An online PhD in optometry prepares students to become doctors of optometry, or eye health. Optometrists are health care professionals who specialize in vision, visual systems, and vision information processing. Students also learn about the methods of lens prescription, treatment of eye diseases, and surgery. Upon attaining degrees to practice optometry, optometrists are held to the same standards as all doctors.
Career options for those with PhDs in optometry are not all too varied. An optometry doctorate will prepare students to become eye doctors and specialists. Optometrists diagnose treatments for eye health. Many work as surgeons or are experts in particular eye conditions. Others with PhDs in optometry choose to teach at the doctoral level.
About Online PhD Programs in Optometry
Most online PhD programs in optometry will last four years. The course work will be similar to any offered by any traditional university. An online program will most likely need to be supplemented with hands-on course work in laboratory procedures, diagnostics, and surgery. A good example of an online doctor of optometry program is the one offered by Salus University in Elkins Park, PA, and some of the courses are listed below:
- Molecular and Cellular Processes. Covers the basics of normal cellular organization and processes to learn how to detect abnormalities.
- Principles and Practice of Optometric Medicine. Students will learn about the skills and values needed for the professional administration of eye care.
- Integrative Neuro-Visual Sciences. This course will cover anatomy of the head and neck, the nervous system, and neurological disease.
- Integrative Ocular and Systemic Disease. This course builds on ocular biology and delves into ocular immunology, pathogenesis, differential diagnosis, and treatment of the eye.
- Integrative Approaches to Clinical Problem Solving. This course covers clinical reasoning skills and the process of gathering and synthesizing clinical information for decision-making.
- Optometric Principles and Management of Vision Problems. This course includes a one-month clerkship during the summer session. Students learn about “real world” issues in optometry and daily patient care.
Online PhD programs in optometry will include final dissertations or clinical externships. Students may be required to serve 1-2 years doing on- and off-campus clinical work. There will be rotations lasting anywhere from 3-12 months. Externships are often rotated between hospital-based work, disease specialties, and private practice.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Optometry
Earning a PhD in optometry is a necessary step toward becoming a practicing physician of optometry. Students will learn about the anatomy, cellular processes, and physiology of the eye and surrounding areas. They will graduate with an understanding of how these systems work in a healthy state. They will also be able to spot abnormalities.
Graduates should be able to use their knowledge to ascertain any issues within the eye by doing lab tests and visual examinations. They should be able to synthesize this information and work with their patients to determine a treatment program. Students will most likely have specialized in a particular area of optometry and should be able to work toward specialization in their careers. Students should, however, make sure that they are fully dedicated to an online optometry PhDprogram before enrolling, as it is time consuming and comes with a high tuition rate.
Application & Admission Requirements
Students will need a master’s degree in a related field, such as biology, optometry, or anatomy. They will need to submit their Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) scores. They will need letters of recommendation from professors in the math or sciences. They will also need to submit their applications, application fees, and FASFA information.
Career Options & Job Market
Graduates with doctorate degrees in optometry can work as professors of optometry. They can also qualify to work as optometrists in health care facilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those holding Ph.D.s in optometry made an annual median salary of $96,320 in 2008. The expected rate of growth was estimated to be 33%, which was higher than the national average.
Where to Find Information
- American Optometric Association Represents over 36,000 doctors of optometry and works to promote quality vision and eye care.
- American Optometric Student AssociationThe AOSA works to support students of the optometric profession and help to create the best education environments for students. It represents over 6,000 students across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.
- AOA Guide to Optometric Loans, Grants, and Scholarships Comprehensive list of general and school-based resources, grants, and loans available to optometry students.
How to Get Funding
Students in online PhD programs in optometry will have access to federal financial aid, including scholarships, loans, and grants. They will also be eligible to apply for outside financial aid. Students can begin the financial aid process by submitting a FASFA to the federal government before they apply to schools.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Students who receive the Stafford Loan will be eligible for a maximum loan amount of $12,500 per academic year. The program offers loans at fixed interest rates of 6.80% to students in post-graduate programs.
- Federal Perkins Loan. The Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest federal loan awarded based on need. Students receive an average of $3,500 per academic year and interest rates of 5.0%
- Campus-Based Aid.Most universities offer some form of scholarships and loans to students in their top programs. Look into any campus-based programs along with applying for federal aid.
- Is an online PhD in optometry right for you? Students should be aware of the time it takes to complete the degree and the high cost of tuition. It is also important to consider whether or not a career in medicine is a passion. Students should take note of the differences between online and traditional programs to make sure an online program will suit their learning needs.
- Don’t wait on your application. Once you know which schools you would like to apply to, it’s best to start as early as possible. There are many steps involved in the process, and it takes a while for admissions staff to go through the thousands of applications. The sooner you can get accepted, the better.
- Shadow medical professionals before applying. Shadowing a working optometrist is an excellent way to determine whether optometry is right for you. It is also a bonus on your application. Shadowing a professor of optometry or science is also beneficial, including work as a lab or teaching assistant.
- Understand the financial implications. There is no inexpensive way to complete a PhD in optometry. Most students graduate with significant loans. Make sure to be fully aware of possible payment plans and know that you will be able to pay down your loans before taking the plunge.