Graduate Program in Vision Science (MS, PhD)

Degree Requirements

Non-thesis Master of Science Degree

Because Vision Science is a multidisciplinary field, students must demonstrate breadth of knowledge in vision science.

Each semester, students are required to register for and participate in the weekly vision science seminar  (V765) known as “Oxyopia.”  Participation implies that the seminar will be taken for credit and that the student will make a presentation.  Students registered for G901 are still expected to participate in the seminar unless they have made prior arrangements with the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.  Students must complete ethics training, usually fulfilled by completion of V792

Admission Requirements

The typical candidate for this program would be a practitioner who has an undergraduate degree in optometry or its equivalent and licensed or license eligible to practice optometry in their home country. GRE results will be required and in addition all non-native English speakers entering the program must have taken the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) within the last 5 years. Non-typical candidates can also be considered for admission. However, they should first correspond with the Associate Dean of Graduate Programs before applying.


A total of 40 credit hours are required. Most of the courses will be based on the didactic courses in the School of Optometry’s Doctorate of Optometry curriculum.  Core courses will provide a breadth of background and also provide training in teaching methods, epidemiology, research design and writing and will be required to attend weekly research seminars. These core courses will add up to 15 credit hours. Electives totaling 25 credit hours will concentrate on one or two specialty areas in Optometry. Prior to registration for courses in the first semester the student will meet with the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs or with Program Director to identify specialty areas, and to obtain advice on electives.

Thesis-based Master of Science Degree
Course Requirements

A total of 30 credit hours is required, of which 15 credit hours must be didactic hours in vision science or approved substitutes. Students holding the O.D. degree or concurrently enrolled in the O.D. and MS program, may accelerate progress by receiving up to 4 graduate credit hours completed in the optometry curriculum. Students must complete courses that satisfy a knowledge base in statistics, research design and vision science.

Research Requirements

Early in the program, students participate in a research project under the direction of a faculty advisor. The advisor is chosen by the student after consultation with the director of the graduate program. Research toward the thesis is guided by the advisor and a committee. After completion of the thesis, at least three members of the graduate faculty give it final approval.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree
Course Requirements

A total of 90 credit hours is required, of which 30 must come from didactic courses with grades of C or higher. Students holding the O.D. degree or enrolled in the O.D. program, may apply up to 6 credit hours to this requirement of 30 didactic credit hours. When the grade point average of a student falls below 3.0, the student will be placed on academic probation and to remain in the program, must show substantial progress in the following semester.

Each semester, students are required to register for and participate in the weekly Vision Science Seminar (V 765) known as “Oxyopia.” and the accompanying discussion period. Participation implies that the seminar will be taken for credit. Students in research programs (thesis based MS and Ph.D.) are expected to be able to make presentations on their research.  For MS students, one such presentation prior to graduation is required.  For Ph.D. students, a yearly presentation in all years other than their first and final year is expected, with exceptions requiring specific approval of the course director and the Associate Dean of Graduate Programs.

During the first year, students will be required to take a two course sequence, either Geometric and Visual Optics (V521) or Systems Approach to Biomedical Science (V542).  During the second semester, students will take Vision Science 1 (V560) and either V523 or V543 as well as a special topic seminar (V768) or a course fulfilling part of their minor requirements.  Students believing they have met these requirements may apply to the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs with an alternative program.  

Minor Requirements

Students will select at least one minor subject in any relevant field of study, subject to approval by their advisory committee.

The requirements for the minor are determined by the department or program offering the minor. A specialized inter-departmental minor is also possible, if approved by the University Graduate School. Didactic credits applied to the minor can also be counted towards the 30 hour didactic requirement for the program.

Vision Science Ph.D. Degree Requirements

In order to ensure adequate progress toward the Ph.D. degree, all students must achieve the following milestones at the end of years 1, 2, and 3 of the program. 

Advancement to Second-Year Exam

At the end of the first year in the program each student must have selected a topic for specialization and made substantial progress on their didactic requirements for the Ph.D. qualifying exam.  By this time, students should also have demonstrated an appropriate command of spoken and written English.  For students who do not come from an English speaking background, this command must be demonstrated by passing the TEPAIC test.

Advancement to Third Year

By the end of the second year all students should have identified the specific experiments that will eventually constitute their Ph.D. thesis. Passing the qualifying examinations will constitute successful achievement of this requirement.  If the student has not advanced to candidacy then this requirement will be met by submitting a formal abstract describing the proposed experiments to the Graduate Programs Academic Advisor.

This abstract must be accompanied by written approval of the Ph.D. advisor.

Advancement to Candidacy

By the end of the third year, each student must complete a written and oral qualifying examination. These examinations are administered by the student’s advisory committee. The written component is the dissertation proposal, and can be in the form of a grant application. The requirement of 30 credit hours of didactic course work must be fulfilled before the qualifying examination. After successful completion of the qualifying exam, each student will be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Participation in the Ph.D. program will be terminated if a student fails the qualifying examination twice.

The final milestone is completion of the dissertation.

Completion of Dissertation

After completion of the written dissertation, it is presented and defended at a scheduled seminar meeting. The dissertation must be approved by the student’s research committee. The student is responsible for submitting the final approved dissertation to the University Graduate School.

IU University Graduate School

The University Graduate School (UGS) provides a guide to the preparation of theses and dissertations and maintains links to electronic forms required for submitting the necessary documentation.


All doctoral students are required to participate in teaching, usually in the second or third year of their program.

Ph.D. Minor in Vision Science

OPT-V 540, OPT-V 560, VSCI-V 705, VSCI-V 707, VSCI-V 717, VSCI-V 723, VSCI-V 725, VSCI-V 754, VSCI-V 783, and VSCI-V 791, or with substitutions by prior approval of the Academic Advisor.

Academic Bulletins

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