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Frank Terranova

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¨  Quality of optometry education.  Starting salary of optometrist?
¨  Job shadowing in developmental optometry
¨  How many years of study does it take to become an optometrist?

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If you went to Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, was the quality of education you got good enough to justify the high cost of the program?  Also, what salary can a new optometrist expect to start out at?

ANSWER from Frank Terranova, O.D. on 14 December 2002:
Yes I did go to the Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton.  The quality of education that I received there was superior.  It was worth every penny that I paid for my tuition.  When you look at the cost of an optometric education in the short term, yes it does look expensive, but remember you are not just receiving and education but you are gaining a career that will be with you all your life.

You asked also what salary can a new optometrist plan to start?  The key word to your question is START.  If you are new at any job, you are considered inexperienced.  The same is true in optometry.  It also depends on the mode of practice (in private office, a commercial establishment, HMO, or for the government) which determines your salary.  The average person fresh from school and newly licensed can expect to make $40-$55/hour while someone who has many years of experience can make as high as $300/hour.  It may sound like a lot of money but remember you are paying back those student loans that gave you that education.  It usually takes 10-15 years  to pay back the cost of your education.

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I am a student interested in going into optometry.  Having shadowed various practicing optometrists and researched the field in depth, I am interested in going into pediatric optometry and vision therapy with a focus on developmental optometry.  Most of what I know about developmental optometry is purely academic, and I would like to see its clinical aspect.  If at all possible, I would like to visit your practice and experience developmental optometry at work.

ANSWER from Dr. Frank Terranova, O.D. on 24 November 2002:
I am glad there are people like you interested in developmental optometry.  There are so many different philosophies of optometry.  One of them is Developmental or (as I like to call it) Behavioral Optometry.  However one should not narrow it down to just Pediatrics.  I try to incorporate the ideas when prescribing for all my patients whether they are 8 or 80.

Getting started: I would recommend you contact Beverly Atkinson at the Optometry School in Fullerton and ask her if you can come and observe the vision therapy clinic one day.  The number there is 714-870-7226.  You may use my name when you contact her.  I would also contact the Optometric Extension Program in Santa Ana, I believe they have a free student membership.

I would suggest start at the level of the optometry school.  It will also look good when you apply to admission that you have spent time observing.

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How many years of study does it take to become an optometrist?

ANSWER from Dr. Francis M. Terranova, O.D. on 18 June 2002:
About 95% of the people entering optometry school have a minimum of a bachelor's degree.  There are many pre-requisite courses needed, for example: four semesters of college chemistry, two semesters of college physics, biochemistry, biology, plus calculus.  I believe the minimum number of completed college semester credits is 90 just to apply to optometry school.

Optometry school is four years and during the last two years, the student must take three sets of National Boards and pass them.  If you do not pass them, you cannot apply for licensure in any State.  These three exams are each three days long and are very intense, testing in every area from clinical optometry to physics of a telescope, to human anatomy and physiology.  Each of the three exams has four parts and all four parts must be passed in order to move to the next exam.  So once you have completed the National Board exam and have graduated from optometry school, you may now apply for licensure.  However, many of the students do not know the results of the third part of the National Board exam until a month after graduation.

Now some students will elect to do a residency for one year in either pediatrics, low vision, hospital optometry, contact lenses, etc.  This is done at a very low income for one year but teaches the optometrist many extra skills that he/she did not learn while in optometry school.

Overall, it takes about nine years to complete a good optometric education prior to opening ones own practice.

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Last Updated:
31 December 2002

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