Jun 17, 2024  
Academic Catalog 2023-2024 
Academic Catalog 2023-2024

Vision Science, MS

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This program provides the student with a broad understanding of vision science and in-depth knowledge of a particular area within the field. It offers a wide variety of specialty areas within vision science, enables the student to grow expertise in a specific division of vision science, and equips the student to perform research independently. It is designed to prepare the students to continue to a doctoral degree or seek career opportunities with their specialized applied vision research skills in academic, corporate, and other professional settings.

Degree Requirements

This is a multidisciplinary research program. Students must demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in vision science and competence in conducting empirical research. Degree requirements include:

  • Satisfactory coursework,
  • A written and oral examination of thesis proposal,
  • A written and oral defense of final thesis report. 

If requirements are changed, students may complete programs under the requirements in effect at the time of initial enrollment or readmission. They may elect to move to the new requirements in their entirety.


The Master’s curriculum consists of coursework in the following six categories. Students with a bachelor’s degree in Optometry should complete 43.75 credits from the six categories listed below. OD/MS or post-OD students from an ACOE-accredited optometry program may satisfy some coursework with relevant course credits from their OD program. Students with other backgrounds may require additional coursework, determined by the VSG Committee and the student’s academic adviser.

The Master’s curriculum consists of coursework in the following six categories.

  1. Vision Science Core courses: 19.25 credits
  2. Vision Science Seminars: 9.0 credits
  3. Basic Research skills: 6.5 credits
  4. Clinical Skills: 1.0 credit
  5. Master’s Research Work: 7.0 credits
  6. Elective Courses: 1.0 credit

Total: 43.75 credits

Courses marked with * have an equivalent course with an OPT prefix.  See course description for details.

Vision Science Core Courses: 19.25 credits

Ocular Disease: 2.0 credits

Ocular Motility: 1.0 credit

Optics: 8.5 credits

Vision Science Seminars: 9.0 credits

Clinical Skills: 1.0 credit

Master’s Research Work: 7.0 credits

Elective: 1.0 credit

Special Courses

With approval from the program director, students may take VSC 760, VSC 998, and VSC 999. Credits earned from these courses are not counted toward the degree requirement.

Program Details


Program Length

The program is designed so that a typical student would require two years (or five semesters, including one summer term) to complete the degree requirements. Still, the course requirements and study time may vary based on students’ backgrounds. Students who are concurrent training in or have graduated from an ACOE-accredited optometry program, have an optometry-clinically-relevant degree, or enter under an MOU may be able to complete the MS requirements within a shorter timeframe. The total time allowed to complete all MS degree requirements is five years.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the MSVS program’s degree requirements, students will have the following skills:

  1. Mastery of Knowledge: Graduates will demonstrate a fundamental knowledge of a broad range of topics within vision science, understand the behavioral, physiological, and environmental factors of a visual condition, and be able to apply the learned concepts and skills to empirical research activities and clinical practices. 
  2. Critical Thinking: Graduates will demonstrate the ability to assess empirical evidence and statistical outcomes by evaluating the underlying rationale, evidence, and biases in their scientific and clinical applications, form well-reasoned perspectives, and apply the principles of evidence-based medicine to scientific and clinical inquiries. 
  3. Mastery of Research Skills: Graduates will demonstrate the ability to identify meaningful research questions through a well-rounded literature review, master the analytical skills to address the research question, and use proper clinical and laboratory methods to collect, analyze, and interpret the data. Graduates will also demonstrate skills in written and oral communication sufficient to publish and/or present research work in their field.
  4. Competency in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Graduates will demonstrate the ability to recognize personal and social responsibility for effective citizenship, demonstrate openness to new and diverse perspectives based on differences in areas such as cultural and socioeconomic background, reflect one’s own biases when appropriate, and interact respectfully in various contexts. Graduates also apply their competency in healthcare and research contexts with diverse populations.

Academic Advisor

Upon admission, students are assigned an academic advisor to help prepare a proposed program of study until a thesis advisor is selected. By the end of the first year, in consultation with the student, the VSG program assigns a thesis advisor to direct the student’s thesis project and monitor the student’s coursework.

Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee

In consultation with the program director, students work with their advisors to form the thesis committee before taking the proposal exam. The thesis committee provides academic guidance to the student in conducting the thesis project and additional support for the student’s overall professional development.  The thesis committee also serves as the examination committee for the student’s proposal examination and final thesis defense. The committee must have a minimum of three members:

  • The thesis advisor, who serves as the chairperson of the thesis committee
  • Two committee members, preferred faculty of Pacific University College of Optometry.
  • A fourth member may be added to provide expertise when deemed appropriate.

All committee members must be members of the graduate faculty at Pacific University.  The Director of the VSG Program approves all thesis committees. Changes of committee members must be requested by the student in writing and approved by the VSG Committee.

Proposal Examination and Thesis Writing

All MS students must take a Thesis Proposal Examination on a proposal for an original research project, ideally before or during the third term of their MS study. In the proposal, students specify their research questions and include adequate literature background to support their hypotheses and the need for research. Alternatively, students may submit a proposal for a comprehensive and in-depth topical review thesis upon approval by the VSG Program. The student will deliver the proposal to the Program Director and the Thesis Committee members no less than two weeks before the Thesis Proposal Exam. MS Students passing the proposal exam are moved to the MS candidacy and are allowed to submit their thesis proposal to the IRB for review and approval.

The written thesis is based upon original scholarly research, either as original empirical research or as an in-depth topic review. It must contribute new knowledge to the scientific community and be suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Presentation of the project at local and national meetings is strongly encouraged.

Thesis Defense and Graduation

During the term intended for thesis defense, the student must be registered for VSC 791 - Thesis Research . Before scheduling the thesis defense, the student must have completed, or plans to complete at the end of the current term, all required coursework.

Two weeks before the defense, the student must deliver a written manuscript approved by the thesis advisor to the thesis committee and the Program Director.

The student defends the thesis to their thesis committee in written and oral forms. Passing the thesis defense requires unanimous agreement from the thesis committee, with revisions if necessary. In the case of an unsuccessful defense, the student may re-defend the thesis at least 30 days after the initial defense, or appeal the failed defense to the Dean of the College of Optometry.

Before the degree is conferred, the student must obtain final written approval from all thesis committee members and submit the approved electronic copy to the Director of the VSG Program and the university library for deposit.

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