You have a vision; you see it clearly, in 20/20. You’re good at seeing eye to eye with people, you’ve mastered interpersonal optics and you’ve been a pupil of the sciences for years. You’ve got your sights set on your goal; you want to be an optometrist. First, let me commend you on an admirable goal; while becoming an optometrist is no easy feat, you’ll be the vanguard for one of the most important things humans have to make their experience here on earth special; their vision. It’s important to know that what we’re going through here is the steps for an English-speaking Canadian who lives outside Québec to become an optometrist; there are different steps you might take if you speak French, live in Québec, or have already obtained foreign credentials.
English-only speakers must take their optometry course at the University of Waterloo; there are no other English optometry schools in Canada. The university has a list of prerequisites for joining the optometry program. There are academic requirements, including the enrolment in an undergraduate Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) program for at least, a minimum grade average of 75% and a full-time course load. You must also complete the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT), a personal characteristics assessment known as CASPer, English language requirements testing, a police check, and interviews. There are a number of other considerations, including interviewing, selection criteria and financial considerations.
Once you’ve been accepted, congratulations! You’ll go through the four-year Doctor of Optometry program. Once you’ve obtained your Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree, you’ll have to complete a national board exam, known as the CACO (Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry). You’ll also have to register with the regulatory body of your province; in Manitoba, it’s the Manitoba Association of Optometrists. With all of this done, you’re ready to practice; it’s all about finding a job, now!
Most optometrists will begin by working in an already established practice; this allows you to gain valuable experience, especially if you plan on running your own practice someday It’s also a good way of making some money; starting your own practice can be an expensive proposition, and with student loans looming, it can take a bit of time to make the money you need to go out on your own. Once you’ve worked in an established practice for some time, you might opt to become a partner in that practice or start your own business. The main start-up costs for a new business include inventory and equipment.
The entire process to become an optometrist can seem daunting; admittedly, it is, but that’s to create professional standards so there’s eye care Winnipeg and other cities can trust. These standards enable optometrists to give the best care, and those who entrust them with their care to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their optometrist has had rigorous, high-standard training. If it’s something that interests you, put that pencil to paper and get to work; you can do it!