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Optometrists vs. Ophthalmologists vs. Opticians

If you are like most typical vision patients, you might get a little confused as to what eye care professionals perform specific responsibilities within the eye care field.

For example, you may have questions such as:

Who helps me select the appropriate eyewear?

What type of eye doctor should I see for serious eye surgery?

And which eye care professional should I seek out for my annual eye exam?

Below is a quick and easy break down of the three most common eye care professionals that you would typically deal with concerning your eye and vision health:


  • Education:
    • Received an undergraduate degree 
    • Attended a four year school of optometry 
    • Received their Doctor of Optometry Degree (OD)
    • Continuing education to an essential aspect of retaining their optometrist license
  • Responsibilities:
    • Perform eye exams
    • Prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses
    • Detect various eye conditions and diseases
    • Prescribe medications to treat illnesses and conditions of the eye
    • Aid in pre and post-surgical eye care
    • The state in which they practice determines the range of their services
  • Limitations:
    • Within the United States, optometrists are not certified to perform eye surgeries


  • Education:
    • Received an undergraduate degree
    • Attended a four-year medical school 
    • Underwent a one-year internship
    • Participated in a three-year minimum residency in ophthalmology
    • Ophthalmologists earn the title of a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine concentrating in eye health (OD).  
  • Responsibilities:
    • Similar to optometrists, ophthalmologists can perform eye exams, check for various eye diseases and conditions, and write prescriptions for eyeglasses, contact lenses, and eye-related medications.
    • Ophthalmologists differentiate themselves from optometrists as they have the training and license to perform various eye surgeries.


  • Education
    • Depending on the state, opticians must not only undergo a training program specific to opticians, but they must also obtain an optician’s license.
  • Responsibilities:
    • Opticians are not only responsible for interpreting the prescriptions given to patients by either an optometrist or ophthalmologist, but they must also help patients determine the most appropriate eyewear based on their visual needs. 

Although each of these eye care professions come with their unique training and expertise, the essential thing to recognize is every one of these professionals play a crucial role in the eye care industry.

Whether it is getting you in the perfect pair of eyeglasses, ensuring you receive a comprehensive eye exam, or performing routine eye surgery, these eye care professionals dedicate themselves to delivering the utmost quality of care and comfort.