 2000 entering class, only UC Berkeley, Southern California College of Optometry and the University of Houston require a bachelor's degree. However, most schools prefer a degree and the percentage of those accepted without a degree is low.


For more information about admission requirements, click on the "Preoptometry" link on our web page.