Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, & Optician: What’s the Difference?

Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, & Optician: What's the Difference?

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To take your child for a comprehensive eye exam, you will need to visit an eye doctor. However, vision specialists can be ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians — and it is important to know who is the most appropriate choice to receive the right type of care, as KidsHealth explains.

Eye Doctor Job Descriptions


An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has completed extensive postgraduate training including four years of medical school, residency, and internship training and four to five years of training in ophthalmology. Some ophthalmologists work treating all types of eye conditions, whereas other focus on a specific medical or surgical area or may even be involved in scientific research.

Ophthalmologists can specialize in all areas of care, from diagnosis to management of conditions, and their training allows them to treat vision problems, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, carry out surgical procedures, detect and treat complicated eye conditions, and prescribe medication for eye diseases.


Optometrists are licensed professionals and primary healthcare doctors who have completed four years of postgraduate doctoral training. Their expertise lies in conducting comprehensive eye exams and writing prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, an optometrist’s job also involves dispensing, diagnosing vision conditions, and some eye diseases, offering vision therapy services, and providing pre- and post-operative care.


Finally, there are opticians, who hold either a one- or two-year degree or certification. Opticians make or sell eyeglasses and contact lenses and fill prescriptions made by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They are also able to fit eyeglasses and contacts for the optimal comfort of the wearer and assist buyers in choosing frames and lens types.

After a comprehensive eye exam, your ophthalmologist or optometrist may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses for your child. It is important to note that glasses offer insufficient protection for sports, as they may shatter upon impact with a fast-moving object, such as a ball, and can seriously injure your child’s eye. Far better are sunglasses with impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses. You can find a range of styles for kids of all ages in the Real Kids collection.