Fellowships vs Residencies

Which Academic Path is Right for Me?

For students looking to explore the world of academia after graduation, the choice between doing a fellowship or a residency may be weighing heavily on their minds. Many optometry students are unaware that fellowships in optometric medicine exist. Students may also be confused as to how they differ from residencies.


Taking notes

A residency is a one-year program that fourth-year students can apply for before graduation from optometry school. As a resident, you will be a practicing optometric physician under the guidance of another doctor. Each residency has a sub-specialization in optometry, including cornea & contact lenses, pediatrics, binocular vision, vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation, primary care, ocular disease, advanced surgical procedures, or community outreach. Residents usually have to attend meetings like the one held at by the American Academy of Optometry, facilitate research, write a paper or present a poster, work the on-call schedule, and complete several grand rounds presentations.


A fellowship is generally a two-year commitment (but can be one year) to a program in which candidates graduate with a Masters of Science degree or another advanced certification along with completing a residency. Some fellowships even require a completed residency before application. More often than not, fellows must attend graduate classes, perform clinical research, present at the American Academy of Optometry meeting, and perform as clinical attending doctors to current optometry or ophthalmology students.

Both programs are held in high regard, but it seems like fellowship programs are optometry’s best kept secret. Below are a list of programs offered by various universities that include fellowships. Whatever your future career aspirations, it is important to keep a place at the table for those students who choose to enter academia and research after optometry school.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.optometrystudents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Fellowship-Chart.pdf” title=”Fellowship Chart”]

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