Optometrists specifically deal with human vision and aim to give patients clear and normal eyesight. They measure the efficiency of their patient's eyes and where necessary, take steps to improve or prevent deterioration of vision. They examine eyes for vision problems, disease and other abnormal conditions and test for proper depth and colour perception and the ability to focus and coordinate the eyes.

Optometrists specialise in visual defects of the physiologically healthy eye. They are able to prescribe spectacles or contact lenses to rectify or alleviate visual defects such as far-sightedness, short-sightedness, astigmatism (image distortion) and presbyopia (far-sightedness as the result of age).

They may prescribe corrective eye exercises or other treatment not requiring drugs or surgery. They may also give advice on environmental factors which affect visual efficiency. They evaluate the specific needs, working demands and hobbies of their patients in order to prescribe the most suitable correction.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or dispensing opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery, and diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. Like optometrists, they also examine eyes and prescribe spectacles and contact lenses. Dispensing opticians fit and adjust spectacles and may fit contact lenses according to prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists.

Should optometrists detect any disease or pathological abnormalities in the eye, they refer patients to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist or surgeon) for medical treatment. In addition, optometrists consult with educators on preventive vision care for school children, and with public officials and management to help eliminate vision hazards. Optometrists promote eye hygiene and general eye safety, and also inform people about correct reading habits and lighting.

This area, known as preventative or environmental optometry, forms an important part of their work. Optometrists are also consulted by institutions to develop vision-training techniques for enhancement of specific visual skills. One such technique is speed-reading, a programme utilised by many tertiary educational institutions.

Personal Requirements

  • desire to help others
  • get along well with others
  • business ability
  • tactful and disciplined
  • able to communicate well
  • some technical and manual skills
  • able to work accurately
  • good eye-hand coordination
  • desire to promote the visual well-being of members of the general public

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: BOptometry - UJ, UFS, UL. The duration of the course is 4 years of full-time study. After the completion of the degree course, students may be expected to complete a one-year internship before registration as professional optometrists.

Diploma:? N.Dip: Optical Dispensing and B.Tech - CPUT. The duration of the course is three years. A fourth year of study culminates in the BTech Optometry. From their third and fourth year, students have contact with patients. Students are required to complete a one-year internship.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Optometry & Dispensing Opticians.


  • schools of optometry at universities and the university of technology in Johannesburg
  • state and provincial administrations
  • research institutions
  • private practice
  • in partnership or group practice with other optometrists, each specialising in a different field

Further Information

South African Optometric Association
561 Nupen Crescent
Halfway House
Extension 12
Tel: (011) 805-4517 

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in an optical shop or optometrist practice
  • arrange to speak to an optometrist

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer