Optometrist Education Guide: Top 10 Optometry Schools

By Natalie Winzer, iHire
optometry student at a clinic

Do you have a passion for eye care? Are you thinking about becoming an optometrist? Chances are you’ve already started to research optometrist education options to find out which are the best optometry schools in the US. There’s a lot to consider, from location, tuition, and class size to entering class GPA and OAT scores.

Here are ten of the top optometry schools ranked by their 2017 ultimate pass rates (percentage of board candidates that passed all three exams) reported by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry:

 

1. Southern College of Optometry (SCO), Memphis, TN

southern college of optometrySource: Southern College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 100%

SCO was founded in 1932 and offers state-of-the-art facilities and technologies, a low 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a 500,000 sq. ft. clinic (The Eye Center). While a private college, SCO’s tuition rates are competitive. Furthermore, Memphis has a low cost of living compared to other cities with populations above 500,000. SCO boasts 32 residency programs (the most of any optometry school in the US) and a 0% default rate on student loans for the past 21 years.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD
  • Tuition (2017–2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $18,120–$33,125 (depending on region); $35,919 non-regional
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.56 average GPA, 331 average AA OAT, 327 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 91% (Part I ABS), 97% (Part II PAM), 93% (Part III CSE)

 

2. Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Optometry, Fort Lauderdale, FL

nova southeastern university college of optometrySource: Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 97.85%

NSU College of Optometry is Florida’s only optometric academic institution. Their student-to-faculty ratio is less than 4:1, they foster a unique interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary learning environment with a comprehensive Health Professions Division, and provide students with clinical experiences via The Eye Care Institute (5-location eye care system treating patients of all ages).

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD, MS in Clinical Vision Research
  • Tuition (2016–2017 Academic Year, OD Program): $30,802 for resident students; $34,605 for non-resident students
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.36 average GPA, 323 average AA OAT, 321 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 86% (Part I ABS), 90% (Part II PAM), 82% (Part III CSE)

 

3. Pacific University College of Optometry, Forest Grove, OR

pacific university college of optometrySource: Tumblr

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 97.75%

Pacific University College of Optometry was initially founded in 1921 as the North Pacific College of Optometry. Pacific University operates numerous Pacific EyeClinics and EyeTrends opticals throughout the Portland area and hosts the Pacific Vision Conference on campus every year.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD, MS in Vision Science, PhD in Vision Science, MEd/Visual Function in Learning
  • Tuition (2017–2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $39,749
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.49 average GPA, 326 average AA OAT, 324 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 91% (Part I ABS), 98% (Part II PAM), 80% (Part III CSE)

 

4. Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry (MCO), Big Rapids, MI

ferris state university michigan college of optometrySource: Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 97.14%

MCO is the only college of optometry in Michigan, and they offer a unique “3+4” admissions option allowing students to complete 3 years of undergraduate school and then 4 years of graduate optometry school. Their class size is small (38) and students begin caring for patients in their second year. MCO’s University Eye Center, a full-service eye care clinic, is located on campus and provides comprehensive care as well as specialty clinics. Students may also get involved with clinical research activities at MCO’s Vision Research Institute (VRI).

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD
  • Tuition (2017-2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $30,395
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.7 average GPA, 334 average AA OAT, 333 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 97% (Part I ABS), 97% (Part II PAM), 57% (Part III CSE)

 

5. State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry, New York, NY

suny college of optometrySource: State University of New York College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 96.59%

SUNY College of Optometry awards multiple degrees, comprises 65 affiliated clinical training sites, and has one of the largest optometric outpatient facilities in the nation (University Eye Center). Its location in the heart of New York City affords students with unique opportunities for growth both intellectually and culturally.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD, PhD in Vision Science, OD/MS in Vision Science, OD/PhD in Vision Science, Advanced Graduate Certificate in Optometry Business Management
  • Tuition (2017–2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $28,390 for resident students, $49,650 for non-resident students
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.61 average GPA, 345 average AA OAT, 350 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 90% (Part I ABS), 90% (Part II PAM), 81% (Part III CSE)

 

6. Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO), Tahlequah, OK

northeastern state university oklahoma college of optometrySource: Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 96.55%

NSUOCO admits 28 students per year. Their network of 11 clinics sees as many as 60,000 patients annually, including a hospital-based clinic that enables students to participate as members of an interdisciplinary team. Additionally, NSUOCO has a strong partnership with the Cherokee Nation.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD
  • Tuition (Year I, OD Program): $17,100 for resident students; $34,200 for non-resident students
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.49 average GPA, 315 average AA OAT, 306 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 83% (Part I ABS), 97% (Part II PAM), 90% (Part III CSE)

 

7. The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Columbus, OH

the ohio state university college of optometrySource: The Ohio State University College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 96.49%

Celebrating their centennial in 2014, The Ohio State University College of Optometry admits 64 students per year. Students care for patients in their first year, will examine 1,800 individuals before they graduate, and have the opportunity to practice in primary and subspecialty areas. Additionally, The Ohio State University College of Optometry recently opened a preclinic teaching area (open 24/7 to students) with 18 exam rooms as well as injections and contact lens labs.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD, MS in Vision Science, PhD in Vision Science
  • Tuition (2016–2017 Academic Year, OD Program): $25,896 for resident students; $46,952 for non-resident students
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.63 average GPA, 336 average AA OAT, 336 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 91% (Part I ABS), 96% (Part II PAM), 81% (Part III CSE)

 

8. University of California Berkeley School of Optometry, Berkeley, CA

uc berkeley college of optometrySource: University of California Berkeley School of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 96.49%

Part of the #1 public university in the world, UC Berkeley School of Optometry enrolled 66 individuals in 2017. Students care for patients at 2 campus clinics, 10 satellite practices, 7 VA clinics, and 24 external training sites located throughout the US. Furthermore, UC Berkeley School of Optometry students see ~2,500 patients before they graduate (more than any other OD program). They also offer a summer research program sponsored by NIH’s National Eye Institute.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD, PhD in Vision Science
  • Tuition (2017–2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $37,244 for resident students; $49,484 for non-resident students
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.53 average GPA, 358 average AA OAT (average TS OAT unavailable)
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 93% (Part I ABS), 98% (Part II PAM), 88% (Part III CSE)

 

9. Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), Chicago, IL

illinois college of optometrySource: Illinois College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 95.36%

Established in 1872, ICO has an average class size of 148 and boasts 4:1 student-to-faculty ratio in clinics and 15:1 student-to-faculty in labs. Students gain hands-on experience at the Illinois Eye Institute, can choose to live at the on-campus Residential Complex, and have the opportunity to serve the community via partnerships with Chicago Vision Outreach, Chicago Public Schools, Junior Olympics, and Special Olympics.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD, BS in Vision Science
  • Tuition (2017–2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $40,725
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.36 average GPA, 318 average AA OAT, 315 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 77% (Part I ABS), 89% (Part II PAM), 91% (Part III CSE)

 

10. Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry (AZCOPT), Glendale, AZ

midwestern university arizona college of optometrySource: Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry

2017 National Boards Ultimate Pass Rate: 95.35%

AZCOPT was founded in 2009 and enrolled 56 students in 2017. Optometry students can take advantage of Midwestern University’s two Clinical Skills and Simulation Centers (CSC), one of the many aspects that makes the school an “inter-health professional campus.” AZCOPT also offers numerous on- and off-campus externship/rotation settings including military facilities, VA hospitals, public health service hospitals, specialty clinics, and private practices.

Quick stats:

  • Programs Offered: OD
  • Tuition (2017–2018 Academic Year, OD Program): $39,850
  • 2017 Entering Class Profile: 3.39 average GPA, 320 average AA OAT, 314 average TS OAT
  • 2017 National Board First Timer Pass Rates: 91% (Part I ABS), 95% (Part II PAM), 84% (Part III CSE)

 

For more information, visit the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry website to view the complete list of optometry schools in their membership. When you’re ready to launch your career, check out open optometrist positions in your area on iHireOptometry.

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