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Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician

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Updated: February 2, 2024, Reading time: 6 minutes

Optometrists vs. Ophthalmologists vs. Optician - featured image

If you want to be a part of healthcare and you want to help improve people’s vision especially, then it’s best to study this field. The good news is there are three options available for you to choose from such as ophthalmology, optometry, or optics. 

Explore the differences across these three categories of eye health specialists:

OptometristOphthalmologistOptician
What They DoAn eye professional who examines a patient’s eyes and makes a diagnosisA medical professional who treats eye diseases through medical treatment and surgeryA technicians that fits contact lenses, glasses, and other vision-correcting equipment
Responsibilities and limitations* Specializes in outpatient treatment
* Detects basic eye issues
* Prescribes glasses, contact lenses, low-vision aids, and therapy to treat vision issues
* Manages rehabilitation following eye-related treatment
* Often works in private practice
* Specializes in in-patient medical treatments
* Treats both acute and chronic conditions
* Qualified to perform surgery
* Fits visual aids such as glasses and lenses based on prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists
* Not qualified to diagnose or treat eye conditions
Education RequiredBachelor’s degreeMed school and residency (which runs for at least eight years)Must obtain a medical license prior to entering into certification training programsTwo-year associate or technical program after high school

Let’s take a closer look at each profession:

Optometrist Overview

Optometrist Overview - Image

Patients can approach optometrists if they want to be treated for common eye issues without needing surgery or complicated treatment. They are professionals qualified to inspect the eyes for abnormalities or illnesses as a result of high blood pressure, diabetes, and vision deficiencies. They also look for indicators of eye injuries.

Although they do not hold medical degrees, optometrists recommend patients for additional care after doing a health examination, offer professional advice, and prescribe glasses or contact lenses.

Common Treatments Performed by Optometrists

Degrees that Lead to an Optometrist Career

In a Bachelor’s in Optometry, the primary focus is the identification and treatment of visual and ocular health issues. Would-be optometrists check patients’ eyes to assess different elements of their sight using a variety of testing techniques and tools.

Prescription glasses, contact lenses, low-vision aids, or visual therapy are used to treat vision issues.

A Doctor of Optometry is a four-year degree intended exclusively for those who provide visual health care. The best universities for Optometry doctorate programs have varying requirements for admission – some require bachelor’s degrees, while others do not – but the best candidates must complete prerequisite courses. 

A graduate degree may be costly, and Optometry is no exception, but you can qualify for and obtain financial assistance as a graduate student.

Consider specialized pre-optometry degree tracks offered in the best optometry school, which allow you to prepare for your Optometry application while pursuing other degrees you may be enthusiastic about.

Ophthalmologist Overview

Ophthalmologist Overview - Image

An ophthalmologist is either a Doctor of Osteopathy or a Doctor of Medicine who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision disorders. Unlike optometrists and opticians, they have medical training and have longer years of study. Ophthalmologists are the ones who perform surgical and medicinal treatments.

Like optometrists, ophthalmologists are also able to conduct eye examinations and check-ups. They can prescribe vision aids such as prescription glasses and contact lenses. They can diagnose and treat all types of eye problems as medical doctors.

They perform surgical eye procedures such as laser eye surgery and eye tumor removal and conduct follow-up care.

Degrees that Lead to an Ophthalmologist Career

First, earn a bachelor’s degree. It is strongly advised that you enroll in a pre-med to obtain experience in the medical sector. A major in Anatomy, Psychology, or Biology is a great option for an undergraduate degree. 

Because they are considered medical professionals, ophthalmologists need medical training, which would run for eight years or so. As such, upon completing your undergraduate studies, you have to be admitted to a reputable medical school where you’ll intensively study science-based courses and gain practical experience.

A prospective Doctor of Ophthalmology must pass two separate medical license tests, do an internship for at least a year, and then finish a residency program for at least three years after graduating from medical school. 

A state regulatory authority should grant an ophthalmologist the license to practice as a competent specialist.

You can only independently practice Ophthalmic Medicine when all of the educational, training, and licensing requirements are satisfied.

Specializations in Ophthalmology

One of the best reasons to pursue graduate school is that it allows you to focus fully on a specialization! In the field of Opthalmology, these specializations are available:

Optician Overview

Optician Overview - Image

An optician is an expert in eye care who may assist you in selecting the appropriate contact lenses, glasses, or other vision correction equipment. While they may not have the credentials to treat eye issues, they can work alongside an optometrist or ophthalmologist to get your eye treatment.

Opticians primarily work with people and design. Visual aids are fitted by opticians based on prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists. In spite of the fact that they are capable of detecting some issues with the eyes, they are not able to diagnose eye problems, and they cannot treat eye conditions either.

Degrees that Lead to an Optician Career

Associate Degree

Did you know that by completing a quick two-year degree program, you can earn well as an optician? Even in places where a two-year apprenticeship is sufficient to become an optician, businesses still prefer those with an associate degree or certificate. 

Prospective opticians study everything there is to know about optics and the human eye throughout their college training, including how to operate an optical store and the technical equipment used by opticians. Contact lens dispensing techniques, optician tool usage, and ocular anatomy are some of the topics covered in exams. 

Apprenticeships

Since most opticians learn on the job under the supervision of optometrists or ophthalmologists, a six-month or year-long apprenticeship experience is essential for on-the-job training. Depending on the state, additional licensing may be required.

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