Pre-Optometry Plan

The UT Martin Pre-Optometry Plan is designed to prepare students for application to professional school.  By following the Pre-Optometry Plan recommendations, students will be eligible for admission into most Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) programs; however, the courses listed in the plan are intended only as a guideline and students are strongly encouraged to review the requirements for their school(s) of choice as they vary from school to school. 


Please note: The Pre-Optometry Plan is not a major and does not fulfill the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at UT Martin.  The courses listed below are recommendations and are not required for degree completion unless also listed under the student’s chosen major.


Frequently Asked Questions


What does an optometrist do?
Optometrists are the primary caregivers for your eyes.  They are responsible for diagnosing, managing, and treating conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system. Some of their job duties include examining people's eyes to diagnose vision problems; testing patients' depth and color perception and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes; prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses; providing vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation; testing for glaucoma and other eye diseases; diagnosing conditions caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure; prescribing medication to treat vision problems or eye diseases; providing preoperative and postoperative care to cataract patients and patients who have had corrective laser surgery; and encouraging preventative measures by promoting nutrition and hygiene education to their patients to minimize the risk of eye disease.  Additionally, since many optometrists own their own practices, they often oversee a variety of administrative tasks. 


Is there a demand for optometrists?
YES! According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2026.


What degree to do I need to become a optometrist?
Doctor of Optometry (OD)


How many accredited optometry programs are there in Tennessee?
One: Southern College of Optometry


What is the typical length of the professional program?
4 years


Are there any required admissions tests?
Yes, the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)


What application service do I use to apply to optometry school?
Optometry’s Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS)


When should I apply?
Applications to optometry schools should be submitted in the summer or fall of the year preceding the desired admission date.  For most students, this means that they will apply the summer after their junior year. 


Do I have to have a bachelor’s degree to get into optometry school?
Not necessarily.  In many cases, students are eligible to apply after completing 90 semester hours of course work; however, preference is given to applicants who have earned a bachelor’s degree and most students entering optometry school have a bachelor’s degree.


What kind of grades do I need to get into optometry school?
Academic performance is crucial.  A GPA of 3.6 or higher is needed to be a competitive applicant.  Moreover, most optometry schools require that all prerequisite classes be completed with a grade of “C” or higher.


What kind of optometry experience do I need?
You don’t necessarily have to have work experience in the optometry field; however, optometry schools expect direct observation of the field prior to admission.  That direct observation can be gained through volunteering, shadowing an optometrist, or working in an optometrist’s office. 


How many hours of direct observation do I need?
There is no magic number for how much shadowing/observation you have to have.  It is a good idea to observe more than one optometrist when possible.


Will I be a pre-optometry major?
No.  The Pre-Optometry Plan is not a major and does not fulfill the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at UT Martin.  The courses listed in the plan are recommendations and are not required for degree completion unless also listed under the student’s chosen major. 


What should I major in?
As a pre-optometry student at UT Martin, you can major in any area you choose.  The best major is the one in which you are the most interested and the most likely to succeed.  The most common majors for pre-Optometry students at UT Martin is the Biology – Cellular and Molecular Concentration because that major includes many of the classes required by the optometry schools.  Because many optometrists open their own practices, you may also want to consider combining a science major with a business major or minor.   


What are the minimum requirements for optometry school? 
At a minimum, most O.D. programs require:

  • One year of English
  • One semester of Psychology
  • One year of biology with labs
  • One year of physics with labs
  • One year of General Chemistry with labs
  • One course of Organic Chemistry with a lab
  • One course of Statistics
  • One course of microbiology
  • One course of Calculus
  • One course of Biochemistry

In addition to the classes listed above, most optometry schools require one year of Social and Behavioral Science or Humanities electives.  The requirements for these electives vary widely.  You should check with your school(s) of choice to determine how many elective hours are required and if they need to be in a specific area.  For example, some schools allow electives to be chosen from any humanities or social sciences area while others specifically require electives from social or behavioral sciences.

It is important to note that, while the above list of classes meets the minimum requirements for most optometry schools, successfully admitted students take classes well beyond the minimum and students are strongly encouraged to pursue as rigorous a schedule of courses as possible to be competitive. 


What classes at UT Martin should I take as a pre-optometry student?
While not an exhaustive list, the following courses are strongly recommended for students considering applying to optometry school.  Students should always check with their advisor and/or school(s) of choice before deciding which classes to take.

Recommended courses

  • Biochemistry 411 Cellular & Comparative Biochemistry I
  • Biology 130 Foundations of Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity
  • Biology 140 Foundations of Biology: Cell and Molecular
  • Biology 337 Cell Biology
  • Biology 338 Cell Biology lab
  • Biology 436 Molecular Biology
  • Biology 437 Molecular Biology lab
  • Chemistry 121 General Chemistry I
  • Chemistry 122 General Chemistry II
  • Chemistry 341 Organic Chemistry I
  • Chemistry 342 Organic Chemistry II
  • English 111 English Composition I
  • English 112 English Composition II
  • Math 160 Calculus for Business and Life Sciences OR Math 251 Calculus I
  • Math 210 Elementary Statistics and Probability OR Psychology 318 Experimental Psychology II
  • Microbiology 251 General Bacteriology OR Microbiology 310 General Molecular Microbiology
  • Physics 211 College Physics I OR Physics 220 University Physics I
  • Physics 212 College Physics II OR Physics 221 University Physics II
  • Psychology 101 Intro to Psychology
  • Psychology 320 Learning and Cognition
  • Zoology 251 Anatomy & Physiology I
  • Zoology 352 Anatomy & Physiology II
  • Zoology 461 Histology

Where can I find out more about the field of optometry?


Where can I find out more about the OAT?
Optometry Admission Test (OAT) information

Application to Professional Schools

Get information on applying to professional schools

Click Here >


Student Testimonials

See what other students are saying!

Read Testimonials >