Academic Checklist

Your education calendar must be firm but flexible when it comes to your optometry education requirements. Through it all—applying to a program, meeting optometry school prerequisites, going to grad school, taking the board exams and graduating—members of the AOA and its affiliate the AOSA are supported as students, recent graduates, optometric residents and, finally, as new doctors of optometry.

Example of the academic checklist

  1. Join the AOA/AOSA
    By joining the AOA you’ve made an outstanding decision to support your profession and advance your career. As an AOA/AOSA member, you’ll receive assistance with your coursework, guidance on the board exams, and myriad other benefits.

  2. Register and prepare for NBEO Part I
    The earliest date for a student to take NBEO Part I is the spring of the candidate’s third professional year in an accredited institution.

  3. Register and prepare for NBEO Part II
    The earliest date for a student candidate to take NBEO Part II is the middle of the candidate’s fourth professional year in an accredited institution.

  4. Explore career opportunities
    Smile. You’re in demand. Explore your optometry career options.

  5. Consider a residency
    A residency can give you a jump-start on board certification. Explore AOA resources for entering a residency program.

  6. Determine practice modality
    Today’s doctor of optometry can choose from a wide variety of practice options, each with unique advantages and disadvantages. Learn more about joining a practice.

  7. Find a practice opportunity
    The practice options for new doctors of optometry are many. However, it pays to plan smart. Learn more about joining a practice.

  8. Change your legal name
    If you want to change your legal name, keep in mind it is significantly easier to make name changes before graduation. You can change your name by court decree and then update the legal paperwork.

  9. Register and prepare for NBEO Part III
    The earliest date for a student candidate to take NBEO Part III is in the spring of the candidate’s fourth professional year in an accredited institution. 

  10. Plan student loan repayment
    Planning to repay your student loan is an important process and should begin before graduation. Learn more about managing your personal finances.

  11. Apply for state licensure
    To apply for a license, contact the board that issues licenses to practice optometry in your state.

  12. Obtain malpractice insurance
    Once you have your license number, you will need to apply for malpractice insurance. AOAExcel’s endorsed malpractice insurance provider, Lockton Affinity, offers recent graduates a 50% discount on malpractice insurance for the first year of practice. Learn more about malpractice insurance.

  13. Transition AOA membership
    After graduation, be sure to stay informed and connected with AOA—your resource for virtually everything needed to effectively balance patient care and the business of optometry. Transitioning your membership to AOA professional status is three easy steps and must be completed by the end of the calendar year in which you are licensed. Get licensed, update your contact information and profile and join an AOA state or federal services affiliate.

Optometry student training

Taking the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exams during optometry school

As many prospective and current optometry students know, the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) is a testing organization offering various exams to measure the competence of students and practitioners in the field of optometry.

Passing the exams is a major milestone in your optometry school career. This multiyear exam process covers several optometric areas:

Part I: Applied Basic Science
Part II: PAM ®—Patient Assessment & Management
Part III: Clinical Skills

There are also two special examinations for practitioners and young doctors of optometry: TMOD®—Treatment & Management of Ocular Disease and ACMO®—Advanced Competence in Medical Optometry. Students in training can keep these additional assessments in mind for the future.

AOA is here to help you study and pass the NBEO exams

The exams are serious, and students should know they’re not alone in this mission to pass “the boards.” These three comprehensive examinations are, as the NBEO puts it, “designed as a complete set of examinations to assess the cognitive, psychomotor, affective and communication skills that are essential for entry-level optometric practice.”

Students must be prepared for these scheduled assessments, and the American Optometric Association is here to assist. Explore the resources offered to AOA members and students. The AOA will refer students to online resources offering detailed steps on how to register and prepare for, as well as pass, the NBEO exams.

You’ll also hear from other students preparing for their upcoming board exams at Students share exam study tips and plans, information about sample questions, and even how to explain the boards to friends and family.

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