A guide to studying Optometry at university - including what to expect, reasons to consider the subject area, application tips and a careers overview.
Why consider studying Optometry at university?
Optometrists are primary health care professionals who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and defects of the eye. Optometrists prescribe spectacle lenses, contact lenses and low vision aids as part of low vision rehabilitation. With further training optometrists can prescribe and access a wider range of medications and perform certain procedures, e.g. minor surgical techniques.
Optometry is an extremely rewarding career, improving the quality of life for patients, with many job opportunities in the high street or in hospitals. The worldwide demand for optometrists is also high with growing international employment rates.
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What to expect if you study Optometry at university?
Optometry students learn clinical techniques using undergraduate clinical spaces and laboratories. Infection control and additional hygiene measures have been introduced since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students learn how to use the technology used in optometry, including optical coherence tomography (OCT), to acquire and interpret OCT images to inform clinical decision making. Their learning is then supported by going through clinical cases with case-based discussions.
Optometry is also a general science degree, therefore as well as the clinical component, basic science practicals are undertaken, these include anatomy, microbiology, and biochemistry modules.
Clinical placements are an important part of learning to become an optometrist, with a mixture of on-site clinical placements and external placements in the community or a hospital.
There are different pathways to becoming a qualified optometrist, but usually, students will need to achieve at least a 2:2 class in the BSc Optometry degree course, followed by a pre-registration year, entailing supervised training in the workplace with continuous assessment and final Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) through the College of Optometrists to enable full registration with the General Optical Council (GOC).
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What careers does studying Optometry lead to?
Optometry is a rapidly developing and exciting area and there are many areas to specialise in as a post graduate student including training in glaucoma, low vision, paediatric optometry, binocular vision and independent prescribing. There are new eye care pathways in which patients can be seen by optometrists in the community rather than attending hospitals.
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Application tips for Optometry courses at university
Application is through UCAS, the entry requirements vary with institutions and there are different courses for students who have taken sciences at A levels compared to those who have not, and those with non-standard qualifications.
In your personal statement it is important to include any optometry or health care related work experience (in person or virtual) that you may have or any experience as a patient. You should also include details of any hobbies where transferable skills have been gained, for example, manual dexterity, teamwork or leadership skills.
Optometry is an excellent course for students who are good at science, who enjoy helping people and are interested in a health care career.
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With thanks to the event speaker
Dr Jennifer Acton, Senior Lecturer, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University.
Jon Cheek, Founder and Director, UniTasterDays.com