Mar 29, 2023  
Academic Catalog 2019-2020 
Academic Catalog 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Vision Science Graduate Programs

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Faculty:  MS program     PhD program

Introduction: Vision Science Graduate Program

Vision Science is a broad and growing field. It encompasses numerous disciplines such as anatomy, physiology, psychophysics, optics, neuroanatomy, pathology, eye movements, perception, and color vision among others. Pacific’s Vision Science Graduate (VSG) program provides the student with a broad understanding of vision science and an in-depth knowledge of a particular area within the field. Faculty of the College of Optometry have expertise in numerous fields including contact lenses, ocular disease, binocular vision, sports vision, vision performance, and low vision. Each student works with a faculty advisor to complete a thesis or dissertation based on original research.

Pacific University College of Optometry offers students two graduate programs for advanced study and research of the visual system: PhD in Vision Science Program and MS in Vision Science Program.

Student Learning Outcomes

The mission of the Vision Science Graduate Program is to provide opportunities for graduate students to: (1) advance knowledge in vision science, (2) develop research expertise in advanced experimental approaches and state-of-the-art research skills, (3) gain empirical experience in knowledge dissemination through scientific writing and research presentations, and (4) prepare for careers in academic institutions, governmental research/regulation sectors, or private corporations.

Through intense coursework and empirical research work, the students are expected to:

  1. With satisfactory performance in coursework, demonstrate advanced knowledge in the general field of vision science and in the individual’s specialized topical area(s).
  2. Write a research proposal for IRB review.
  3. Conduct original research or a systematic literature review in the individual’s specialized topical area(s).
  4. Demonstrate quantitative and qualitative skills in data gathering and analysis.
  5. Produce a written original thesis of high quality and successfully defend it orally.

Admission: Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science/Master of Science in Vision Science

For admission into the MS or PhD program, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university (or equivalent) is required, and should include coursework appropriate to the division of vision science in which the student wishes to pursue research.

It is generally expected that students will have earned a Master’s degree before beginning a PhD program. However, applicants with a bachelor’s degree and strong research background can be considered for the PhD program. Applicants who desire a PhD degree but do not have a Master’s degree and have not demonstrated research capabilities should apply for the MS program. After no less than 1 year of study, they may be eligible to transfer into the PhD program. Individuals who are in the process of earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution may be admitted into the PhD or the MS program.

Undergraduate Prerequisites

All prerequisite courses must have been taken with traditional classroom teaching (online program is not acceptable) and must be completed with a grade of “C” or higher (grades of “C-” or lower are not acceptable). Where possible, all courses should be those intended for science majors. All science prerequisites (Biology, Physics, and Chemistry) must include a laboratory.

  • General Biology: a standard two-semester course or the quarter system equivalent of one year of study
  • General Physics: a standard two-semester course or the quarter system equivalent of one year of study; need not be calculus-based
  • Chemistry: a standard two-semester course or the quarter system equivalent of one year of study
  • Mathematics: a standard one-semester course (3 semester credits or 4 quarter credits) in analytic geometry or calculus
  • Statistics: a standard one-semester course (3 semester credits or 4 quarter credits) of statistics study from Department of Mathematics, Psychology, Sociology or Statistics. A biostatistics course is acceptable; courses from Business and Economics departments do not meet this requirement.

Applicants currently enrolled in Pacific University College of Optometry, or with an OD degree from an ACOE-accredited program, automatically qualify as meeting these undergraduate prerequisites. International applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in optometry or advanced degree (Bachelor’s degree or higher) in a discipline related to clinical optometry may be considered, after review of the student application by the VSG Committee, as meeting the above-listed requirements.

English Language Proficiency

A satisfactory command of the English language is required for admission to Pacific University. All students whose first language is not English must meet the English language proficiency requirement prior to admission. This requirement applies to all applicants, including resident aliens and citizens.

  1. Valid Proof of English Language Proficiency.  There are two ways to show the required proficiency:
    1. Achieving satisfactory official test scores on the International Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Pacific Institutional TOEFL, or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.
      • Test scores are valid for 2 years after the test date. Test scores more than two years old will be considered valid if the score exceeded the minimum requirement and the applicant has maintained continuous residency in the United States since the exam date.
      • The minimum test score requirements are:
Paper-based Computer-based Internet-based
550 overall 213 overall 80 overall 6.5 overall
  1. Have a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited college or university where English is the only language of instruction.
  1. Insufficient evidence of English language proficiency:
    • Test score less than Pacific’s minimum requirement;
    • Test score more than two years old (unless applicants have lived in the United States since the exam date);
    • Institutional TOEFL score from any school except Pacific University;
    • Completion of an English as a Second Language (ESL) program at any school;
    • Successful completion of English, writing, or literature courses at any college or university;
    • An associate’s degree from a community college in the United States.

Conditional Admission

  • Applicants whose academic qualifications are sufficient but who do not provide satisfactory proof for English Language Proficiency may be conditionally admitted, with official matriculation granted upon reaching the required English proficiency.
  • The conditional admission is valid for two application cycles, starting from the current application.  After two cycles, the admission offer is void and the applicant must re-apply for admission.

Application Deadlines

Contact the Office of Graduate Admissions ( for more information on procedures and deadlines, and to request an application.

  • General applications are accepted September 1 - March 15. Decisions are made after January 15 and March 15.
  • Students currently in Pacific’s Doctorate of Optometry program and who already have a master’s degree in a related field may apply for the joint degree program, OD/MS. The application deadline is December 1 for 2nd year OD students and December 1 or March 15 for 1st year OD students. OD/MS students must be in good academic standing both at the time of the application and throughout the semester before being accepted into the program.
  • Current Vision Science MS students can apply for the PhD program one year after being matriculated into the Master’s program, by the December 1 or March 15 deadlines.
  • The VSG Committee may choose to accept applications at other times.

Required Application Materials

The following items are required for all applicants unless specially noted or waived by the VSG Committee:

  1. A completed Application Form (indicate on the form to which degree you are applying)
  2. A curriculum vitae or resume
  3. An application essay
  4. Two letters of recommendation, at least one from a course instructor of a prior-attended undergraduate or graduate program
  5. $40 application fee (waived for current students or alumni of Pacific University College of Optometry)
  6. Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, except for Pacific University.  Applicants with degrees from non-US accredited ischools must submit official credential evaluations.
  7. Applicants with OD degree from an ACOE approved OD program should include the completed OD course catalog or course syllabi with their application. (A cumulative GPA at 3.0 (or B) or better is required.)
  8. PhD applicants must submit the official report of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test taken within the last five years. Applicants with the following qualification are exempted but encouraged to submit the GRE report:
    1. Those with an ACOE approved OD degree;
    2. Those with a master or doctorate degree in an optometry relevant field;
    3. Those who are current MS students of Pacific University Vision Science Graduate program;
    4. Those graduated from an institution with specific institutional memorandum agreement with Pacific University on GRE.
    5. Special consideration may be given by the VSG Committee under other conditions.
  9. Applicants graduated from a non-US college or university need to submit proof of English Proficiency.

Selection Process

Members of the VSG Committee screen the applicant pool. Selection is based on the published minimum requirements for admission and the following criteria:

  • Depth and breadth of prior education preparation;
  • Strength of recommendations;
  • Written communication skills as assessed in the application essay.

Based on the criteria described above, selected applicants are invited for an interview either in person or through video conferencing. The VSG Committee makes recommendations for acceptance into the program to the Dean of the College of Optometry. Applicants will receive official notification of their status within 30 days after the two application deadlines mentioned above. Admitted students must satisfactorily complete a criminal background check prior to the start of classes.

Student Funding

Students are responsible for payment of tuition and other expenses. In some cases, research or other funds may be available to support graduate students. Application and acceptance into the graduate program is independent from the availability of student financial support. Any available funds to support graduate students are subject to the requirements placed upon those funds by the funding source and generally not under the control or influence of the VSG Committee. If funding is from a research grant or a research contract, the faculty member serving as the principal investigator usually makes decisions about all personnel supported by the grant. The VSG director can alert students to potential funding opportunities.

Immunization Requirements for Admitted Students

All students must be properly immunized in order to protect the health of themselves as well as clinic patients. Students have access to the clinic during their study; therefore, it is important to be current on all required immunizations. Some immunizations require multiple doses, and some require a titer to test for immunity; getting a head start on this process will make things easier as you start the program.

Policies: Specific to the Vision Science Graduate Program

Course Substitution and Course Waiver

Based on prior coursework taken for credit, professional training and experiences, or current memorandum of understanding between an educational/research institution and Pacific University, students may apply for course substitution or course waiver in place of a required course. A maximum of one-third of the course credit requirement for the degree may be satisfied by course substitution or waiver. Exceptions may be made by the VSG Committee. Application for course substitution and waiver must be submitted to the Director of the VSG Program, and be approved by the Dean of Academic Programs.

  1. Course Substitution (Credit Transfer)
    Graduate-level courses taken previously at Pacific University or at another regionally accredited institution may be used to substitute for a similar required course. Application for credit substitution or transfer will be reviewed on a course by course basis, and must be approved by the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, Director of the VSG Program, and the course instructor(s). To be considered, courses must have been taken within the past five years, cover content comparable to a required course, have been passed with a grade of B or better (“pass” grade is not eligible), and not have been applied toward another degree. Credit is applied toward the VSG degree, although the grade earned in the transferred course does not appear on the Pacific transcript nor is included in the calculation of the student’s GPA.
  2. Course Waiver
    If the requirements of a course are shown to have been met through non-credit-bearing activities (e.g., a certificate for passing a standardized exam) or earlier coursework for another degree, a student may petition to have that course requirement waived. If granted, the petition typically will not reduce the overall number of credits required for the degree, but will allow a student to take other coursework as replacement for the required course. Official documentation is required (e.g., certificate, license, transcripts and syllabus, etc.) at the time of application for waiver.

Time Limits to Complete the Degree

All work for the PdD must be completed with seven years of matriculation. All work for the MS must be completed within five years of matriculation.

Full-Time Status

Nine credits is considered a full-time course load; five credits is considered half-time.

Academic Standards

All students are required to maintain good academic progress, judged by meeting the following criteria and timely completion of degree requirements:

  • No grade lower than B in OPT 900 level and VSC 700 – 900 levels can be counted toward the degree.
  • No grade lower than C in other courses can be counted toward the degree.
  • A substandard grade must be remediated in order to be included in the degree requirement. Substandard performance will be handled according to the College’s Academic and Professional Standards Policies and Procedures Manual.
  • All other regulations and policies related to professional and academic standards described elsewhere in the College of Optometry section in the university catalog also pertain to students in the graduate Program. These standards relate to academic performance, course attendance, professional behavior, grades and other matters. Violations of these standards can result in the student being placed on warning or probation, or dismissal from the program.


Students who graduate with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher will graduate With Distinction.

Master of Education in Visual Function in Learning

The MED/VFL program, offered and administered by the Pacific University College of Education in cooperation with the College of Optometry, enables optometrists to specialize in visual problems as they relate to reading and the learning process of children. Candidates must hold or be working toward the professional terminal degree in optometry. Further information is in the MED/VFL section of this catalog under the College of Education.


    Master of ScienceDoctor of Philosophy


      Vision Science

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