Rankings

The 20 Best Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) Graduate Schools

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Updated: February 26, 2024, Reading time: 29 minutes

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Optometrists are in high demand partly because vision impairment and disability are among the top 10 disabilities among adults in the U.S. Sight is widely considered the most important sense and, thus, the maintenance of healthy vision is vital to good quality of life.

But even among healthy individuals, the optometrist’s valuable services cannot be overemphasized… and, even more so as they successfully earn their doctorate from the Best Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) Graduate Schools! 

With optometry being part of the medical field, practitioners must undergo comprehensive medical education and technical training. Aspiring optometrists must first earn a bachelor’s degree and then pursue a professional doctorate, known as a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.).

Quick audio summary:

Best Doctor of Optometry Graduate Schools - fact

Doctor of Optometry degree programs provide students with the comprehensive knowledge and technical expertise they need to become licensed optometrists. These programs typically require a four-year course of study, including clinical practicums and internships, and can lead to exciting and rewarding careers.


METHODOLOGY

All institutions featured here have programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), the only agency authorized for this purpose by the CHEA and USDE. Master’s degrees and other level students at these colleges and universities are then eligible for federal financial aid. 

Other factors considered in the ranking are: 


Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

20 BEST DOCTOR OF MEDICINE GRADUATE SCHOOLS

Southern College of Optometry

Southern College of Optometry

Memphis, Tennessee

Doctor of Optometry 

When combined with the professional success of its alumni, SCO’s academic excellence makes it the best optometry school, in our opinion. With nearly a century of rich history, it has produced 13 Presidents of the American Optometric Association so far! 

Standout Features: SCO has the highest passing rate on the NBEO exam – 100% in two of the last three years – and it’s proof of its on-point and on-trend program of study. 

First-year students participate in the white coat ceremony as a formal welcome into the optometry profession on their first day. This is also a demonstration of their commitment to excellent patient care from their first day in the profession. 

Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry 

Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry

Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Doctor of Optometry

NSU’s O.D. program features four years of comprehensive didactic coursework complemented by intensive clinical training in various healthcare settings.

Students learn crucial clinical skills in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of eye diseases and working with fellow healthcare professionals. 

Standout Features: This is a competitive program with only 28 students accepted every year. 

NSU has several notable landmarks, including the Sequoyah bronze sculpture and Seminary Hall’s clock tower. 

University of California Berkeley Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science

University of California Berkeley Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science

Berkeley, California

Doctor of Optometry 

UC Berkeley’s O.D. program consists of four years of didactic and clinical training followed by a one-year residency program with a choice in concentrations. These concentrations are primary care, contact lenses, ocular disease, binocular vision, low vision, and pediatrics.

The curriculum is continuously updated based on the latest developments in the eye care industry.

Standout Features: The graduation rate is highest at 93% for the 2016 batch! UC Berkeley graduates also have high NBEO passing rates – 96.9% for the 2021 exam -, and it’s a testament to its success and student quality. 

There’s a book that provides a fascinating look into UC Berkeley’s foray into optometry – it’s John Fiorillo’s Berkeley Optometry—A History. 

SUNY College of Optometry

SUNY College of Optometry

New York, New York

Doctor of Optometry 

Student diversity at SUNY’s College of Optometry is partly due to its affordable tuition and no-discrimination admission policy for in-state and out-of-state students. Students flock to SUNY, too, because of its reputation for academic rigor and excellence. 

Standout Features: 

The five-year average pass rate for the NBEO exam is an impressive 97%! SUNY also offers a combined residency and graduate degree program where students earn either an M.S. or Ph.D. in Vision Science alongside their O.D. degree. 

SUNY participates in the Varilux Optometry Superbowl and even won it in 2007. 

Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry

Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry

Glendale, Arizona

Doctor of Optometry 

Every August, MWU admits only 60 students to its world-class O.D. program at AZCOPT. The four-year program limits its student cohort to ensure academic quality, provide one-on-one student support, and maintain its standing. 

Standout Features: Students get hands-on patient care experience at the MWU Eye Institute aside from the off-campus externships. 

MWU’s Glendale Campus and Clinics have multiple awards, including the WESTMARC Quality of Life Enhancement in Education Award and Economic Engine Award. 

University of Alabama at Birmingham – School of Optometry

University of Alabama at Birmingham - School of Optometry

Birmingham, Alabama

Doctor of Optometry

The UAB School of Optometry trains its students to become leaders in providing compassionate, competent, and comprehensive eye care.

The importance of both didactic coursework and clinical training is emphasized to become skilled professionals at the end of the four-year program. 

Standout Features: Students engage in community outreach programs that provide eye-related health services to more than 25,000 patients every year. 

UAB has an elephant, Big Al, as its mascot, the only major university to adopt the animal for this purpose. 

Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry

Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Doctor of Optometry 

Students say that the abundance of opportunities to make meaningful improvements in patients’ lives is their foremost reason for their choice. Direct patient engagements occur at the five locations of the Eye Care Institute and other externship sites. 

Standout Features: NSUCO residents find rewarding programs in and out of the country, and earn as much as $38,000 per year plus benefits while at it, too. Their alumni also have high passing rates at the NBEO exam, proving the program’s efficacy. 

NSU Sharks look forward to the Sharkapalooza, part of the University’s Week of Welcome. 

Ohio State University College of Optometry

Ohio State University College of Optometry

Columbus, OH

Doctor of Optometry 

Ohio State offers a highly selective O.D. program with a 10-semester program designed for completion in four years. The cutting-edge curriculum is updated with the latest research and development in optometry and related fields. 

Standout Features: Out-of-state students pay in-state tuition and a $5 non-resident fee per semester starting on their second year. All students thrive under a supportive, academically competitive environment with small class sizes, personal coaching, and a practice-based curriculum. 

Students get their Pocket Buckeye during their first year. 

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences 

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Boston, Massachusetts

Doctor of Optometry 

Students must be enrolled full-time in MCPHS’s four-year O.D. program, including the summer terms. Graduates are equipped with professional skill sets in practicing and promoting optometry in clinical settings. 

Standout Features: Students can pursue the MPH degree along with the O.D. degree, and earning both means completing 210 credits. 

MCPHS is a multi-awarded institution with its most recent recognition being #4 on Money Magazine’s 2020 Most Transformative Colleges ranking. 

The New England College of Optometry

Boston, Massachusetts

Doctor of Optometry

The four-year O.D. program is characterized by its academic rigor, varied clinical experiences, and excellent laboratory instruction. Students build strong relationships that contribute to their academic success and professional networks for career success. 

Standout Features: ENCO offers an accelerated three-year O.D. program suitable for practicing physicians and scientists with a doctoral degrees. 

ENCO was founded by an ophthalmologist, Dr. August Andreas Klein, in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics. 

Illinois College of Optometry

Illinois College of Optometry

Chicago, Illinois

Doctor of Optometry 

ICO students train in the spacious college complex equipped with a state-of-the-art lecture center, eye care clinic, and learning sites with clinical equipment.

This is the country’s largest optometry school, which offers students hands-on clinical experiences via direct patient care for a diverse population. Students also live in on-site student housing and enjoy membership in various student-led organizations. 

Standout Features: 

Students start their optometry practice with direct patient care in their first year, with limited responsibility. But their responsibilities increase in scope with each semester, with their fourth year characterized by four clinical externships.

ICO was founded in 1941, the oldest continually operating institution exclusively dedicated to optometry education. 

Marshall B. Ketchum University Southern California College of Optometry

Marshall B. Ketchum University Southern California College of Optometry

Fullerton, California

Doctor of Optometry 

SCCO’s four-year O.D. professional program prepares students in excellent contemporary vision care practice, a legacy of excellence started since its founding in 1904. Once licensed as optometrists, graduates become valuable members of primary healthcare institutions. 

Standout Features: Optometry students work with pharmacy and P.A. students in an interprofessional education program at the Ketchum Health Center. 

SCCO was founded by Dr. Marshall B. Ketchum in 1904. It was in his honor that MBKU was named in 2013. 

Indiana University Bloomington School of Optometry 

Indiana University Bloomington School of Optometry 

Bloomington, Indiana

Doctor of Optometry

I.U. Bloomington’s four-year O.D. program covers all the bases, from didactic knowledge to vision science and optometry clinical skills.

Students also get every chance to expand the depth and breadth of their skill sets, such as through an Integrative Optometry course. Here, they solve clinical issues in optics, ocular biology, and vision science under the guidance of faculty members. 

Standout Features: I.U. offers a four-year, full-tuition scholarship for high-performing O.D. students who also want to pursue an M.S. in Vision Science degree. 

The Little Five is known as “the greatest college weekend,” and it’s for a cause, too! Proceeds of the bike race are donated to a scholarship fund. 

University of Houston College of Optometry 

University of Houston College of Optometry

Houston, Texas

Doctor of Optometry 

Individuals with personal qualifications and the intense drive to become an optometrist are welcome to apply to U.H.’s O.D. program, a four-year rigorous program. But only about 100 students are admitted every year, and admission is only during the fall semester. 

Standout Features: Residency programs are also offered with Houston, Fort Worth, and Dallas in Texas and Denver, Colorado, as well as Phoenix, Arizona. 

U.H. transforms an area in its campus into Fiesta City in celebration of Frontier Fiesta. 

University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry

University of Pikeville

Pikeville, Kentucky

Doctor of Optometry

KYCO’s O.D. program is designed with the ever-changing field of optometry in mind, thus, its emphasis on educational and clinical innovations. Students must keep up with the rigorous curriculum that reflects the current optometry trends, particularly in technological advances. 

Standout Features:  All textbooks, equipment, and technology are free to all students. 

KYCO is the only optometry-dedicated college in Kentucky. 

University of Missouri – Saint Louis College of Optometry 

University of Missouri - Saint Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

Doctor of Optometry 

UMSL offers an outstanding four-year, full-time O.D. program with a comprehensive curriculum rooted in medical and optical sciences. Students learn to work as part of independent optometry practice and as members of an interprofessional team. There’s an emphasis on finding novel approaches and applying new treatments, too. 

Standout Features: Students have numerous opportunities to advance the optometry profession through research. 

Mirthweek is an opportunity to unwind from the pressures of optometry school! 

University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg – School of Optometry

University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg - School of Optometry

San Antonio, Texas

Doctor of Optometry 

UIW’s Rosenberg School of Optometry is distinguished not just by its record of academic excellence but also by its status as the country’s only optometry school within a Christian faith-based university.

While the four-year curriculum has strong Christian values, students learn based on the contemporary medical model. 

Standout Features: Students can apply to the Summer Fellowship Training Program and the Inter-Professional Education (IPE) Program to expand their skill sets. 

First-year students can buy customized jerseys and participate in the Flight of the Cardinals. 

Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry

Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry

Elkins Park, Pennsylvania

Doctor of Optometry

PCO’s traditional O.D. program accepts students as a cohort and, thus, enables students to learn as a group, although independent learning is a must, too. Students enjoy a good life-studies balance with semester breaks, small group learning and student support services. 

Standout Features: PCO also offers an Accelerated Scholars Program for its O.D. degree along with the traditional program. Both have the same academic requirements, but the accelerated program can be completed in three years. 

The Latin word from which Salus University’s name is derived means “health and well-being,” and the name change happened on July 1, 2008. 

Pacific University College of Optometry 

Pacific University - Oregon

Forest Grove, Oregon

Doctor of Optometry

Pacific University’s four-year O.D. program acknowledges the importance of eye and vision health in every individual’s quality of life. Thus, its curriculum, including its sequence and delivery, is founded on exceptional patient care and management. 

Standout Features: Students have opportunities to expand their optometry-related skillsets through an elective research thesis, on-campus conferences, and other professional development options. 

New students participate in the Sign, Shake and Ring tradition, dating back to the early 1880s.

Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry 

Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry

Big Rapids, Michigan

Doctor of Optometry 

MCO’s curriculum ensures that students build a robust foundation of theory and practice that will prove useful in their future optometry practice. Students work with experienced faculty members and their peers in their professional and personal development. 

Standout Features: Small class sizes (1:2 faculty-student ratio) ensure that students learn the theories and gain the skills vital for their chosen profession. But the rigorous curriculum also encourages a competitive spirit among students. 

FSU is the only public university in the country founded by an individual! From the start of its founding, it has accepted female students, an uncommon policy at the time.


 What are the typical duties of Optometrists? 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the typical duties of Optometrists?

Their typical duties include: 

What are the places of employment among Optometrists?

About 50% of optometrists work in outpatient optometrists’ clinics, while an equal number (about 15% each) work in physicians’ offices and own their private practice. Many also work in health and personal care stores, usually selling vision aids.

Many optometrists also perform research activities in optometry institutions, work as professors, and provide consultancy services in the eyecare industry. 

Most of these professionals work full time, usually the 9-5 schedule during the weekdays. But working during evenings and weekends is also possible. 

What are the steps toward becoming an Optometrist?

Keep in mind that an O.D. degree is a professional degree. Earning one takes an estimated ten years of hard work and dedication. 

Optometrists must also maintain their professional licenses like doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. The requirements typically include continuing education through courses, workshops, and seminars.

Optometrists may also secure board certification from the American Board of Optometry, an optional certification that may boost your credibility and marketability. 

What are the most important qualities of Optometrists?

Due to the wide range of people that optometrists deal with during their workday, from patients to fellow healthcare professionals, they must possess the following qualities: 

Optometrists must also be updated about the latest developments in their field. 

What’s the pay and job outlook for Optometrists?

Being an optometrist is a rewarding profession and not only because you have the opportunity to provide quality medical services to patients!

Optometrists are also among the higher-paid professionals in the healthcare industry, with a median annual wage of $118,050 (May 2020). Work experience, continuing education, and a good track record are factors in career development. 

The projected employment for optometrists is 9% (2020-2030), meaning there are an estimated 1,700 job openings every year for the next ten years. With an aging population combined with the inclusion of preventive eye health coverage in nearly all health plans, optometrists will remain in high demand, too. 

Is a Doctorate required to become an Optometrist?

No, a Doctorate is not required to become an Optometrist. To become an Optometrist, a person must attend and graduate from an accredited college of optometry, which usually consists of four years of optometry school.

At the end of the program, they must then take and pass the national board exams, as well as any state or regional exams required by the state they are planning to practice in.

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