An optometrist is a primary healthcare professional trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormalities and problems with general health. Optometrists make diagnoses, offer advice and prescribe, fit and supply glasses and contact lenses. They can also offer advice on visual problems and detect abnormal ocular conditions and refer the patient on if necessary. Optometrists may also be part of a shared care scheme with a medical practitioner. Once you are qualified as an optometrist, you can undergo further training to specialise in a particular area. Optometrists play a vital role in caring for people’s sight and eye health.
Vision care is an area that requires effective communication and professional work. As a qualified optometrist you are responsible for the visual health of your patients. It is a demanding but very rewarding career, especially given the continuous advances in technology.
You can study for an optometry degree at 8 institutions in the UK. They are Anglia University, Aston University, Cardiff University, City University, University of Bradford, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Manchester and The University of Ulster.
For entry into optometry undergraduate you will require 5 GSCE or equivalent at C grade or above, which must include English and three A level passes making up approximately 320 UCAS points from the following subjects: physics, biology, chemistry or maths. Requirements can vary between institutions and from year to year, so it’s advised to check the relevant university’s prospectus.
The course is a full time 3 year degree course (4 years in Scotland) and in the early years is based around human and ocular biology, optics and maths and in the final years concentrates on clinical skills, pathology, research skills and ocular therapeutics.
Once you successfully complete your degree course you must work under the supervision of a General Optical Council (GOC) registered optometrist for approximately 1 year, the pre registration year. This includes a series of assessments throughout the year and Professional Qualifying Examination (PQE) which involves practical, oral and written assessments of your ability to manage patients and to practise safely. The pre registration year and PQE are administered by the college of optometrists. Subject to satisfactory progress and completion of final exam/assessment you may register as an optometrist with the GOC. In doing so, you must agree to abide by the council’s code of conduct.
To maintain your registration as an optometrist you will need to undergo continuous professional development throughout your career. This ensures that you remain up to date in a rapidly developing field and enables you to provide patients with the best possible care.