Difference Between Optometrist and Ophthalmologist

Vision plays an essential and irreplaceable role in the daily activities of not only humans but many other organisms too. Optimized vision is essential for many tasks that are mandatory for the survival of the organism.

Any defect in vision can be corrected by two types of healthcare professionals who are, optometrist and ophthalmologist.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist

The difference between the optometrist and ophthalmologists is that optometrist cannot perform surgical interventions that are needed to bring back the vision to normal on the other hand, Ophthalmologists can perform any necessary medical or surgical interventions that are needed to bring the vision to normal.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOptometristOphthalmologist
Is he a Medical doctorNoYes
QualificationDoctor of optometryPost-graduation degree in ophthalmology
Surgical proceduresCan only counsel about the proceduresCan perform any sorts of procedures related to eye
Prescribing medicationsCan only prescribe basic medications related to basic eye disordersIt can prescribe medications and can treat the adverse effects of the medications if any arises.
SalaryLesser when compared to an ophthalmologist.( Avg. $106,073)The average salary of Ophthalmologist is  $214,689 ( Depends on several factors)


Who is Optometrist?

Optometrists are the trained primary healthcare professional who is specially trained to assess the vision, detect any injuries or defects intraocular, and to find the systemic illness that is causing the defect in vision.

They are previously known by the names, ophthalmic opticians. They have to spent years in optometry schools and should get the degree of doctor of optometry.

There are several fellowships also available for them after completion of college.

The various roles of the optometrists are,

  1. They diagnose a variety of vision problems that can be of local (Intraocular) origin or systemic origin.
  2. They can counsel and advise the patients regarding the management options for their vision problems which can be medical, surgical, or lifestyle modifications.
  3. They can themselves treat certain vision problems like long and short-sightedness, astigmatism.
  4. They can prescribe glasses, contact lens or low vision aids and can prescribe vision therapy.
  5. They also do annual routine eye checkups and are the persons who provide eye health education to the community in most instances.
  6. In some areas, they can provide post-surgical eye care, and depending on the limitations in a country or state they can also perform minor surgical procedures in eyes like removing foreign bodies.

Educational qualification of the optometrist is a post-graduate program on optometry which is having a duration of 4 years depending on the university and curriculum. They will be trained in areas like,

  1. Examination techniques of all aspects concerning eyes
  2. Case history taking and counseling of patients
  3. Optics and pharmacology

The places where an optometrist can practice can be,

  1. A community health center, hospitals
  2. A professional setting incorporates or private setup with hand in hand practice together with an ophthalmologist.
  3. The military setting providing services to the armed officers.
  4. An academic setting to teach the new budding eye doctors.
  5. A research facility to open untapped areas of science related to eyes.

Who is Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have completed at least 8 years of medical college education with additional training on the diagnosis and treatment of almost all the problems related to the eyes. They differ from other eye doctors in the level of education and training they got.

They can do almost all the medical and surgical procedures in patients with eye problems. They are the specialists of ophthalmology, which has many subspecialties also.

A general ophthalmologist can perform procedures to treat conditions like Cataract, glaucoma, strabismus, ocular tumors, injuries to the orbits, and many more.

To become a good ophthalmologist one should have sound knowledge and perfect hand-eye coordination. The most commonly performed surgeries are basic cataract surgery and glaucoma surgery.

Pediatric ophthalmologist deals with all the eye problems of the children especially the strabismus. This requires an additional 1 year of fellowship on pediatric ophthalmology.

Neuro-ophthalmologists deal with the most intricate disorders of the visual pathways that extend from the eye to the brain.

Ophthalmologists also deal with the retinal and uveal tissue defects which are most commonly because of systemic illness. The laser treatment of diseases such as detachments and retinopathy are all commonly performed procedures by them.

The plastic and reconstructive procedure in the eyes are also performed by trained ophthalmologists. There are fellowship programs specially designed to train the doctors in such areas.

The premises where an ophthalmologist can practice includes,

  1. Primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare facilities.
  2. Corporate and private setup for the treatment of almost all sorts of eye problems, by medical and surgical procedures.
  3. Academic institutions to lit the knowledge of the budding doctors.
  4. Research institutions to pursue research on all disciplines related to eyes.

Main Differences Between Optometrist and Ophthalmologist

  1. An optometrist cannot perform major surgical procedures in the eyes. An ophthalmologist can perform almost any procedures on the eyes that facilitate bringing back the defective vision to at least near normal.
  2. Optometrist need qualification of Doctor in optometry. Ophthalmologist requires the postgraduate qualification in ophthalmology.
  3. An optometrist can only counsel the patients regarding the management of the major eye problems. An ophthalmologist can counsel the patients as well as perform medical procedures on the patients. 
  4. Optometrists are not medical doctors per se. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have their degree from a medical school
  5. An optometrist is trained to prescribe medications required for the condition. Ophthalmologists are trained to prescribe medications and also to prevent and identify the adverse reactions of the medications(if any rises) and treat them.
Difference Between Optometrist and Ophthalmologist


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1444-0938.1975.tb01796.x
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3236713/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161642094311183
  4. https://bjo.bmj.com/content/90/5/579.short
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