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11 November, 2023

The Costs of Optometry School

Optometry school can be very expensive, especially in North America. In this article, we will discuss what exactly are the costs of Optometry schools.
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Becoming an optometrist, or Doctor of Optometry, requires hard work, dedication and perseverance. Before doing so, you must apply for, attend, and complete optometry school. Optometry school programs are generally 4 years long, following a Bachelor’s degree or at least 3 years of undergraduate studies. There are 25 schools in North America (23 in the United States and 2 in Canada). Not only is it important to figure out which school is the right fit for you, but there are also many steps and fees involved in the application process before you are even admitted into an optometry program.

Applying for optometry school or any professional graduate school program, is expensive. Aside from the application fee itself, an entire application cycle involves other expenses such as standardized tests, prep courses and materials, and travel expenses for interviews – overall, students often spend several thousand dollars with no guaranteed acceptance into any school. Due to the many associated fees, applying to optometry school can be very overwhelming. In this article, we will be discussing the costs associated with optometry school, including application fees and the cost of tuition.

💰 Expenses

One major commitment and cost to applying for optometry school is the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). This is a standardized and computer-based 5-hour long exam required by most optometry schools for admission. It costs $510 USD ($650 CAD) to take the exam and several months to prepare for it. Applicants often take 2-4 months to study for it over the summer and prepare for it by following a prep course. Different companies offer different prep courses that provide a variety of resources and come in various formats, but they can range from $200-900 USD ($255-1150 CAD). When registering for the OAT, you are prompted to choose which optometry schools will receive your results electronically after your scheduled test. There is no fee at this time, but if you change your mind later on in the application cycle and decide to apply to a school that you had not chosen when registering for the OAT, there will be a distribution fee of $50 USD per school. Therefore, it would be a good idea to choose all the optometry schools when registering for the OAT. For more information on the OAT, take a look at our other articles: How Is the OAT Scored, What Is a Good OAT Score, How to Study for the OAT and Retaking the OAT.

Once you start applying for optometry schools, the expenses will start to add up. For Canadian schools, it costs $215 CAD to submit the online application for the University of Waterloo and $50 CAD for the University of Montreal. For all of the US schools, you must apply on the OptomCAS platform. To enter the OptomCAS system and apply to one school, it costs $185 USD. After the first school, there is a fee of $75 USD for every additional school you apply to. At this point, you also have to make sure your OAT results have been sent to the school or OptomCAS successfully, or pay the $50 USD distribution fee to send your results to any additional optometry schools you decide on applying to. Also, at this point, you will have to send your post-secondary transcript(s) to OptomCAS. The transcript(s) are used to confirm your academic performance and completion of all required pre-requisite courses, and the fee to order your transcript(s) will depend on the school(s) you attended.

Aside from completing the OAT and submitting your application, there are also other required tests. The Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer Test) is an online situational test required by Waterloo and some US optometry schools. Its purpose is to measure your situational judgment and critical thinking in different scenarios. Most applicants prepare for this test on their own, but there are also different prep courses offered as well. The base test fee for Waterloo is $40 CAD, with a $16 CAD distribution fee. For the US, there is a $40 USD base fee for all schools and an extra $12 USD distribution fee for Salus University College of Optometry.

After submitting your application and completing all required tests, you will be offered an interview if you meet the academic requirements. Interviews generally take place at the school, which means you will have to pay for all of the travel expenses – this includes the cost of flight tickets, cab rides, accommodation, and food. These expenses can vary depending on where you are traveling to and what deals you can find, but they are still an extra cost, nonetheless. Some optometry schools provide discounts for accommodation nearby, so it would be a good idea to check their website or reach out to the admissions advisors for more information.

🏫 Tuition

Once you are admitted into optometry school, the next expense is the cost of tuition. In the table below, we have summarized the average yearly cost of tuition and school fees for optometry schools in North America based on 2021-2022 rates. Keep in mind that tuition goes up a bit every year, and the costs below are an average per year – the first year of schooling is generally more expensive while the last year or two is often cheaper. Also, note that the table does not include other big expenses, such as the cost of equipment, textbooks, vaccinations, housing, food, transportation, parking and other living or miscellaneous fees. These fees can vary quite a bit and are determined by the optometry school, the location you will be living in and your personal lifestyle choices. Depending on whether the school is public or private, the cost of tuition can also vary. For public schools, the cost of tuition depends on whether you are a resident of that country/state. Tuition fees are cheaper for residents compared to non-residents, which is something you should keep in mind when choosing which optometry schools to apply to. For private schools, the cost of tuition is the same for everyone, regardless of where you reside. Even more, some schools require a non-resident fee, which is another expense you likely want to avoid.

Optometry School (2021-2022 Rates)Resident Tuition/Fees per YearNon-Resident Tuition/Fees per Year
University of Waterloo, School of Optometry and Vision Science$18,000 CAD $62,000 CAD
University of Alabama, School of Optometry$29,000 USD$55,000 USD
Midwestern University, Arizona College of Optometry$46,000 USD$46,000 USD
Marshall B. Ketchum University, Southern California College of Optometry$48,000 USD$48,000 USD
University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry$32,000 USD$34,000 USD
Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry$48,000 USD$48,000 USD
Nova Southeastern University, College of Optometry$33,000 USD$39,000 USD
Midwestern University, Chicago College of Optometry$49,000 USD$49,000 USD
Illinois College of Optometry$53,000 USD$53,000 USD
Indiana University, School of Optometry$36,000 USD$51,000 USD
University of Pikeville, Kentucky College of Optometry$45,000 USD$45,000 USD
MCPHS University, School of Optometry$47,000 USD$47,000 USD
New England College of Optometry$45,000 USD$45,000 USD
Ferris State University, Michigan College of Optometry$39,000 USD$39,000 USD
University of Missouri at St. Louis, College of Optometry$30,000 USD$48,000 USD
State University of New York, College of Optometry$30,000 USD$50,000 USD
Northeastern State University, Oklahoma College of Optometry$29,000 USD$52,000 USD
The Ohio State University, College of Optometry$27,000 USD$32,000 USD
Pacific University, College of Optometry$47,000 USD$47,000 USD
Salus University (Traditional Program), Pennsylvania College of Optometry$45,000 USD$45,000 USD
Salus University (Scholars Program), Pennsylvania College of Optometry$49,000 USD$49,000 USD
Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, School of Optometry$29,000 USD$29,000 USD
Southern College of Optometry$28,000 USD$40,000 USD
University of the Incarnate Word, Rosenberg School of Optometry$40,000 USD$40,000 USD
University of Houston, College of Optometry$25,000 USD$45,000 USD

Overall, the cost of tuition can vary quite a bit. For Canadians attending the University of Waterloo, tuition is $18,000 CAD per year and $62,000 CAD per year for non-residents. For Americans, resident tuition ranges from $25,000 to $53,000 USD per year, for an average of $39,000 USD per year. Non-resident tuition fees range from $29,000 to $53,000 USD per year, for an average of $45,000 USD per year. Canadians are considered international or non-resident students in the US, so tuition would cost $37,000 to $68,000 CAD per year after the exchange rate, which would be an average of $58,000 CAD per year if they attend a US optometry school.

🏦 Financial Aid

Due to the high costs of applications, standardized tests, and tuition, it would be a good idea to seek out sources of financial aid.

For both the OAT and CASPer test, there are forms of financial aid available. The OAT is administered by the American Dental Association (ADA) on behalf of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), and the ASCO provides a 50% partial waiver for the registration fee of $510 USD for American applicants. Feel free to read our article “How to get an OAT Fee Waiver” to get your registration fee partially waived. Similarly, the US-based Fee Assistance Program provides opportunities for US applicants to apply for their CASPer testing fee to be waived. These are both worth looking into, as they can significantly cut down on fees while applying to optometry school.

As for the high tuition costs, we would suggest you look into sources of financial aid while you are applying to optometry schools. Americans have access to US federal financial aid and student loan programs, which would provide the main source of aid for tuition fees. Canadian students are not eligible for US financial aid programs, so they must apply for Canadian federal and provincial student loans. Besides student loan programs, we would also suggest looking into bank loans – specifically a student line of credit (SLOC). A SLOC is a bank loan where the interest you owe per month is calculated based on how much you have taken out. Therefore, if you do not “borrow” or take out any money from the SLOC, there will be no interest owed. Set up appointments with the major banks (TD, RBC, Scotiabank, BMO, and CIBC) to ask about their SLOC’s, including how much you would get and the interest rates they would charge. Aside from loans, you can also look into scholarships. These are offered by optometry schools and other external organizations for a variety of different factors such as merit and extracurriculars. For more information on finding financial aid as a Canadian student applying to US optometry schools, check out our article here.


Applying to optometry school is an extensive process that involves standardized testing, prep work, and all the fees associated with the application process. It can be very overwhelming but you can prepare yourself well in advance by starting your applications early and doing research on all the requirements for optometry school. Hopefully this breakdown provides insight on the expenses associated with optometry school. Good luck!