Career change from IT to Optometry at 39 with sub-par undergrad GPA?


Apologies in advance if this isn’t the right venue for this question as it seems most of the posts here are in regards to traditional med school VS Optometry, but I figured I’d post here since my background was similar in the sense that I’d be an older, “non-traditional” student (if there is another more focused forum for non-traditional, OD students, please let me know!). Having said that here are the relevant details on my situation:


  • I'm in my late 30s (39),

  • minority (not sure if it that helps or not)

  • no debt,

  • no wife/kids,


  • high school: 3.5 GPA, AP Physics (3), AP Calculus (4), some community volunteer experience, 2 years of foreign language courses (making me trilingual)

  • college/university: graduated in my 20s with a 4-year (5-year w/ CoOp) B.S. in Computer Engineering from a tough engineering school with a ~2.70 cumulative GPA (more on that & the sciences below):

  • got on the Dean's List a few times, but ...

  • screwed up a few quarters/semesters before I smartly reduced the # of hours I was taking per quarter/semester to do better. Once I did that, my GPA began to trend upwards, but by then it was a bit too late: General Chemistry II (D), Note, I did not take OChem, since it wasn't required by my major, General Biology I (C), General Biology III (B), Physics: Particle Dynamics (C), EMag (D, retake C), Optics (D, retake A!), and a few other courses which dragged my GPA down,

College Undergraduate Research:

  • Worked on epileptic seizure prediction algorithm/techniques using neural networks, fuzzy logic, and wavelet decomposition from EEG patient data (I really enjoyed this)

Work Experience/Research:

  • Since graduating I've had a variety of roles across the software lifecyle- QA/Test, tech support, web dev, "consultant" (a euphemism for post-sales tech support it turned out) as well as being a sysadmin for a small company.

Why I didn't like my current career path:

  • The tech support roles often result in you basically being a punching bag for things you have no ability to really change. QA was similar, much less stress but they just want someone to rubber stamp things with no real attempt at improving quality.

  • Being a web-dev was fun, but it tends to come with a lot of dev-egos/arguing, and unrealistic management expectations.

  • The only role that I truly enjoyed was being a sys-admin, as it offered just the right mix of being physical (setting up hardware/gear), software (scripting, system management & monitoring), and low-stress 1:1 helpdesk stuff- which provided the right balance of interaction/socialization besides supervisor-subordinate interactions. My dream job was to have this sort of role in a small college or university setting where I could keep learning, until I realized a sysadmin career does not really allow one to become self-employed eventually.

Why Optometry appeals to me:

  1. Optometry (like most medical or legal professions) seem to be one of the few careers that allows self-employment (I enjoy being involved in all aspects of the business & being able to control my own schedule).

  2. Optometry like most medical professions, seems to have a higher standard when it comes to quality- something that seems to be lacking when it comes to software development in the corporate context. In addition, since you will be providing a service (& potentially a product), you directly have an impact on the quality of care the patience will receive (and even more so if you run your own practice).

  3. Optometry can be completed with only an additional 4 years of education.

  4. Vision is fascinating and you're helping people see better!

  5. Optometrists have a decent quality of life.

  6. Optometry seems to be an industry that has a bit more protection from being easily outsourced?

Questions if I decide to undertake Optometry:

  1. I am assuming since I am missing OChem I will need to take that as a post-bac (or non-degree major) at a minimum to even apply to OD schools and take the OAT? Should I retake Chemistry and Biology as well?

  2. How hard is the OAT vs MCAT? From what I've read it sounds like they're similar with the former being more focused on Physics/Optics I'm assuming?

  3. I assume I should look into volunteering/shadowing with local optometrists to gain more (clinical) experience prior to applying? How much experience is enough to apply?

  4. Assuming I get accepted, should I go to a school that requires the national board examination? It seems 12 schools require it and 9 don't.

  5. Again assuming I get accepted somewhere, is it worth applying for the Military HPLRP or HPSP? (assuming my GPA doesn't exclude me and I'm granted an age waiver as I think I'd be over 43 by the time I graduate). I read one post on studentdoctors that says HPSP is only $4k and an old PowerPoint from the Navy that says it's full tuition. Can someone confirm? If it's the former I'm uncertain if it'd be worth it. On the other hand if it's full-tuition that would be on the order of $100k, that's a different story. I do have a bit of savings but emerging debt-free by applying and serving your country has a certain appeal to it.

  6. Do you see Optometry as an industry that would potentially be automated in a few years time? ex:,[sup:rp66eqku]1[/sup:rp66eqku], The first two seem to be companies that are looking to move the refracting process in-home. The third seems to be a company that is looking to move the refracting process online & with a (mobile web?) app.

    [sup:rp66eqku]1[/sup:rp66eqku] Not sure what's with the login lock on the, I'm guessing it may have to do with the investigation they're under after the the New York State Optometric Association and the New York Board of Optometry complained?, see

Any help appreciated, and sorry if this was a bit verbose, thanks!