Difference Between Opthamologist and Optometrist

Opthamologist vs Optometrist

When it comes to problems with your vision or eye health, knowing what type of doctor to see is important. Sometimes, it can be easy for individuals to mix-up the two distinctly different eye doctors since their names are similar. Optometrists and ophthalmologists both see patients with eye troubles but an ophthalmologists scope of practice is much more involved.

Let’s take a look at the differences between ophthalmologist and optometrist and how their jobs may overlap.


Ophthalmologists is a medical (MD) or osteopathic (DO) doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all eye diseases and conditions as well as performs surgery. Ophthalmologists are also able to prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct for visions problems. Also, they can prescribe medications.

The schooling required to become an ophthalmologist is four years of undergraduate, four years of medical school, one year of internship and a minimum of three years of hospital-based residency. Upon finishing the required schooling and exams, ophthalmologists are licensed to perform surgery on the eye, which is the biggest difference between their counterpart.

Ophthalmologists can become subspecialists that specialize in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care. Upon finishing up their residency programs, ophthalmologists seeking a subspecialty will enter into a fellowship that is typically 1-2 years in length to gain the necessary training required. Common areas of specialization are:

  • Glaucoma
  • Retina
  • Cornea
  • Pediatrics
  • Neurology
  • Plastic surgery

This additional training allows the ophthalmologist the take care of more complex or specific cases in certain areas of the eye or groups of patients.


The main difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist is that an optometrist is not a medical doctor but instead a doctor of optometry (DO). After completing four years of undergraduate studies, optometrists have to complete four years of optometry school in order to earn a doctorate in optometry.

After earning their DO, optometrists must complete a minimum of three more years of school. Once fully licensed, optometrists are able to practice optometry, which includes performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing/fitting contact lenses, detecting eye abnormalities and prescribing medications for certain eye conditions and diseases.


While both professions can provide routine checkups, treatment of eye conditions and diseases that require non-medical and medical treatment, there are circumstances where the optometrist must defer to the ophthalmologist in scope of practice.

For instance, if a patient goes to see their optometrist regarding a potential retina issue, the optometrist may perform baseline testing and routine checkup while referring them to an ophthalmologist that specializes in retinas.

Optometrists often work in collaboration with ophthalmologists regarding pre- and post-op care to patients that have undergone eye surgery. So, while both doctors can perform the basics, ophthalmologists have a much larger scope of practice.

Roles in LASIK Surgery

When it comes to the role that each doctor plays in the Lasik surgery before, during and after the procedure the responsibilities are divided. It is most likely that your optometrist will test your vision and overall eye health prior to the surgery. The ophthalmologist will perform the surgery itself and post-op care will be done by each.

At Diamond Vision, our staff of award-winning surgeons, led by Dr. Steven Stetson, provide the very best care when it comes to vision correction. It is vitally important that we offer the latest technology and procedures to ensure the very best results for each of our patients. To learn more about our doctors and the procedures we offer, schedule your free consultation today. Our centres are located in Ney York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Georgia. Lasik eye surgery in Atlanta is one of our best-known specialities. 

Contact Us

If you have more questions about LASIK procedures, get in touch with us.

Related Blogs

Laser Eye Surgery Or Lasik Concept Close Up Of Female Eye With Beam Of Light Hitting The Irs
Lasik Eye Surgery

Who Should Not Have Laser Eye Surgery

Laser eye surgery, commonly known as LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis), has revolutionized the world of vision correction. It’s a procedure that has enabled millions

Read More »
Skip to content