Eye care is an important medical field, one that has become more important as life expectancy has nearly doubled around the world in the last century, leading to higher rates of ocular disease. As a result, optometrists are in high demand. For the benefit of students looking to become optometrists, we’ve put together a list of the cheapest optometry schools available.
While many medical schools are prohibitively expensive, this article aims to highlight the most affordable optometry schools. This includes both public and private schools that offer professional and graduate programs in optometry. Our list also covers many other considerations for optometry students like class size, clinical experience, and career outlook.
What Are the Most Affordable Optometry Schools in the US?
The most affordable optometry schools in the US are the University of Houston, the University of Missouri-St Louis, and the SUNY College of Optometry. These three have tuition costs on the low end of the National Center for Education Statistics’ average tuition costs.
How Much Do the Cheapest Optometry Schools Cost?
The cheapest optometry schools cost between $9,000 and $35,000 a year. A college education, particularly from a private institution, is often quite expensive. Fortunately, optometry programs are relatively less expensive than average, with the lowest tuition falling well below average.
Cheapest Optometry Schools Costs Breakdown
- Tuition. Tuition is the base amount students pay for instruction, and usually makes up the bulk of all school costs.
- Fees. These are minor charges for other things that the school supplies for student use. For example, a tech fee goes to upgrading and maintaining technological resources for students.
- Accommodation. Accommodation fees are payments made for student lodging. They can also be in the form of rent on off-campus accommodation.
- Dining Charges. Some schools have dining programs to ensure students don’t have to worry about meals. These programs come in many different forms and are often customizable.
- Book Charges. Some courses may require books for reference or as assigned reading. Book charges are the payments you make for these.
Why You Should Attend an Optometry School
You should attend an optometry school because, in addition to being a flexible and solid career path, optometry is one of the most fulfilling and in-demand health sciences. Optometry schools allow prospective students from any related academic background to train to become an eye specialist.
In addition to the flexible barrier to entry, optometry is a great career choice because it offers a level of work satisfaction that’s difficult to match. The eyes are vulnerable to many specific and systemic diseases, and losing vision adversely affects quality of life. Being able to provide eye care to people suffering like this, as well as giving preventative care, can be very fulfilling.
Best Optometry School Career Options
Optometry is the only career that requires a degree in optometry, so the career options for people with an optometry degree are pretty much set in stone. Fortunately, optometry has a great career outlook, with a job growth of nine percent over the next 10 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and an attractive average salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an optometrist is $124,300. This figure is significantly higher than the average salary for all healthcare practitioners, which was measured to be $75,040 a year by the same source. This reflects the amount of training required to become a qualified optometrist.
Can You Attend Optometry School for Free?
Yes, you can attend optometry school for free, provided you qualify for enough financial aid. This can include school-specific grants, optometry-focused scholarships, or scholarships for a particular demographic like women. Most scholarships have different requirements and criteria, but it generally helps to have a solid academic record and well-articulated goals in the field.
Cheapest Optometry Schools That Won’t Break the Bank
|School||In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||Graduation Rate|
|University of Houston||$9,699||$21,891||62%|
|University of Missouri-St Louis||$11,214||$28,532||58%|
|SUNY College of Optometry||$11,310||$23,100||97%|
|Ohio State University||$11,936||$35,019||88%|
|Ferris State University||$12,740||$12,740||48%|
|University of California-Berkeley||$14,226||$43,980||93%|
|Southern College of Optometry||$20,738||$39,938||95%|
What Are the Cheapest Optometry Schools? A Deep Dive
Paying for Optometry School With Financial Aid
While there are many affordable schools for optometry, financial aid is still an important component of being able to attend a tertiary institution. Here, we will cover some forms of financial aid that might assist you in your bid for an optometry education. These range from scholarships and grants for international students to other options for domestic students.
Federal grants are financial aid issued by the federal government from its reserve. Individual states also offer their own grants. These grants may be given to students that fit certain criteria and demonstrate need, interest, and a baseline academic aptitude.
Unlike grants, federal loans are designed to be paid back. The advantage of federal loans is that they offer terms of repayment that are usually more equitable than private loans. If low interest rates, longer repayment periods, and leeway with missed payments are important to you, a loan might be your best option.
Private loans can be taken out in lieu of federal loans. While they have higher interest rates and shorter repayment windows with little to no chance of a moratorium, there are still reasons why people might consider private loans. Private loans offer higher caps on loan volume and are more accessible for those not qualified for federal loans, such as international students.
This federally funded program aims to help students meet their financial needs through equitable part-time employment, usually within the school system. While not all schools offer work-study programs, many do. Work-study can be the best available option for taking care of non-tuition fees and living expenses.
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How to Apply for Federal Aid to Finance Your Optometry School Program
Federal aid is a very powerful tool for students looking to finance their education. Here, we look at some quick steps to help you apply for federal aid. Since most optometry programs are graduate-level, this section is geared towards graduate applicants. However, the process isn’t much different for undergraduate students.
- Step 1. Create an FSA ID on the Federal Student Aid website. This ID is required to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You will need to enter your full name, social security number, and birthdate.
- Step 2. Prepare documents and information that may be needed during the process. This can include your financial records and social security number. Checking what specific items are needed can expedite the process.
- Step 3. Go on the FAFSA website and choose the form that properly corresponds with the time frame in which you intend to start your program. This should be the academic year you’re looking to join in.
- Step 4. Fill out the form in its entirety. This can take a while as there is a lot of information required.
- Step 5. Sign and send off the form. You’ll receive confirmation within a business week, and after approval, it will be sent off to the schools you specified.
Best Optometry Scholarships
- Dr. David W. White Jr. Memorial Scholarship | Amount: $500. This scholarship is given out to optometry students that practice or intend to practice in Mississippi, are members of the National Optometric Student Association, and are in good academic standing.
- Dr. C. Clayton Powell Georgia Student Award | Amount: $500. The National Optometric Foundation offers this scholarship to fourth-year students that demonstrate real dedication to the field of optometry. Applicants also need to be members of NOSA to qualify.
- Dr. Stanley Pearle Scholarship Fund | Amount: $2,000. This award is given out to 20 recipients at a time by Pearle Vision. It aims to assist students aiming for an OD degree and is given out based on academic merit and dedication.
- Petry Lomb Scholarship/Research Grant | Amount: $1,500 minimum. This scholarship from the Rochester Optometric Society is designed to aid optometry students in need. It favors residents of New York state in good academic standing.
- ICO Scholarship for Underrepresented Populations | Amount: $7,000-$10,000. This scholarship is offered by the Illinois College of Optometry. It aims to bring more minority students from underrepresented populations into the optometry field.
Cheapest Undergraduate Optometry Schools
Due to the nature of the field, the cheapest undergraduate optometry schools are those that offer pre-optometry programs at a reasonable cost. As such, the cheapest optometry schools for undergraduates are usually just affordable colleges that have pre-professional initiatives or dual degree programs.
Most Affordable Optometry Bachelor’s Degree Programs
- University of Missouri-St Louis | Pre-Optometry (3+4), BLS to OD | $791/credit hour (resident), $1,305/credit hour (non-resident). This initiative aims to get undergrads into the OD program at UMSL as quickly as possible after completing the prerequisite undergraduate courses.
- Ferris State University | MCO 3 + 4 Admissions Program | $906/credit hour. This is a standard 3 + 4 program that shaves a year or more off of a student’s undergraduate program, after which they can go on to the Michigan College of Optometry to undertake the OD.
- Campbellsville University | Pre-Optometry | $12,800/semester. This pre-optometry program allows students to gain all the undergraduate credits they need for an OD program. Students declare majors in biology or chemistry and can go on to attend one of the partner institutions that give Campbellsville students preference.
- Illinois Tech | BS/OD Combined Degree | $1,520/credit hour. This 3+4 program allows students to enter their first year of the OD program before completing a BS in Biology from Illinois Tech. They can then earn the BS after the first year of the OD, and the OD itself in the fourth year.
- NSU Florida | Minor in Optometry | $32,110. This minor is designed to prepare students for the OD program at the undergraduate level. This includes the most common requirements for admission and passing the necessary examinations. It properly transmits the interdisciplinary nature of optometry and gives students a valuable skillset.
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Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees
Cheapest Graduate Schools for Optometry
The majority of optometry academic work is done at the graduate level, and so the list of cheapest graduate optometry schools intersects heavily with the list of overall cheapest optometry schools. The following section goes over some of these schools in more detail.
Most Affordable Schools for Master’s Degrees in Optometry
- University of Houston | Graduate Program in Physiological Optics/Vision Science (MS) | $278/SCH (resident), $786/SCH (non-resident). This thesis-optional graduate program furthers academic study in the field of vision science. It comes with work-study opportunities and can be taken in tandem with the OD program.
- SUNY College of Optometry | MS in Vision Science | $5,655/semester (resident), $11,550/semester (non-resident). This program is entirely supplementary to the OD program at SUNY. It gives aspiring optometrists a wide array of research skills.
- Indiana University | MS in Vision Science | Varies by program. This graduate degree program is offered in two ways. It can supplement a practicing student’s knowledge and help update their practice, or it can serve as a more traditional academic advancement program.
- Ohio State University | MS in Vision Science | $11,560 (resident), $37,512 (non-resident). This program has a very strong focus on flexibility in both admission and student outcomes. Students are welcome to apply and take the program on for any applicable reason, and the faculty work with them to see it to the end.
- Salus University | MS in Clinical Optometry With an Advanced Studies Certificate Degree Program | $55,000. This hybrid-format program serves as a graduate-level pre-optometry degree program for US citizens, as well as an industry-entry tool for some foreign nationals.
Most Affordable PhDs in Optometry Universities
- University of Houston | Graduate Program in Physiological Optics/Vision Science | $278.00/SCH (resident), $786.00/SCH (non-resident). This program elevates students to the highest level of academic research. It gives them the training they need to make real and impactful discoveries and improvements in optometry.
- The University of Missouri-St Louis | Doctor of Optometry | $791/credit hour (resident), $1,305/credit hour (non-resident). UMSL prides itself on having over 80 partnered externship sites in addition to a strong academic program. Students in this program benefit from small class sizes and lab research.
- Southern College of Optometry | Doctor of Optometry | $20,738 (resident), $39,938 (non-resident). The OD at SCO is the institution’s sole academic focus. This program meets all industry standards and goes even further to ensure that students are industry-ready. Shadowing, externships, and more are all utilized in this process.
- Indiana University | PhD in Vision Science | Varies by program. The PhD at Indiana University is a continuation of the thesis-based master’s program. It further elevates students in academia and furnishes them with more intense research opportunities than lower levels.
- The University of California-Berkeley | Doctor of Optometry | $16,208 (resident), $22,218 (non-resident). Through increased entry requirements and higher barriers to entry, the OD program at UC Berkeley is able to engage successful applicants at a much higher level, enabling more clinical experience through externships.
Best Online Master’s Degrees
Best Online PhD Programs
How to Choose a Good and Affordable Optometry School
There are many factors to consider when selecting an optometry school. The nature of optometry as a course of study actually makes this choice easier as there are so few schools of optometry to choose from, with the ASCO having only 23 member schools and colleges on record. But even with limited choices, there are still quite a few factors to consider.
One of the biggest potential obstacles besides tuition is the cost of accommodation and travel that picking a school far away can entail. When choosing a school, consider the location and if the school is worth moving there. Things like travel costs, the cost of living, and the culture of the city should all be factored in.
While requirements are very standardized across most optometry schools, individual schools will still have specific requirements to weed out some applicants. Familiarizing yourself with requirements in advance and checking them before applying can be a key factor in choosing a school that’s the right fit for you.
No matter how standardized a field is, each institution has something unique to offer its students. This could be a focus on a particular field, a more practical approach to instruction, or even just a small class size to increase engagement. For instance, if you want to specialize in research or academic work, you should attend a school that focuses on those areas.
For some people, clinical experience and exposure are a major plus. For others, excessive practical requirements might just be a distraction. It is worth noting what schools offer the kinds and degrees of hands-on training you want or need. This should be factored into whatever decision you eventually make.
Schools often have college-specific financial aid packages that might come in handy. Identifying schools where you might qualify for additional aid can be a good factor to consider when making your choice. Any and all financial assistance serves to make your experience easier and more pleasant.
Tips for Saving Money While Attending Optometry School
- Budget Ahead. Planning ahead always helps. Knowing what you need and how much a program costs in advance will let you spend smartly and minimize waste and panic spending.
- Apply for Financial Aid. Applying for as much financial aid as you can is a good first step to getting some extra money. In addition, some sources of aid have broader requirements than others, which can be a benefit to you.
- Look Into Part-Time Work. If your workload and institution allow for it, working while pursuing your degree can help your budget. This is usually in the form of an assistantship or similar program where the school is your employer. This is good because on-campus work opportunities will take your studies into consideration.
- Explore Alternative Meal Sources. While food programs on campus are often well planned and suitable for students, alternatives do exist and might save you some money. Even buying your own groceries and preparing your own meals can save you money in the long run.
- Look for Fee Waivers. Schools will sometimes waive certain fees or a certain percentage of fees under certain requirements. Seek out fee waivers if they are available.
Highest-Paying Optometry Careers
|Optometry Job||Optometry Degree||Average Salary|
|Senior Optometrist||Doctor of Optometry||$132,656|
|Optometrist||Doctor of Optometry||$113,358|
|Medical and Health Services Manager||MS in Vision Science||$101,340|
|Medical Scientist||PhD in Vision Science||$95,310|
|Postsecondary Teacher||MS in Vision Science||$79,640|
Best Optometry Jobs Explained
As optometry is a specialization, all the best optometry school jobs are simply practicing optometry positions. The field has a lot of employment opportunities for people with an optometry degree.
Optometry Schools Ranking Methodology: How We Ranked the Most Affordable Optometry Schools
We chose the most affordable optometry colleges based on tuition and general costs information from the schools’ official websites, the US Department of Education’s database of accredited schools, and the US Department of Education’s College Scorecard tool.
Additional Reading About Optometry
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Cheapest Optometry Schools FAQ
The common admission requirements for optometry include the Optometry Admissions Test, which students must pass before they can join the student body. Every optometry graduate program requires this exam. Competitive applicants for top-ranked schools should also take some relevant extracurricular activities and attain some prior clinical experience.
An aspiring optometrist should get an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry with some customization. While there are no real undergraduate programs for optometry in the US, a few schools do have pre-optometry programs that are designed to fill the undergrad requirements of an OD program.
No, there are no alternatives to a four-year OD program. As a small and well-regulated field, optometry has very well-defined industry standards, all of which are encapsulated in the Doctor of Optometry program.
Optometrists deal with conditions that affect the eyes. These include systemic disease, autoimmune disease, age-related vision loss, and eye trauma. A doctor of optometry works in eye care clinics to diagnose these conditions by administering advanced and basic eye exams. More importantly, they also treat and manage these conditions.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.