The School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW Sydney offers the Bachelor of Vision Science and the dual degree - the Bachelor of Vision Science with Master of Clinical Optometry.
On graduation, optometrists may enter private practice on their own behalf, in partnership with a colleague, or as an employee in an established practice. Specialties of clinical optometry include paediatrics, contact lenses, occupational optometry, public health optometry, co-management (shared care), low vision, sports vision, vision training and binocular vision.
In industry, optometrists are called upon to advise on the protection of vision. They also analyse the visual demands of a task and advise on vision standards in order that the comfort and efficiency of employees can be improved. Optometrists participate in industrial safety programs and advise on the visual capabilities needed for particular tasks. In addition, optometrists work closely with road safety organisations, applying visual science to problems such as visual standards for motorists, vehicle design and highway lighting.
Career opportunities for vision science graduates are available in a wide range of public and private sector areas that specialise in primary eye care, optical devices and technologies, teaching, and scientific research in vision and ophthalmology. For example, career opportunities are available in industries and commercial businesses that focus on: the development of visual therapeutics – such as devices that correct refractive errors including contact lenses, spectacles, drug development medical devices (e.g. ocular implants) and imaging; the entertainment industry – developing visual simulators, visual design and graphics, and video games. Vision Science graduates can also work in the Government sector – particularly in teaching, defence technology, (e.g. lasers and optical equipment), and contributing to the development of health and occupational policy regarding the importance of vision to quality of life and in the workplace. For those interested in furthering their career by obtaining a research degree, honours graduates in optometry and in vision science may proceed to a Master of Science or a Doctor of Philosophy degree by research.
Why has the program been extended to a five-year degree?
The practice of optometry is expanding to incorporate the use of therapeutic drugs to treat some eye diseases. Schools in the region are expected to train to the highest common denominator in all states and in New Zealand. The UNSW program is designed so that graduates are competent to use therapeutics and to be granted therapeutics authorisation in every applicable state and in New Zealand.
What is the duration of the programs?
If the BVisSci is taken as a stand-alone degree, the duration is three years. If the BVisSci is taken in conjunction with the MClinOptom, the program is taken over five years of full-time study. The first three years will comprise of the BVisSci followed by the two-year MClinOptom. These programs cannot be undertaken part-time or externally.
Do I need to sit the UMAT?
No, the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test was a requirement for the old program, but this test will not be applied for the new program.
If I don’t get the ATAR required, is there any other way of getting into Optometry?
You can apply to transfer into MClinOptom if you complete the stand-alone BVisSci at UNSW, subject to a number of conditions. Progression into the MClinOptom will be a competitive process that is based on academic performance and there is no guarantee that you will be offered a place. To be considered for entry into the MClinOptom, students must maintain at least an overall credit average in the BVisSci or equilvalent. BVisSci students who are unsuccessful in obtaining a place in the MClinOptom are expected to graduate with a BVisSci or may wish to apply for Vision Science honours program. Note: As of 2017 the Bachelor of Science (3970) or Advanced Science (3962) with a major in Vision Science are no longer used as an alternative pathway into optometry.
What is the starting salary?
The starting salary for bachelor degree optometry graduates in their first full-time employment and aged younger than 25 years in Australia is approximately around $72-75,000pa + super or a little less, however, those optometry graduates employed in regional areas of Australia may earn a little more.
Are there any English requirements for registration as an Optometrist?
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has announced that graduates in optometry will be required to demonstrate English language skills at IELTS level 7 or equivalent before being considered for professional registration.
If I complete the MOptom, MSc or PhD will I be qualified to practice as an Optometrist in Australia?
No, these programs do not fulfil the requirement for registration to practice as an Optometrist in Australia.
The Optometry program at UNSW Sydney provides a solid platform for students to develop their interests in patient eye care, ocular health and research. I have learnt a tremendous amount from highly experienced academics at the school and skilled clinicians based at the UNSW Optometry clinics. The School also has strong ties with institutions and facilities globally, offering a wealth of knowledge and external training for future students. In my opinion, having advanced ocular imaging training at the Centre for Eye Health situated adjacent to the School has provided one of the most invaluable experiences in further developing a keen eye and critical thinking essential in the diagnosis and management of ocular pathologies. I find that this compliments the core ophthalmic skills well-developed by the School which prepare students in their pathway to becoming a competent clinician.
- Jeremy Chiang, University Medallist, Class of 2016
The UNSW Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Clinical Optometry degree provides a solid balance between knowledge of theoretical principles in vision science, visual dysfunction and ocular pathology, and a strong focus on the development of clinical skills essential to optometric practice. For me, a highlight of the course is the exposure to a wide range of clinical environments, both internally within the UNSW Optometry Clinic’s numerous specialty clinics and the variety of external placements in ‘real-world’ practices, which provide excellent hand-on experience in the profession. Furthermore, with the additional exposure to research, industry and business pathways, I could appreciate the multiple career options available as an optometrist. I utilise the clinical and research skills gained during my time at university on a day-to-day basis, in my roles as a clinician involved in patient care and as a researcher investigating methods for earlier detection of ocular pathologies
- Janelle Tong, University Medallist, Class of 2015