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Preparing for a Career in Optometry

Optometry is the health care profession that involves examining the eyes for defects or abnormalities, as well as the prescription of corrective lenses and the diagnosis and management of eye disease. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of optometrists is projected to grow 18 % over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The path to becoming a medical practitioner begins with a genuine desire and interest in helping other people. The strong foundation built as an undergraduate student at Westminster College includes demonstrating the knowledge, skills and personal growth attributes that contribute to a strong application and future success as a medical professional.

Students can choose different paths to optometry school, but must be mindful of the core requirements for competitive applications, preparing for the OAT exam, gaining appropriate experiences in the field and completing their respective majors. While it is possible for a pre-optometry student to do virtually any academic major, it is imperative for all students to work closely with both academic and health professions advisors to ensure completion of all requirements for optometry schools and for their undergraduate degree. Most often, a student on a pre-optometry track will choose a science major such as Biology, Biochemistry or Neuroscience since the curricula include most, if not all, required and recommended courses. Students will typically apply to optometry school between their junior and senior years, allowing for a direct transition following graduation, but some wait until after they graduate to apply in order to further their education and gain more relevant experience.

Pre-Optometry Track at Westminster College - Pennsylvania

The academic and extracurricular experience at Westminster College, ranging from coursework to on- and off-campus service and experiential activities to international study and/or travel, contribute strongly to the appeal of the well-trained and well-rounded individuals who graduate from our school.

Prerequisites for Optometry School (and for OAT Exam Preparation) generally are:

  • Biology (with labs) – Cell Biology and Genetics (BIO 201), Organismal Biology and Ecology (BIO 202)
  • General Chemistry (with labs) – Principles of Chemistry (CHE 117) and CHE180/230/231
  • Organic Chemistry (with labs) – Organic Chemistry I (CHE 261), Organic Chemistry II (CHE 262)
  • Physics (with labs) – Foundations of Physics I (PHY 141), Foundations of Physics II (PHY 142)
  • English – Writing (WRI 111) and an additional course (ENG ---) that requires extensive reading, writing and discussion in the English language
  • Sociology – Principles of Sociology (SOC 101)
  • Psychology – Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101)
  • Biochemistry – Biochemistry Principles (CHE 381)
  • Statistics – Biostatistics (BIO 206)

Additional course requirements may vary from one professional program to another, so it is the responsibility of the student to be aware of specifics regarding their schools of interest. Good planning and working closely with academic and health professions advisors are essential to maximize chances of success in the highly competitive optometry school application environment.

What would a typical Pre-Optometry schedule look like?

A sample schedule for a biology major preparing to take the OAT exam between their junior and senior year and matriculating to optometry school following graduation is below.

First Year (Fall)
First Year (Spring)
Cell Biology and Genetics (BIO 201) SD IP
Principles of Chemistry (CHE 117)
Inquiry (INQ 101)
Speech or Writing (SPE 111 or WRI 111)
Westminster 101 (WST 101)
Organismal Biology and Ecology (BIO 202)
Calculus I (MTH 150) QR IP
Speech or Writing (SPE 111 or WRI 111)
Elective _________(--- ----) FL IP

Sophomore Year (Fall)
Sophomore Year (Spring)
Biostatistics (BIO 206)
Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 302)
Organic Chemistry I (CHE 261)
Elective __________ (--- ---) VP IP
Ecology (BIO 360)
Organic Chemistry II (CHE 262)
Elective ________(--- ---) HC IP
Elective ________(--- ---) RP IP

Junior Year (Fall)
Junior Year (Spring)
Physiology (BIO 334)
Foundations of Physics I (PHY 141)
Biochemistry (CHE 381)
Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101) ST IP
Microbiology (BIO 301)
Foundations of Physics II (PHY 142)
Biology Capstone I (BIO 601)
Principles of Sociology (SOC 101)

Senior Year (Fall)
Senior Year (Spring)
Major Elective (BIO --)
Biology Capstone II (BIO 602)
Elective __________ (--- ---) Cluster
Elective __________ (--- ---) Cluster
Major Elective (BIO ---)
Chemistry Elective (CHE ---)
Elective____________(--- ---)
Elective____________(--- ---)


With the exception of the core requirements and courses strongly recommended ahead of the OAT exam, there is curricular flexibility within any chosen major and among the elective courses that are part of the liberal arts curriculum at Westminster College. It is, however, strongly suggested that students take both courses in Anatomy & Physiology (BIO 335/336), and Neurobiology (BIO 434) in order to be better prepared for the optometry curriculum.

Students planning to study abroad for a semester must also plan accordingly to meet all requirements and timelines. It is also advisable for students to budget time during the spring semester of their junior year to prepare for the OAT exam.

Extracurricular and Off-Campus Experiences

  • Shadowing an optometrist (OD)
  • Shadowing physicians (DO and MD) and other medical professionals in both office and hospital settings
  • Clinical internships
  • Volunteer experience with direct patient contact
  • Any experience working with children (e.g. day camp, Science camp)
  • Any experience working with disabled people or individuals with special needs

Where have Westminster students matriculated recently?

  • Massachusetts College of Pharmacology and Health Sciences (MCPHS) University School of Optometry
  • The Ohio State University College of Optometry
  • Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry

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