The mission of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University, which was founded as the nation’s first non-profit, independent College of Optometry in 1919, is to innovate and lead in the development of optometrists who advance healthcare through excellence in discovery, patient care, and professionalism.

Prospective PCO/Salus students can apply to two pathways to obtain a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree  — the Traditional Program and the Accelerated Scholars Program. While the traditional program is intended to last four years and the accelerated three, both focus on an interdisciplinary approach in a graduate/professional health science environment. 

Other pillars of both OD programs include:


OD students examining peds patientIntegrative Primary Eye Care and Early Patient Exposure: Students spend time early in their program — the first week of the first year — in the University’s optometric clinical facility — The Eye Institute (TEI). Students can further their diversity of patient exposure through community vision screenings and extensive externships. These full-time clinical externships last a year and a half  and, in that time, students will have encounters with approximately 3,000 patients before they graduate. PCO/Salus has more than 400 active externship sites worldwide for its students to hone their skills.

Advanced Studies Options: Students can advance their studies and overall optometric background in areas such as Anterior Segment; Contact Lens; Binocular Vision and Vision Therapy; and Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease.

Dual Degree Options: Doctor of Optometry students at PCO/Salus also have the opportunity to pursue a dual degree in either Low Vision Rehabilitation (MS) or Biomedicine (MSc/PhD).

Innovative Curriculum to Reflect an Evolving Profession: The curriculum at PCO/Salus keeps students’ studies relevant and prepares them thoroughly for the profession through:
  • Small group learning experiences
  • Introducing the visual system and the eye in the first semester of the first year
  • Increasing the focus on neuro and managing traumatic brain injuries in patients
  • Lasers and minor surgical procedures
  • Advanced contact lens content
  • Healthcare delivery with diagnostic and disruptive technologies
  • Board preparation

The Eye Institute (TEI)

OD students examining elderly patientThis 70,000 square foot facility is located in the Oak Lane section of Philadelphia and has been an integral part of the community for more than  40 years. TEI, as it is affectionately called, also has two satellite locations: Chestnut Hill and within the Norristown Regional Health Center. The TEI Oak Lane location alone sees approximately 30,000 patient visits per year.

From infants to elderly, what truly makes TEI special for PCO/Salus students is the diverse patient population they get to see. This wide array of patients allows for a comprehensive clinical experience that includes learning how to treat extensive vision pathologies and eye problems.

Optometry Learning Experience (OLE)

The Optometry Learning Experience (OLE) program is designed to offer undergraduate students the opportunity to explore PCO/Salus and the optometry profession. This two to three day event usually held in early January and in the summer includes:
  • Class observation
  • Faculty/staff presentations
  • Campus and clinical tours
  • Clinical skills lab demonstrations
  • One-on-one counseling sessions
  • Financial Planning
Applicants to OLE are required to submit transcripts, a short essay, and biographical information. For more information, click here

Summer Enrichment Program (SEP)

SEP student group photoThe goal of the Robert E. Horne Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) is to improve the matriculation, attrition, and graduation rates of underrepresented student applicants. This five-week program is designed to introduce participants to PCO’s rigorous academic program while fostering a safety net of support and mentorship. 

Usually held in the summer, the classes in SEP mirror the first year, first semester curriculum of the OD program and students also receive similar hands-on labs and clinical experiences offered in the program. 

Study skills, test-taking skills, financial literacy and wellness are all also offered as part of SEP, which is sponsored by America’s Best/National Vision, Inc. and is of no cost to participants.

Apply for the Doctor of Optometry Program

All PCO/Salus Doctor of Optometry degree applications are to be submitted through OptomCAS. Applications are processed through rolling admissions, which means as applications are received as opposed to waiting until after a hard deadline.

Applicants must have 90 semester hours or 135 quarter hours from an accredited institution as well as the required prerequisite coursework. Three letters of recommendation are required along with OAT, GRE, MCAT, DAT, or PCAT scores. Applicants must also have 25 hours of shadowing/observation and will need to complete a one-on-one interview. 

To apply for the Accelerated Scholars Doctor of Optometry program, applicants must indicate their interest in their OptomCAS application. The same prerequisite coursework is required but higher test scores increase the likelihood of acceptance into this accelerated program. The recommended GPA for the Accelerated Scholars program is 3.5 or higher. This program starts in July, a few months before the traditional, four-year program.