Optometrists, also known as doctors of optometry or O.D.s, are the main providers of vision care in the United States. They examine their patients to diagnose vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, and they conduct a number of tests to identify signs of more serious disease. Employment of optometrists is expected to grow over the next ten years in response to the vision care needs of a growing and aging population.
Maryville University provides pre-optometry training to prepare students to enter a four-year program in optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry. Students in the pre-optometry program apply to UMSL during the fall of their third year at Maryville. If accepted, they will begin their optometry program in the fall of their fourth year. At the completion of two years of the O.D. program, students are awarded the B.S. degree from Maryville. As a result, both the B.S. and the O.D. degrees may be earned in seven, as opposed to eight, years.
This program is designed for the highly-motivated student with a professional goal in optometry and will allow completion of the B.S. degree in biology and the doctor of optometry degree in seven years, rather than the usual eight. The first three years of the program at Maryville will offer a blend of liberal arts, basic, and biological sciences to prepare students for professional study. The next four years at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry will provide the coursework required to complete the Maryville baccalaureate degree as well as the courses and professional training required for the doctoral degree in optometry.
During the first three years, students will actively participate in the pre-optometry club at the University of Missouri-St. Louis as a way of increasing their understanding of optometry as a career and to develop relationships with the admissions staff at the School of Optometry. Students will apply for admission to UMSL in the fall semester of their junior year at Maryville. This requires that students take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) before applying. Unlike some dual programs, entry into the University of Missouri-St. Louis optometry program is not guaranteed if a certain GPA is maintained and a stated OAT score is obtained. Students not accepted may apply to the University of Missouri-St. Louis and other optometry programs for admission following the completion of their B.S. For academic year 2007-08, 2,693 individuals applied for admission to the schools and colleges of optometry in the United States; fewer than 1,400 positions are available each year.
Optometrists perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye, carry out subjective and objective tests to evaluate patients’ vision, analyze the test findings, establish a diagnosis, and determine the appropriate treatment. Optometrists treat a variety of conditions and illnesses. They treat eye diseases such as glaucoma and ulcers; visual skill problems such as the inability to move, align, fixate and focus the eye; and clarity problems such as simple near or farsightedness or complications due to the aging process, disease, accident, or malfunction.
Additionally, optometrists diagnose, manage, and refer systemic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and others that are often first detected in the eye; provide pre- and post- surgical care for cataracts, refractive laser treatment, retinal problems, and other conditions; and encourage preventative measures such as monitoring infants’ and children’s visual development, evaluating job/school/hobby related tasks, and promoting nutrition and hygiene education.
The day-to-day tasks of most Doctors of Optometry can be quite varied and challenging. Patient interaction can range from performing routine visual exams, removing a foreign body from the cornea, evaluating a child who is not performing well in school, managing the care of contact lens patients, prescribing medication for glaucoma, providing follow-up care after refractive surgery, and fitting a legally blind patient with a magnifying device that will enable the patient to read.
Doctors of Optometry practice in rural communities, suburban areas, and large cities. Some practice alone, with a partner or partners, or with other health care professionals, while others choose a career in the military, public health, or other government service. Still others may practice at hospitals, clinics, teaching institutions, and community health centers, or they may choose to be employed by another optometrist, or in the ophthalmic industry.
All areas of the country need optometrists to serve a population which is increasingly aware of the importance of prevention and proper health care, and which requires the services of optometrists now more than ever. In addition, the aging population of the U.S. will create an increased demand for vision care services in the next several decades. Optometrists are also needed to fill vacancies created through retirement. Currently, there are approximately 35,000 optometrists involved in direct patient care, practicing in about 6,500 communities across the nation. Seventy percent of the eye care market is delivered by Doctors of Optometry.
Optometrists have the satisfaction of helping their patients care for the most highly valued human sense – sight. Doctors of Optometry are recognized as leaders in their communities. Most are self-employed, receive relatively few emergency calls, and can establish a flexible working schedule, which allows them the luxury of combining a prestigious professional career with a very satisfying personal life. According to the 2007 American Optometric Association Economic Survey, the average net income for optometrists was $175,329.
Students in the pre-optometry program will have the option of enrolling in one of three programs: Biology, Biology/Biotechnology, or Biomedical Science. Students will complete their general education requirements, the pre-requisites for the University of Missouri-St. Louis optometry program, and most of the requirements for the bachelor degree at Maryville. Basic science courses taken at University of Missouri-St. Louis will fulfill the requirements for the B.S. degree. The biology major (courses in biology, chemistry, physics) at Maryville totals 73 hours. The 3+4 program will count the 33 credits completed at University of Missouri-St. Louis toward the Maryville major. At least half of the required credits for the biology major must be completed at Maryville. The biology major does not require a minor.
If you’re interested in joining our pre-medicine program, you need to meet the general admissions requirements for the University. Specific requirements will be defined by the major you choose.