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The Top 10 Optometry Schools In Canada

Are you a student looking to study Optometry in Canada? Are you trying to get an idea of the optometry courses offered in Canadian schools, as well as the expenses that would be incurred studying this acclaimed course? Are you weighing your pros and cons?

Well, if this is you, then you are on the right page as this article is for you.

Firstly, the number of universities that offer courses directly or indirectly related to optometry in Canada is low. In fact, we have only two approved schools of optometry here in Canada – University of Waterloo and Université de Montréal. However, some other schools offer pre-graduate visual science courses. In this article, we will be giving you some information on these schools, regardless of the entry levels of the optometry programs. Also, we’ll be deliberating on the courses offered in these schools and some other things you might not know about the program. Let’s begin with the difference between Optometrist, Ophthalmologist and Optician as often times, people tend to mix up these terms together.



Difference between Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, and Optician

An optometrist is a non-surgeon that is authorized to examine the visual organs(the eyes) and its entire system. He or she is also permitted to prescribe medical solutions to whatever issue that is bothering the eyes. They can recommend contact lenses or eyeglasses.

On the other hand, an ophthalmologist is a surgeon, licensed to perform surgical procedures and treat eye deformities. They also examine the eyes for diagnosis.

An optician is a person that fits and adjusts the eyeglasses or contact lenses prescribed by either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.


Why Study Optometry?

Optometry is a constantly evolving profession. Studying optometry as a course assures you of a rewarding career. It is an intense and interesting course to study. You just have to pick a niche of optometry that interests you and get the appropriate qualifications. Optometrists most times work in private practices like vision centers, eye clinics, and eye offices. You can also teach at the university level.


The Path to becoming an Optometrist

Optometry is a somewhat a demanding course. To become an optometrist, you must enroll in school of optometry or you could study other courses that are related to optometry, one of which is vision science. After this, you proceed with a postgraduate course in optometry. Getting licensed in this field takes at least 7 years – 3 years of college and 4 years in the school of optometry. Some students register for the programs after completing a bachelor’s degree program.


Educational Requirements

  • Secondary school graduation diploma (SSGD)
  • Diploma of college studies (DEC)
  • At least an average of 75% from a 3-year BSc program.

Enrolling for a doctor of optometry program takes 7-8 years of post-secondary studies to obtain the professional title of Doctor of Optometry (OD). To practice in Canada, you need to register under appropriate body. For example, those practising in Ontario must register with the Ontario College of Optometrists.


Financial Aspect

Being an optometry student in Canada is less expensive when compared to studying in the US. The cost of study ranges from $60,000 to $75,000. The government of Canada subsidizes this by making student loans available. You can also source for other private loans or you can try to bag a scholarship in any of the schools offering optometry-related courses.

An optometrist makes a basic salary of $139,934 a year. Entry-level optometrists make $27 per hour, as they advance in the career, it becomes higher.  The salary range is from $96,070 to $178,659. Now, you can see it is a rewarding career.


Top Canadian Schools offering Optometry and Optometry-Related Courses

1. University of Waterloo

This school is one of the two universities in Canada with an accredited school of optometry. It is the most competitive optometry school and its students have an average of 78-80% in their application exams. There are different optometry courses offered in this institution.

The University of Waterloo School of Optometry and vision science boasts of training over 3,000 optometrists who work in different regions in the country; some even work outside the country. The school offers a four-year degree program with comprehensive clinical training in the best vision care centers in the country.

Postgraduate programs like OD/MSc research programs, doctorate, and masters are offered. This school is widely acclaimed all over Canada and the world because it has helped in furthering the education of several optometrists.

Some of the courses offered are:

  • Health and Diseases of Visual System
  • Visual Optics
  • Clinical Practical and techniques
  • Ocular biology
  • Visual Neurophysiology

After the first half of the program has been used to build fundamental concepts of the program itself, the third is for more insights and part practical classes. In the final year, students begin to have contact with patients in the clinic, they go on different rotations in fundamental and specialty clinics- here they become familiar with adverse cases. The students in the final year spend at least three months outside of Waterloo in a vision center, sometimes they go outside the country to places in Sweden and the USA. This ensures they have hands-on experience in the field of optometry.

For a student to graduate or proceed to the next class, he/she needs to maintain an average of 60% in all offered classes- and 70% in clinical practicums.

There is a postgraduate program called the Accelerated Master’s Program. The program also has many research opportunities, which help the students to work hand-in-hand with the academics on real-life projects. It also runs the “International Optometric Bridging Program.”

The tuition of this institution is dependent on the year of the student and the citizenship of the student.International students pay over $60,000/year for the duration of the program, while indigent students pay $18,000/year for the first three years and $24,000 for the final year.


2. University of Montreal

This school is situated in the French-speaking province of Quebec. However, it is a multilingual environment for students all over the world. It is one of the top 100 schools in the world based on its research programs in the field of pharmacology and medicine.

The school has an accredited school for optometry and vision science programs. These programs offered both graduate levels and professional programs. It bestows various types of degrees on its students, with concentrations in different fields, namely:

  • Vision sciences
  • Visual impairment and re-adaptation, and
  • Visual impairment and intervention.

The school also runs a four-year doctor of optometry program for graduates. There are part-time, as well as, full-time programs which are run simultaneously in a session. In the last five years, the school has recorded over 90% pass rate in the optometry proficiency exams organized by the Canadian optometry board. The school is fixated on having the best optometry research and outreach programs while giving its students the best education on the vision system.


The school has its vision clinic, which makes it easy to post students for rotations. This clinic is an avenue for student researchers and other optometrists in Quebec to have clinical research with variously diagnosed patients. The tuition fees change every session, with international students paying a higher amount.


Since the inception of the university in 1910, it has produced different unique batches of optometrist graduates. Graduates of the school could be found in different private and public vision centers around the country. Some are even retained to teach in the school.


3. Red Deer College

This school offers a pre-professional degree in optometry. RDC prepares you for the rigorous third-year training in an accredited optometry school of your choice- for a doctor of optometry programs. This school offers a two years program and to graduate or transfer out, you need to meet the required average points for all courses taken.

In the two years at RDC, students are required to offer not less than 20 courses in their main and alternate programs. The entrance and pass grades of this institution vary every year.

Some Waterloo students begin their undergraduate studies here at RDC and then transfer to the University of Waterloo in their third year. Tuition for international students is over $12,500, while that for indigenous students is less than $6,000. To begin your career in optics and optometry, you may consider enrolling for this degree.


4. Dalhousie University

This school began to offer a master’s of clinical visual science degrees, which is MSc (Clinical Visual Science) to students in 2003. It also issues graduate diploma degrees to ophthalmic medical technology students. If you’re interested in getting experience in clinical optometry and the ophthalmic med-tech field, then this program is for you. The school’s clinical research team is very professional.


5. University of Regina

A pre-optometry degree is issued to students that offer optometry-related courses in this institution. Champion college, University of Regina offers a 4 years course called pre-optometry studies. It is also possible for students in this field of study to transfer to the University of Waterloo’s schools of visual sciences after their third years- certain requirements have to be met.

Tuition for students hover around $17,000 each year. With International students paying more than the Domestic students.


6. Douglas College

This school offers a diploma in an optometry-related course called “dispensing opticianry.” The course duration is two years and it is a full-time program. The program is popular because it teaches its students various skills needed to land high-paying jobs. Students go on to have careers in optics, ophthalmology, and optometry. Most of these students get employed by independent optometry, optics, or ophthalmology offices. After a few years, they open their practice.

The total courses taken in the two-year program must total a cumulative of 63 credits. It is important to note that there are student loan options.  The pass rate on the College of Optics Board Examination is also very high, which is a commendable feat.


7. University of Alberta

This University offers an optometry-related course in the field of ophthalmology and visual sciences. The program is open to both international and indigent students. The University of Alberta’s visual science unit is interested in clinical research and care, as well as educating its students. It has a visual center called the Eye Institute of Alberta. This school is committed to helping students who are interested in optometry and optician-related careers.


8. Thompson Rivers University

TRU also have a pre-optometry degree program that takes 4 years. However, it is affiliated with the University of Waterloo. Hence, students can transfer to the University of Waterloo when some requirements are met. Its pre-optometry courses will equip you with the basic optics and optometry skills needed to land employment in a respectable practice.


9. Stenberg College

This college runs optometry-related courses. Its awarded degrees are usually diploma optician courses like dispensary opticianry. You can become a licensed optician by enrolling in one of these courses and meeting the requirements needed to pass. These diploma programs are completed in one year. The school has also been accredited by the National Association of Canadian Optician Regulators. Graduating from this college gives you a chance of being employed by optometry clinics and some independent practices. You also gain prerequisite knowledge needed to seek admission in any school of optometry.


10. University of Winnipeg

This prestigious school offers a preparatory course for optometry. It is a 3-year program that introduces its students to basic information about optometry and optical sciences. The small size of this school ensures a good lecturer-to-students ratio. This helps the students to interact effectively with their lecturers and collaborate with them on real-life projects.

After the 3 years duration of this pre-medical program, bachelor’s degrees are awarded and the graduates can apply to optometry and ophthalmology programs at the University of Waterloo and the University of Montreal. Tuition fee ranges for international students hovers below #20,000 and above $14,500.


Final Note

By going to any of these schools, you are equipping yourself with skills that are high in demand. What we mean is that the Canadian population is aging, in a few years many people will seek the services of opticians, ophthalmologists, and optometrists.

Explore your choices now and enroll as soon as possible.


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