Optometry Outside the United States

Spain, 4th of December, 2011
Salus Optometry School
By: Fernando Sanchez

OptometryStudents.com reached out to me and asked me to write  about the studies of optometry in Europe. I am currently finishing my Master of Science in Clinical Optometry at Pennsylvania College of Optometry and I would like to explain my experience as student in US and other countries in Europe.

I finished my degree in optics and optometry in Spain several years ago, in Complutense University of Madrid, here our profession is changing constantly, so it is very normal to continue studying and growing as optometrist. We are very interested in the O.D. degree and we strive get the medical knowledge necessary for our practice in health care.

University studies in Europe have changed, most remarkable was the Bologna Process in 1999 in Italy. An agreement was signed by several ministers of eduaction of the European Union and other countries (including Russia and Turkey). The aim was facilitate the exchange of graduates and adapt the content of univesity courses to social demands improving their quality and the competitiveness in the states. They created ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) to quantify the quality and content of qualifications equally in all countries. Since then all countries have now the same degrees: graduate, master and doctorate. In Spain before that university degrees were: diploma, bachelor and doctoral. For optometry we could only a diploma and we couldn’t get the Phd because only the bachelor degree let us get the Phd. Yet now we can get all the leves and research as a Phd.


Optometry in Europe has different levels of licensing in its exercise, from countries where university education does not belong to countries where the national health system has optometrists using pharmacological agents in clinical practice.

Spain does not allow the use of pharmacological agents. Some students decide to go to other European Union countries or go to the U.S. to continue training in order to be licensed in their home country or to advance and disseminate knowledge on their return.


The UK is one of the reference countries in Europe in optometry, optometrists are licenced for the use of pharmacological agents (narrowly, as the diagnosis or clinical benign conditions , not in the same way as in the U.S.; http://www.college-optometrists.org and http://www.optical.org are the council for registration of optometrists in the UK). So many Spanish optometrists decide to work in the UK to get their license. General Optic Council entails that university education ranges between 3 months and 1 year depending on the clinical experience and after this education students can obtain a license and practice. Many others, like me, have decided to launch an international course of Bachelor and Master of Science in Clinical Optometry. I have choose to pursue my education at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, to obtain better knowledge. Also PCO/Salus University also has an agreement with Cardiff University in the UK for directly obtaining this license. I can then present it at the General Optic Council of the United Kingdom.

The final step would be to get in the U.S. the Optometry Doctor degree. The Illinois College of Optometry requires international students from Spain to complete 24 months of training and 36 months at Pennsylvania College of Optometry. Students who have obtained their MSc in Clinical Optometry will have access to a faster OD degree in the future according to reports from different members of Salus University, as it is considering shortening the training due to the high level of this MSc degree.

Today my goal is to fight in my country for a broader license to provide better eye care for the Spanish patients. That means I must continue to show the different Spanish officials and my colleagues that I have extensive knowledge in the area of Optometry and I can provide better health care to my society. I believe that the respect for the Optometrist in the Unite States is a very important image to other countries and will ensure that optometrists have a high degree of qualification elsewhere.


Special thanks to OptometryStudents.com for letting me share my experiences.

By: Fernando Sanchez
Bsc in Clinical Optometry
Msc in Clinical Optometry


Scroll to Top