Optometry comes from the Greek words 'optos' meaning seen or being visible and 'metria' which means measurement. Optometry is a specialised area of ocular medicine and concentrates much more on the non-surgical treatment of the eye, but longer just testing eyesight. It is a primary health care profession which examines, diagnoses and treats eye and visual disorders and vision-related concerns such as long or short-sightedness, muscular abnormalities, eye injuries, minor infections and conditions such as glaucoma and problems stemming from diabetes.
In recent years however there has been an increase in what optometrists are trained and expected to do. This has meant that the training has changed. It does not just focus on the dispensing of glasses and contact lenses but now more on the physiological and scientific nature of more serious eye and vision conditions.
Degrees in optometry are both highly specific and vocational and students will need to take a year's pre-registration training before taking the College of Optometry professional examinations. You will need these to be able to practice as an optometrist in the UK.
Example areas of study
To get an idea of the type of subjects you may study on an optometry degree, please have a look at the list below.
- Eye examination
- Ocular disease
- Ophthalmic lenses and materials
- Visual biology
- Clinical optometry
- Ophthalmic drugs
- Binocular vision
- Clinical practice
- Ocular anatomy
- Visual ergonomics
- Occupational vision
- Professional ethics
- Clinical and professional practice
- Contact laws practice
- Geometrical and physical optics
- Optometric refraction
- Low vision
- Visual impairment
- Human disease processes
Some career possibilities
A career as an optometrist will provide you with a challenging and rewarding career as you will meet, treat and work with a variety of different people. There are many job opportunities including high street opticians, hospital eye departments and private practice, or you could go on to teach or undertake postgraduate study in areas such as visual science, physiological optics or optometry.
What do I need to get on a course?
The entry requirements for optometry courses are quite high but they do differ from course to course and institution to institution. There are some courses with a foundation year which means if you have good grades on non-scientific subjects you may still be able to undertake the course. A guide to the entry requirements is below, but you may wish to contact the institution directly before submitting your application.
- Tariff: 320-340 points including relevant science subjects
- A-Levels: ABB-AAB, including 3 science subjects from mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry
- GCSE: C in mathematics and English language and B in physics or double science
- Irish Leaving Certificates: AAAAB, including 3 science subjects from biology, chemistry, mathematics or physics
- SQA Highers: BBBBB-AAABB, including 3 science subjects
- SQA Advanced Highers: ABB-AAB including 3 science subjects
- International Baccalaureate: 33-37 points including 3 science subjects at higher level
- European Baccalaureate: 77% including 3 science subjects
For your application or interview the following will be useful:
- You will need to have a good knowledge of science and strong interpersonal skills
- Manual dexterity is also an advantage
- Further information may be available from the Association of Optometrists (AOP), College of Optometrists, Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians and General Optical Council
Content supplied by and used with permission of UCAS.