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Education and Training

This page contains information and documentation related to optometry education and training programs at VA medical facilities.

Photo of a group of students attending a lecture.

Education of trainees in medicine and associated health care disciplines is an important component of VHA's patient care mission.

Graduate Optometric Education - Post-Residency VA Advanced Fellowship Programs:

The purpose of the Post-residency VA Advanced Fellowship Programs is to ensure the continuation and future development of select VA health care professionals, including Optometrists, to aid in the growth of exceptional clinical and/or research capabilities in emerging health professions and services of particular importance to VA and the Nation.

These one-year clinical and/or two-year combination research and clinical post-residency VA Advanced Fellowships Programs offer expertise in Advanced Geriatrics, Health Services Research & Development, Health Systems Engineering, Medical Informatics, Optometric Research, Patient Safety, and Polytrauma/Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation.  These abovementioned specialty areas are available to outstanding Optometrists who have successfully completed Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) accredited residency programs.

VA Advanced Fellowship Programs provide outstanding opportunities for post-residency research, education, and clinical training in these emerging professional disciplines.  Through creative partnerships, use of new technology, and innovative educational modalities, these fellowship programs promote and foster the highest standards of leadership, intellectual integrity, research, and patient care. 

Applicants must:

  • Be citizens of the United States
  • Have successfully completed an ACOE accredited optometric residency program
  • Possess a full and unrestricted license to practice optometry in a State, Territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or in the District of Columbia before the beginning of the fellowship.  Note:  The license does not have to be from the state where the fellowship program is located.

Directory of VA Optometric/Research Fellowship Programs

Brochure of VA Optometric/Research Fellowship Programs

Directory of VA Interprofessional Polytrauma and Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Fellowship Programs with Optometrists

Graduate Optometric Education - Optometry Residency Programs:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has the largest optometry clinical training program in the United States. There are over 180 Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (Note: Links to a website outside VA) accredited post-graduate residents and over 1,400 externship positions available annually for clinical training. Former VA residents are among the most successful and nationally recognized individuals within the profession.

In today's changing health care environment, it is important to plan for the future. All current indicators suggest that the demand for optometrists with residency training will continue to increase. Already, many of the best jobs require post-graduate residency certification.

Regardless of ultimate career goals, a VA residency can be an excellent "stepping stone". The opportunity to acquire an outstanding position within a practice or managed care organization is enhanced by having completed a VA residency. Prior VA residents are also given preference for VA staff positions. Many others have obtained faculty appointments at a School or College of Optometry due to their VA residency credentials.

Each VA Residency Program is unique as experiences and opportunities are different at each site. More specific residency program information can be obtained by contacting the individual sites.

Unique Benefits of a VA Residency:

  • An outstanding 12 month (July 1st - June 30th) clinical patient care experience serving a challenging and rewarding Veteran population
  • A stimulating interdisciplinary environment where the resident learns to coordinate quality primary optometric eye care services with other health care providers to maximize patient care outcomes and learning experiences
  • Research and academic opportunities mentored by experienced clinicians who are among the most published optometrists worldwide
  • Opportunity for emphasis in either Primary Eye Care or combined Primary Eye Care/Low Vision Rehabilitation
  • Vacation, national holidays, and sick days along with authorized absence for approved continuing education
  • Health Insurance plans available
  • Competitive annual salary

Residency Training

All residents receive training in primary eye care, serving as part of an interdisciplinary team working to provide high quality patient care. With a primarily geriatric patient population, ocular disease management is a significant portion of the training experience. Residents augment their training through various medical service rotations, grand rounds and/or other professional development activities.

Low Vision Rehabilitation Residency

In addition to the above mentioned advanced competence areas, certain programs offer substantial training in low vision care. This experience typically includes exposure to a professional team of highly qualified providers with unique skills for care of visually impaired Veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must:

  • Be citizens of the United States
  • Be graduates with the degree of Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) resulting from a course of education in optometry. The degree must have been obtained from an ACOE accredited School or College of Optometry or an Optometry School (including foreign schools) accepted by the licensing body of a State, Territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or in the District of Columbia as qualifying for full and unrestricted licensure
  • Obtain licensure in a State, Territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or in the District of Columbia before completion of the first year of VA residency


Transcripts, NBEO scores, letters of recommendation, and on-site interviews are factors considered for acceptance to a VA residency program.  All applications are submitted and coordinated through the Optometry Residency Match (ORMatch)Note: Links to a website outside VA. 

Residency Training Programs at VA medical facilities offer outstanding educational opportunities for graduate optometrists to obtain advanced clinical competence.  These programs are designed to enhance residents' knowledge and experience in areas of primary and secondary eye care, low vision rehabilitation, ocular and systemic disease, and research.
VA residency programs are one-year in length, starting on July 1st and ending June 30th.

VA Optometric Residency Training Programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE).  Programs are required to follow guidelines set forth in the ACOE Accreditation Manual:  Optometric Residency Programs, including the ACOE Optometric Residency Standards.

After successful completion of optometry residency requirements, VA residency-trained optometrists are eligible to take the Advanced Competence in Medical Optometry (ACMO) Examination administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.  Note: Links to a website outside VA

The VA also has its own policies and procedural requirements regarding residents.  These may be viewed below:

VA Optometric Residency, Fellowship and Other Related Policies:

Photo of a student observing a clinical procedure.

A student observes clinic procedures.

VA Trainee Application and Information:

Optometry Externship Programs:

VA medical facilities provide clinical education and training opportunities for optometry students, enrolled in a four year post-baccalaureate ACOE accredited Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) Professional Optometric Degree Program, in Optometry Externship Programs at over 125 VA medical facilities nationwide.  About 70% of the 1,500 to 1,600 annual graduates of the ACOE accredited Schools and Colleges of Optometry in the United States are trained at VHA facilities every year.

Each VA medical facility must have an affiliation agreement with an Accreditation Council on Optometric Education accredited sponsoring School or College of Optometry.

Students, Candidates and Trainees

Optometry students or candidates assigned to VA Optometric Externship Program rotations must:

  • Be enrolled in an ACOE-accredited program
  • Come from school(s) or college(s) of optometry with an affiliation agreement with the VA facility
  • Be appointed on a without compensation (WOC) basis

Additional Links: