STEM careers in optometry

Routes into optometry

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So, you’ve decided that a career in optometry might be for you. But where do you start?

One of the great things about this industry is that there are different ways into it.

GCSE/A-Levels

You’re going to need to think carefully about your GCSEs and A-Levels – most universities are looking for at least five GCSEs or equivalent at grades A* to C or grade 4 and above including English, Maths and at least one science subject. Beyond that you’ll also need to do well in your A-Levels – universities will ask you for a minimum of three, including Maths and at least one science subject if you want to study optometry with them. Scottish Higher students will need a minimum of five subjects, including science subjects; Irish Leaving Certificate students need six subjects, including science subjects.

Apprenticeships

However, if you’re the kind of person who’d like to go straight into the workplace and to start getting some hands-on experience from the off, then an apprenticeship might be for you. It’s a route into optometry that is really opening things up to people who might not have considered it in the past. As an apprentice you can either leave school straight after your GCSEs or after your A-Levels, and join Specsavers where you’ll study for your qualifications while you’re still on the job. You can find out more about our apprenticeship scheme here.

If you take the university route you’ll complete your degree and then have a period of supervised training called the pre-registration scheme. This scheme marks your transition from being a student to a fully qualified optometrist. It takes place in the workplace, with a number of assessments throughout and a final practical examination before you qualify and are able to register with the General Optical Council to practise.

The scheme gives you the chance to practise the skills you learned at university in a safe, supported environment. We offer an extensive, industry-leading scheme to support you throughout the pre-registration period. This includes events, courses and a library of online and written materials.

Masters

A number of universities also offer a Masters degree – you can study at Hertfordshire, Portsmouth, Aston or Manchester – where you’ll study on campus as well as working two six-month placements on the job. It’s a great option if you want to keep on studying and specialising at higher level but want to get practical experience too.

How to get started

If you haven’t already visited it, the College of Optometrists’ website is well worth a look. You’ll find lots of information there on qualifying and the opportunities to develop your career – head to www.college-optometrists.org to find out more.

It’s also a really good idea to make contact with your local Specsavers store. Just put your postcode into our store locator and then drop by – our local teams would love to have a chat about the options open to you, and it’s also worth asking them if they have any work experience opportunities available. They may even have some jobs in store which would give you that first step on the ladder with us.

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