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    Optometrists vs. Ophthalmologists

    If you have ever wondered how to tell the difference between an optometrist, an ophthalmologist and an optician, you’re not alone. The names are similar, and they’re all professionals who specialize in eye care, so it can be confusing. Let Payne Glasses help you differentiate between them and know when to seek out one versus the other.

    Generally speaking, an optometrist is an eye doctor who can examine, diagnose and treat eye conditions. An ophthalmologist can also do these things but can also perform medical and surgical interventions. An optician is a professional who helps fit eyeglasses and contacts and assists with office duties.


    Optometrists are doctors who complete a postgraduate program that includes basic and advanced eye examination techniques, client case history and studies, natural science courses in optics and pharmacology courses. In the final year or two of the program, which takes about four years to complete, an optometrist will participate in full-time clinical training as well. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry, or OD, degree.

    Optometrists can also be certified through the American Board of Optometry to show they have voluntarily committed to maintaining nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge and skills.

    According to Indeed Career Guide, the average U.S. salary for optometrists is $121,050 annually, but salaries can range from $72,000 to $170,080 annually, depending on location and experience. For example, the average salary for optometrists in Oregon is just above $79,000, while the average in Rhode Island is almost $144,000.

    An optometrist can conduct annual and routine eye exams for acuity, diagnose eye conditions, prescribe certain medications, prescribe eyeglasses and contacts and provide post-surgical eye care. An optometrist may even be able to perform minor surgeries, such as removal of foreign bodies from the eye and, depending on state legislation, laser eye surgery.


    An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who receives a doctor of medicine degree and then completes a three- or four-year postgraduate program that includes basic and advanced eye examination techniques, client case history and studies, natural science courses in optics and pharmacology courses.

    The difference is that an ophthalmologist must complete a residency program that takes an additional four to seven years and expands upon diagnosis and management of internal and external eye diseases, training for eye disease subspecialties and surgical training for all types of eye conditions. The residency program also includes clinical hands-on work under supervision.

    Ophthalmologists may practice general ophthalmology, or they may specialize in certain surgeries or conditions.

    Ophthalmologists are also certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and may receive certification from the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO), which is considered the gold standard in the field. About 91% of ophthalmologists are ABO-certified. Ophthalmologists must recertify with the organization every 10 years.

    According to Indeed Career Explorer, the average U.S. salary for ophthalmologists is around $200,890 annually. On the low end of the scale, ophthalmologists make $60,280. Statewide rates vary as well. For example, the average salary for ophthalmologists in Arkansas is just above $127,000, while the average in New Hampshire is just under $276,000.

    An ophthalmologist can conduct regular eye exams, much like an optometrist, but can also complete eye surgeries and rehabilitation after eye surgery. You would typically visit an ophthalmologist if you have an eye disease, such glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.


    An optician receives more informal training than an optometrist or ophthalmologist and does not necessarily need a college degree. A one- or two-year program can provide the certification necessary to work as an optician, and there’s no national board that certifies opticians.

    Opticians typically receive an hourly salary. The average is $17.14 per hour, according to Indeed. Opticians in New Jersey and Massachusetts tend to be paid more than those in other states. Opticians are paid less in West Virginia, Louisiana and North Dakota.

    An optician can receive and fill eyeglass and contact prescriptions from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, measure and fit eyeglasses, adjust eyeglasses, help customers choose the right glasses or contacts and perform general office duties as part of customer service.

    How to Choose: Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician

    You should select a doctor you’re comfortable with, but in general, you can start with an optometrist to get routine eye exams and eyeglass prescriptions. If you develop any specific eye conditions or need surgery, seek out an ophthalmologist. There are also many subspecialties of ophthalmology, including cornea specialists, retina specialists, pediatric eye care specialists, oculoplastic surgeons, glaucoma specialists and neuro-ophthalmologists.

    Payne Glasses

    Payne Glasses is your one-stop source for affordable, stylish glasses that keep your eyes healthy and you looking great. Once you have your eyeglass prescription, visit our site for a full selection of frames and lenses in your price range.

    If you have any questions about your eyeglass prescription or the right glasses to choose, feel free to contact us anytime. We love to help.


    Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/optometrist-vs-ophthalmologist

    Medical Eye Center: https://www.medicaleyecenter.com/2017/06/05/difference-optometry-ophthalmology/

    American Academy of Ophthalmology: https://www.aao.org/about/policies/differences-education-optometrists-ophthalmologists and https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/ophthalmology-subspecialists

    Indeed: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/pay-salary/how-much-do-optometrists-make and https://www.indeed.com/career/optician/salaries

    Career Explorer: https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/ophthalmologist/salary/



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