Optometrists provide high quality eye care, carrying out examinations of the eye and visual system and sight tests, to assess the ocular health of their patients. They also prescribe and fit spectacles or contact lenses and other visual aids for patients who need them.

Optometrists treat non-sight threatening visual problems using specialist instruments and equipment to test a patient’s vision and make a diagnosis or give eye care advice.

Their knowledge of ocular diseases is used to detect abnormalities such as glaucoma or diabetes, referring patients to other specialists including Ophthalmologists.

Some Optometrists choose to specialise in a specific area of eye care. Examples include

  • sports vision, working with sports professionals to improve performance
  • low vision, which affects nearly 2 million people in the UK
  • contact lenses including fitting children and adults where these are required for managing or treating an eye disease


Useful skills include

  • A good understanding of mathematical and scientific principles and methods
  • A good understanding of general medical principles and anatomy of the head and neck
  • good organisation and administrative skills
  • strong communication skills
  • keeping up to date with scientific and technological developments
  • teamworking skills
  • confidence in using new techniques or complex equipment

 As an Optometrist, you will need to be

  • patient and understanding
  • able to make patients feel at ease
  • compassionate and sensitive
  • able to concentrate when carrying out repetitive tasks
  • remain calm under pressure
  • able to work accurately and precisely, with attention to detail

After completing an approved degree programme and a pre-registration year under supervision in a practice or hospital, you will be required to sit the profession’s entry examinations set by the College of Optometrist. Following passing of these exams Optometrists working in NHSScotland,  must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC) and listed with the Health Board within whose area they choose to work,. A full list of approved institutions and programmes in the UK is available on the GOC website.

In Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University offers a 4 year BSc (Hons) Optometry degree. The minimum academic entry requirements include SQA Highers at AABBB grade, including English, Maths and two sciences plus SQA National 5 Physics at A if not taken at Higher level. More information about the entry requirements for this degree course is available on the university’s website.

All students are required by the General Optical Council to have been cleared by Disclosure Scotland at the advanced level to work in a clinical situation in order to enroll on this course.


Once you have completed your pre-registration training and have passed your OSCEs, you must request a Certificate of Clinical Competency from NHS Education for Scotland which will be shared with the Health Board you intend to work in.

To practice as a hospital optometrist, it is recommended that you apply for pre-registration placement in a hospital setting. You will need to pass a work-based assessment and supervision by a registered optometrist as well as a practical examination during your placement. Following your pre-registration period you can register with the GOC.




Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

Currently, there are no Modern Apprenticeships which would lead directly to a career as an Optometrist.

While working as a qualified Optometrist, you will need to continue your education and training, so you can renew your registration with the GOC each year.  NHS Education for Scotland (NES) provides a full range of training courses for optometrists who provide care under the GOC contract.

Most Optometrists emerging from their degree go on to undertake the training for the Diploma in Therapeutic Prescribing. Following passing of the exam at the conclusion of this course including some practical hospital experience the optometrists may undertake treatment and management of a wide range of eye conditions. The fees for this course are currently funded by NHS Education for Scotland (NES).

NES has also established a 3-year On-Line MSc in Primary care Ophthalmology in conjunction with the Royal College of Surgeons and Edinburgh University’s Medical School. NES assists with the fees for this course which is aimed at Optometrists who want to become more involved in managing eye conditions in the community.

Many Optometrists will run their own practice requiring management and leadership skills, some will lead a franchise practice, some will simply be employed in a long term position by a practice and some choose work as locum tenens where they fill in for vacancies and staff shortages as required.

General Optical Council (GOC)

GOC is the regulator for optical professions in the UK. It currently has around 29,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses on its register. The GOC aims to promote high standards of education and performance amongst optical professionals. Find out more on the GOC website.


Optometry Scotland (OS)

OS negotiates with the Scottish Government on behalf of Optometrists providing NHS eye examinations thought the General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract in Scotland. Find out more on the OS website.


Association of Optometrists (AOP)

The AOP is a representative body and acts as the main national defence organisation providing advice and professional indemnity insurance for Optometrists. Find out more on the AOP website.


College of Optometrists

The College is the UK professional body charged with maintaining standards within the profession by examination and standard setting. Find out more on the College of Optometrists website.