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How To Become An Optometrist In Canada

How To Become An Optometrist In Canada

Do you remember those sight tests as a kid where you looked at a screen with rows of letters of all different sizes in front of you? Or did you need glasses as a young child? The doctor who performed those tests and prescribed you the glasses was an optometrist. These specialized eye doctors embark on a long, educational, and professional journey to gain experience and obtain the knowledge to treat certain eye conditions and vision problems. To become an optometrist, you must complete a Doctor of Optometry Degree as well as other educational requirements. Overall, the length of schooling and practicum required is quite long.  After high school, it usually takes at least 8-9 years to become an optometrist. New graduates typically work for two years in an established practice before deciding to open their own or buy into an existing one. This article will discuss what is required to become an Optometrist in Canada and the steps you can start taking to become one.

What Is An Optometrist?

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care to diagnose, manage, and treat conditions and diseases of the eyes and visual system. An optometrist is licensed to practice optometry but is not considered a medical doctor. Their primary duties include:

  • Performing vision tests
  • Treating dry eye syndrome
  • Treating glaucoma
  • Performing comprehensive eye exams
  • Prescribing and dispense corrective lenses
  • Prescribing medications for certain eye diseases

What Schooling Is Required To Become An Optometrist In Canada?

Becoming an Optometrist requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and diligence. The doctorate degree takes approximately four years, but the overall schooling process including residency training can take 8-9 years.  Here is a comprehensive step by step guide to becoming an optometrist in Canada:

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor Degree

The first step to becoming an optometrist is completing a bachelor’s degree in university preferably with a focus on biological sciences or pre-med significance. Students must complete a series of pre-requisite courses in their degree with a focus on math and sciences. Students must also complete the degree with at least a B average or higher depending on the school's competitive averages. 

Step 2: Pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

The OAT is administered by the Association Of Schools And Colleges Of Optometry. The process is similar to taking the MCAT to get into medical school. Before applying to an optometry program, you must complete this computerized, multiple-choice exam that tests four main areas:

  • Physics
  • Survey Of Natural Sciences
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Other application components include:

  • Two confidential assessment forms (references)
  • English language requirements
  • Canadian citizenship and Police Records Check
  • Volunteer experience
  • Awards both academic and non-academic
  • School interviews

Step 3: Enroll in a Doctor Of Optometry Program

To become an optometrist, you must complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry (O.D) degree.  This degree combines in-class learning as well as supervised clinical experience. In Canada,  the Doctor of Optometry degree is only offered at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Step 4: Pass the NBEO exam

After completing your doctorate degree, you must take and pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. 

Step 5: Get Licensed

Once you have completed and passed the NBEO exam, you can take an additional year to complete a one-year residency program to get advanced clinical residency training in your area of specialization. Once that is complete, you are ready to embark on your career as an optometrist!

Calgary’s Best Team Of Optometrists

It takes a long time to become an optometrist, but, with a lot of hard work and dedication, you will be able to fulfill your dream of becoming an optometrist. Without healthy vision, our ability to work, play, recognize a face, or drive can be drastically affected. Our vision systems are extremely complex and require these eye specialists to keep our vision and eyes healthy. Without optometrists, we would not have the ability to accurately identify and correct all sorts of vision problems. They provide advice on maintaining good eye health and can answer any concerns or questions on all things eye and vision-related.

At our NW Calgary eye clinic in Market Mall, our team of highly experienced eye doctors can assess your vision and eye health to provide you with the most advanced care and treatment options. To learn more about our team of optometrists, contact Market Mall Optometry by calling (403) 286-4884 or book an appointment online for a comprehensive eye exam.


Q: How much money do optometrists in Canada make per year?
A: The average salary for an Optometrist is $106,955 per year in Canada.

Q: Do you have to get an undergraduate degree in math or science before applying to optometry school?
A: No, you do not. You have the option to pursue your undergraduate degree in whatever you choose including art, business, and other degrees offered at your university as long as you take the required prerequisite courses to apply to optometry school.

Q: How many years does it take to become an optometrist in Canada?
A: A total of 8-9 years of schooling and practicum is required to become an optometrist. This includes four years of an undergraduate degree, four years of a doctorate degree, and a one-year residency program.

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