Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians – Knowing the 3 O’s

If you have sought eye care in the past, no doubt you have been confronted with the question as to which type of eye care provider might best meet your needs. Optometrists are state licensed doctors who practice primary and secondary eye and vision care. Optometrists are able to correct your vision by prescribing eyeglasses, contact lenses or managing the pre and post operative part of your vision correction surgery and are able in all 50 states to prescribe topical medication and in most of the states oral medication to treat eye conditions. In some states optometrists are licensed to perform laser vision correction. Optometrists are considered the “gatekeepers” of eye care by many. A majority of eye examinations in the US are performed by optometrists. Optometrists need to complete 4 years of undergraduate college education and 4 years of optometry school.  Many optometrists complete an additional year or two of residency and pass state licensing examinations in order to receive a license to practice optometry. Their degree is a doctor of optometry degree (O.D.) which takes 5-6 years post undergraduate training

Ophthalmologists (other incorrect spellings include opthalmologist, opthamologist, opthomologist, optamologist, optomologist) are medical doctors who are residency trained to specialize in care of the eyes. Ophthalmologists are capable of prescribing eyeglasses, contact lenses, topical and oral medications to treat eye disease and other disease and performing surgery to treat eye conditions. Ophthalmologists must complete undergraduate education, medical school (often including an additional year of research), internship and residency training and licensure tests before they can practice ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists have a medical degree (M.D.).  If you desire to specialize in Pediatric Ophthalmology, Cornea, Glaucoma, Retina, Neuroophthalmology, or Oculoplastics you are looking at another two years of training; up to 10-11 years of post undergraduate training.

Opticians are trained to make eyeglass lenses, fit eyewear, measure patients for eyewear and in some states fit contact lenses. Some states require opticians be licensed and some don’t. Opticians are not required to have any specific education but some states that require licensure require a certain level of formal education be obtained.

Courtesy of the Doctors at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care; Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians working together to help you see better.  Serving the Rockville, Potomac and Gaithersburg Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC for over 40 years. For more information visit youreyesite.com or call (301) 670-1212 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (301) 670-1212      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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3 Responses

  1. Nice summary. For those interested in a bit more detail about the training required to become an ophthalmologist (Eye Surgeon, or EyeMD), the following is typical:

    Undergraduate degree (usually with honors)
    4 years

    Medical School (usually with an additional year of research)
    4-5 years

    1 year

    Ophthalmology Residency
    3 years

    Total of 12-13 years of training after high school

    If you desire to specialize in Pediatric Ophthalmology, Cornea, Glaucoma, Retina, Neuroophthalmology, or Oculoplastics you are looking at another two years of training for a total of 14-15 years of training.


    David Richardson, M.D.
    Medical Director
    San Gabriel Valley Eye Associates, Inc.

    Website: http://www.sgveye.com/
    Blog: http://www.about-eyes.com/

    San Gabriel Office:
    207 S. Santa Anita St., Suite P-25
    San Gabriel, CA 91776
    (626) 289-7856

    Pasadena Office:
    800 E. Colorado Blvd.
    Suite 450
    Pasadena, CA 91101
    (626) 289-2223

    • Dr. Richardson,
      Thank you so much for editing the ophthalmology part of my post. I have made edits which reflect your input.

      Best regards,
      Dr. Glazier

  2. Great Blog I love the lay out and the color scheme is it possible to get a copy of your theme? Please send me an email at JoanBm3@gmail.com

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