Optometrists need to get a degree in optometry, approved by the General Optical Council (GOC). They also complete a one-year pre-registration paid and supervised work placement, with a registered optometrist, and pass the GOC final assessment to qualify.
Optometrists study at university for at least three years and must participate in a period of assessed clinical training in practice, before being deemed to have the knowledge and skills needed to be registered. Once registered, they have the opportunity to take further qualifications and develop their interests in specialist areas of practice.
All optometrists practising in the UK must be registered with the General Optical Council, the profession’s regulatory body. When choosing an optometrist, look for the letters FCOptom or MCOptom after their name. It means that the optometrist is a fellow or member of the College and adheres to high standards of clinical practice.
To study for a degree in optometry you will usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
- 3 A levels, or equivalent, including at least 1 science
The skills and knowledge that an Optometrist needs include:
- knowledge of medicine and dentistry
- customer service skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- thinking and reasoning skills
- excellent verbal communication skills
- knowledge of biology
- sensitivity and understanding
- analytical thinking skills
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
As part of your day-to-day duties, you could:
- use a range of precision instruments
- use vision measuring and testing tools
- diagnose and give advice
- prescribe, fit and supply glasses or contact lenses
- discuss the suitability and shape of glasses frames
- refer clients to specialists or ophthalmologists (eye surgeons)
The following universities offer optometry degree:
- Anglia Ruskin University
- Aston University
- University of Bradford
- Cardiff University
- City University
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- University of Hertfordshire
- University of Highlands and Island
- The University of Manchester
- Plymouth University
- Teeside University
- University of Ulster
- University of the West of England
Health Education England’s course finder can be used to find undergraduate and postgraduate courses leading to clinical careers in health. Most of the courses lead to eligibility to apply for statutory professional registration.
A higher qualification accredited by the College of Optometrists will equip you for new challenges and responsibilities, and support your continuing professional development and career progression.
Higher qualifications are suitable for optometrists at all stages of their careers and in all settings. They are available at three levels so you can choose to progress to the highest levels of competence in one specific condition, or to develop your skills in five key topic areas.
The courses are developed and delivered by universities and hospitals and accredited by the College of Optometrists so you can be sure that they reflect the latest research and thinking on key topics and conditions. They are delivered via a flexible combination of distance learning, coursework, assessments and practical sessions and, at higher levels, a portfolio of clinical experience.
Find out more about the courses currently available, and choose the one that’s right for you.
Independent Prescribing enables optometrists to clinically assess a patient, establish a diagnosis, determine the clinical management required and prescribe where necessary.
Once qualified you may prescribe any licensed medicine (except for controlled drugs or medicines for parenteral (injected) administration) for conditions affecting the eye, and the tissues surrounding the eye, within your recognised area of expertise and competence.
You will be able to prescribe privately and, where suitable arrangements have been made, write an NHS prescription.
To qualify in Independent Prescribing you must:
- be a registered optometrist
- have been practising in the UK and registered with the GOC for two full years before beginning the clinical placement
- train in competencies which focus on the consultation, prescribing effectively and prescribing in context.
Regulations around the Independent Prescribing qualification as a whole are detailed in the General Optical Council Independent Prescribing Handbook.
There are currently five universities offering courses in Independent Prescribing. Contact them directly to find out more.