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11 November, 2023

Difference Between Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician

An Optometrist, an Ophthalmologist, and an Optician are important eyecare professionals. In this article, we will discuss the differences between these.
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When it comes to your eye health and getting regular eye exams, there are three important eye care specialists who work together to ensure you are receiving the best quality of patient and health care. These three roles – optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician – are often mistaken for each other, even though they come with different levels of education, training, and responsibilities. In this article, we will be discussing the difference between these 3 O’s to provide insight into how all three work together to care for your eyes.

🔬 Optometrist

An optometrist, or Doctor of Optometry (OD), is a primary health care provider. This role comes with the responsibilities of conducting full eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and fitting glasses and contact lenses, managing and treating conditions (such as dry eye and glaucoma), monitoring systemic conditions related to the eye (such as diabetes, hypertension and thyroid disease) and providing other forms of care (such as assistance for low vision aids and vision therapy). In other words, an optometrist is essentially your first line of defense and the family doctor for your eyes!

To become an optometrist, you must complete a bachelor’s degree or at least 90 credits of undergraduate studies (3 years), as well as all required prerequisite courses before applying for an optometry school. The applications for optometry schools vary but generally, a standardized test is required – this is most commonly the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), but certain schools have started to accept other testing, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Dental Admission Test (DAT), and Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). Other application materials are required as well, such as a personal statement and supplementary essays. Some schools also require completion of the CASPer test and CASPer Snapshot before an interview is offered. After a successful interview, you must complete all 4 years of the program before embarking on an optional 1-year residency in a specific field of optometry and passing your board exams to become a fully licensed optometrist! All in all, it can take around 7-9 years after high school to become an optometrist in North America.

🩺 Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (Eye MD) specializing in eye health and vision care. This role comes with the responsibilities of providing full eye exams, medical eye care (such as treating glaucoma, iritis and chemical burns), surgical eye care (including treating trauma to the eye, crossed eyes, cataracts, glaucoma and other issues), plastic surgery (such as smoothing wrinkles and raising droopy eyelids), and the diagnosis and treatment of medically-related eye conditions (including diabetes and arthritis). Depending on where you live, some states in America also allow ophthalmologists to implement lasers in the treatment of eye conditions.

The road to becoming an ophthalmologist is similar to that of an optometrist but is longer in terms of years of education and training. To become an ophthalmologist, you must also complete a bachelor’s degree or at least 90 credits of undergraduate studies (3 years), as well as all required prerequisite courses before applying for a medical school. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required, in addition to other application materials such as a personal statement and supplementary essays. Like optometry schools, some medical schools also require completion of the CASPer test and CASPer Snapshot before an interview is offered. After a successful interview and completion of the 4 years of medical school, you must match into and complete a 4-year residency training program in ophthalmology. Afterward, you can choose to take on an optional 2-year fellowship while successfully passing your board exams. To sum up the path to becoming an Eye MD, it can take around 11-13 years after high school to become an ophthalmologist in North America!

👓 Optician

Last but not least, an optician is a technician who specializes in helping patients find their best fit in glasses and other forms of vision correction. They are in charge of selling glasses, filling and checking glasses and contact lens prescriptions provided by the optometrist or ophthalmologist, and ordering and checking products (including contacts and eyeglass lenses). They are the go-to person for making sure frames and contact lenses are providing patients with the best quality of life and if not, opticians are there to step in and help provide, adjust or repair your lenses! Becoming an optician is much faster in terms of years of education but it can be just as rewarding, depending on your priorities in life and what you enjoy doing. To become an optician, you must complete a 1- or 2-year program after high school to obtain a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree.

👉 Conclusion

In conclusion, all three specialists – optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician – play essential roles in making sure your eyes and vision are properly examined, treating any ocular diseases or conditions, and ensuring that you leave the clinic with eyeglasses or contact lenses that are best fit for your lifestyle!