When choosing an optometry school, the first determining factor should be accreditation. The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education accredits 16 institutions in the United States, two in Canada, and one in Puerto Rico (as of January 2006). Attending an accredited school is required in order to sit for the national exam administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry, of which a passing score is required for licensure.
The selection of an optometry school should be based on several additional factors, one of which is location. There are only 16 accredited schools in the country, so chances of one having to leave home are fairly high. Some schools offer students an opportunity to specialize in areas such as geriatrics, low vision, occupational therapy, or education. Schools often offer joint degree programs where students can receive an OD (Doctor of Optometry) in conjunction with a master's degree in a specialty area or PhD.
Prospective optometrists should look at the amount of time a program dedicates to clinical courses and hands-on clinical training, as well as how long before students are working with patients. The national exam pass rate is an important factor to consider, as are the academic and demographic characteristics of the student body. One should ensure the selected school is a place they feel comfortable both personally and academically.