Become an Orthoptist

About the Program

The study of Orthoptics follows a logical sequence of courses vital to the understanding of the visual system. Course work is integrated with hands-on clinical approach. The primary aim of the Orthoptic Program is to prepare students to become efficient members of the vision health care team. For two intensive years of instruction, orthoptic students interact with medical students, ophthalmology residents, fellows and medical professionals in a clinic setting.


Subjects Include:

A thorough investigation of the structures of the human visual system with concentration on the anatomy of the eye and surrounding structures. A basic knowledge of human anatomy is recommended.
A basic introduction to the central and peripheral nervous systems and to the parts of the brain which are essential to vision and eye movements.
thorough understanding of the normal functioning of organ systems and organs with emphasis on the eye. 
The study of diagnostic and therapeutic drugs used in ophthalmology. The properties and reactions of specific agents is studied as well as the proper clinical indications for the prescription of specific ophthalmic drugs.
Diagnostic Testing & Measurement
An introduction to the clinical techniques necessary for an orthoptist to perform a diagnostic examination. The application and interpretation of specific testing procedures is covered in-depth throughout the course of study.
Systemic Diseases & Ocular Motor Disorders
Visual symptoms are often the presenting sign of a serious systemic illness. The pathogenesis, signs and symptoms of various disease processes are discussed. A systematic overview of the visual disorders encountered by the orthoptist is provided.
Principles of Surgery
Introduces the student to the essentials of pre and postoperative patient care. Provides an overview of the indications for surgery and the types of surgery performed by an ophthalmologist to correct eye alignment and eye movement disorders.
Basic Ophthalmic Exam Techniques
Orthoptic programs provide instruction in the principles of ophthalmic technical procedures such as refractometry, visual field testing, and contact lens fitting which are useful adjuncts to the specialized skills of an orthoptist. Some programs offer clinical proficiency in these technical skills while others focus primarily on theoretical concepts.
Ophthalmic Optics
 Examines basic principles from the genesis and propagation of light to the laws of applied optics relative to ophthalmic lenses and prisms. A basic knowledge of algebra and physics is recommended.
Orthoptic Treatment
 An introduction to the various forms of non-surgical treatment encompassing theoretic principles and clinical application.
Additional subject areas may include:
  • Principles of Genetics
  • Child Development
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Clinical Research Methods
  • Medical Writing

Orthoptic Fellowship Programs

Admission criteria varies between programs. However, national regulations require completion of a baccalaureate degree prior to sitting for the American Orthoptic Council [AOC] certifying examinations. There are no required course prerequisites mandated from AOC, individual orthoptic programs may have their own pre-requisite requirements or recommendations.

The Graduate Record Examination is not required. Advance standing may be awarded to ophthalmic medical personnel who possess an undergraduate degree and a current COT or COMT certification. Advance standing eligibility is determined by the program director upon a candidate’s acceptance into their program. Advanced standing may also be granted on a case-by-case basis by the AOC based on the extra qualifications, degrees and/or related work experience of the applicant. A request for special consideration of advanced standing will be submitted by the program director on the student’s behalf. Advanced standing students must complete a minimum of 12 months in an accredited program. The exact length of training will be determined by the program director based on the student’s progress, their fulfillment of the program’s requisites and if they are deemed ready to sit the AOC certifying exams.

A personal interview is customarily part of the admissions process, although some programs start the application review process with a virtual interview. Deadlines for completed applications are dictated by the individual school and although most programs start students in July some stagger their starting dates. Space is limited as many programs only accept one student per year.

Tuition for the two year post graduate programs usually do not exceed $5000 per year but are not regulated by the American Orthoptic Council and each program sets its own tuition. Some programs include books and other teaching materials in the tuition fee. Financial aid and stipends are available at some programs. Inquiries should be made individually to the programs of interest.

Orthoptic students do not usually qualify for conventional student loans, as the programs are not University degree granting programs. Partial scholarships based on need and merit are available from the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology Education and Research Foundation (JCAHPO) and the Foundation for Orthoptic Research and Education in the Americas (FOREA).

Programs in the United StATes of America




order the Revised 2023 Syllabus and Core Competency
International Candidates


Contact Information

AOC Home Office
3914 Nakoma Road, Madison, WI 53711
Telephone: 608 233-5383 
[email protected]   or   [email protected]