Eye Doctors: Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on November 07, 2022
2 min read

There are two main types of eye doctors: ophthalmologists and optometrists. Confused about which is which and who does what? Here's a look at how they're different. Keep in mind that these professionals can work together and that a team approach can be the best option for eye care. 

They went to medical school. After that, they had a 1-year internship and a residency of 3 years. That's sometimes followed by a 1 to 2 years fellowship. 

They offer complete eye care services:

Optometrists take care of primary health care for the eye. After college, they spent 4 years in a professional program and got a doctor of optometry degree. Some optometrists get additional clinical training or complete a specialty fellowship after optometry school. They focus on regular vision care and they:

Optometrists and ophthalmologists often work together to take care of you.

Opticians aren’t eye doctors and can’t give eye exams. They get a 1- or 2-year degree, certificate, or diploma. They fill the prescription your eye doctor gives you. They also:

  • Check lens prescriptions
  • Provide, adjust, and repair glasses, frames, and contact lenses
  • Take facial measurements
  • Help decide which type of lenses and frames will work best
  • Order and check products, including contacts and eyeglass lenses

One type isn’t automatically better than the other. The right choice depends on your needs. The best eye doctor for you should be:

  • Recommended by your doctor, friends, or family
  • Someone you like and trust

A good rule of thumb would be:

  • For primary eye care, you may wish to start with an Optometrist. From there, they may refer you to an Ophthalmologist if needed
  • If you think you need eye surgery for cataracts, glaucoma or another eye disease, an ophthalmologist with the appropriate specialty would be a good place to start

Show Sources


American Academy of Ophthalmology Medical Library (Medem): "Eye Care Facts and Myths: A Closer Look."

Cleveland Clinic: "Eye Care Specialists."

Prevent Blindness America: "Who's Who in Eye Care."

Horizon BCBSNJ: "Making Healthcare Work: Glossary."

Vision Channel: "What Is an Optometrist?"

All About Vision: "Find an Eye Doctor - Optometrist or M.D."

All Allied Health Schools: "Become an Optician: Optician Jobs, Optician Schools."

About.Com: "Finding the Right Eye Doctor."

American Academy of Ophthalmology: "eyeSmart: Know Your Eyecare Team."

Prevent Blindness America: "Who's Who in Eyecare?"

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