What is optometry?
If you love people, want to improve lives, and are scientifically minded, a career as an optometrist is waiting for you!
As one of the five senses sight is hugely important – and in a modern world filled with computer screens and mobile phone screens, it is increasingly necessary for everyone to have access to specialist eye care and attend regular eye check-ups. As an optometrist you’ll be trained to examine the eye, to detect and diagnose any abnormalities and diseases, and to prescribe glasses or contact lenses.
Studying optometry can lead you to an exciting and varied career. You’ll get to put your knowledge into practice with diverse placement opportunities, and will learn about the issues that can affect eyesight. This may lead you on to further study, with options to specialise and gain further qualifications in areas such as glaucoma, contact lens prescribing, and low vision.
Optometry course entry requirements
Entry requirements will vary from course to course, but you will be required to achieve high grades in the qualifications you have taken, and you will need to have studied at least two science subjects.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BBB to AAB, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for AAB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBBB to AAAAB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring BBBBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for BBC.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Personal statement
- Attend an interview
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
Why study optometry at university?
There are many issues that can affect the eyes including blindness, cataracts, and glaucoma, and by studying optometry, you will be at the forefront of change in this pivotal space. You’ll receive a professionally recognised qualification that will enable you to practice as an optometrist – and because optometry is an occupational degree, it is highly likely you will find employment soon after graduating. You’ll examine patients’ eyes, give advice, and prescribe and fit spectacles, and ultimately, you’ll be able to make a huge difference to peoples’ lives. So, if you’re the sort of person who loves science and learning the intricacies of how something works, and who also has a passion for working with people and seeing results of their study in real life situations, then optometry might just be the course for you!
You will also develop transferable skills in communication, problem-solving, and critical evaluation – these will be useful no matter which career path you choose.
What can you do with an optometry degree?
Optometry is a growing profession in the UK, and graduates tend to work in hospitals, opticians, or larger retail stores – they could also be community-based. To become a practising optometrist, you will need to successfully complete your degree in optometry, followed by a pre-registration year of supervised training in the workplace. You will be required to register with the General Optical Council, who are the regulating body for optical professions in the UK.
Competition is high for optometry graduates looking to secure a pre-registration position, so it will be beneficial to have some relevant work experience under your belt. You could get this through weekend work during term time, or during the holidays. Some large retail chains also offer summer programmes that are a great opportunity to gain experience.
From here you can take your skills into the wider world, and find jobs where your optometry degree will be useful, such as:
- ophthalmic optician
- dispensing optician
You may also find your degree useful for the following jobs areas:
While many companies run graduate schemes open to those holding a degree in optometry, there are also opportunities to stay in academia through further study. When you are a qualified optometrist, there will be opportunities to study further, or to specialise in an area of optometry, such as glaucoma research.
Will I be able to travel as an optometrist?
If you’re keen to travel, don’t be put off studying optometry – there are many opportunities for work in every corner of the Earth. People all over the world need eye care, you may even get to be part of a team setting up quality eye care facilities in countries where health facilities are limited.
What’s it like to study optometry?
Optometry is always evolving, and can be a dynamic and exciting area to work in. You will have the chance to work with the latest technologies while also enhancing lives and improving peoples’ health.
As with most science-based degrees, optometry can be intense and challenging, but it will also be rewarding and interesting throughout. You will learn through lectures, seminars and group work, and be assessed through a variety of means, including practical work, presentations, and exams.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.