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Difference Between Optometrist and Ophthalmologist

Veethi Telang
Indeed, it's confusing. Even more confusing is to decide which one to visit! Well, today, after you give a read to the following comparison between an optometrist and ophthalmologist, you will be able to figure out who's who, without any hassle. Let's take a look.
It's an interesting comparison we're going to carry out today. Now, for those who aren't even aware what field of medicine these health care professionals belong to, let me give you an insight. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists deal with problems associated with the eye.
They're learned professionals, licensed to provide extensive care to patients' eyes, and carry out the process of diagnosis and treatment. However, there is quite some difference between the duties of both. Well, those duties and responsibilities totally transform their nature of work, pay scale, and career prospects.
So, on that note, let us unleash the key differences between an optometrist and ophthalmologist - starting with their nature of work, duties, and last but not the least, salary range. But before we jump into any of them, here's a proper definition of both.


Definition: An optometrist is a health care professional who is licensed to assess various vision impairments, and prescribe relevant treatment for the same. He is trained to examine the eyes, and hence, prescribe spectacles or contact lenses to improve vision.


Definition: An ophthalmologist is a health care professional who is trained and licensed to facilitate full ambit of eye care, ranging from basic-level treatment of vision impairments, such as supply spectacles or contact lenses, to complex eye surgeries.

Educational Requirements

For an optometrist, it is mandatory to complete a 4-year accredited program in Optometry which will fetch him a Doctor of Optometry degree. An applicant must be a major in Science, Biology, or Chemistry.
Moreover, an aspirant can also enroll for a 1-year postgraduate clinical residency program, which will fetch him advanced clinical competence to practice Optometry at a higher level. For ophthalmologists, on the other hand, it is compulsory that an applicant obtains a 4-year MD (Medical Doctor) training.
And enrolls for further 4 years of Residency that is pitched towards fetching specialization in Ophthalmology. A degree in Ophthalmology is often driven by higher grades than usual, and great determination.
Note that, for both optometrists and ophthalmologists, it is mandatory to get a licensure from the state they're willing to practice in, along with the District of Columbia.

Nature of Work

There is a slight difference between the nature of work of an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. To start with, an optometrist examines, diagnoses, and treats a variety of eye diseases, for e.g. cataracts and glaucoma, and provides relevant treatment for them.
It is a part of an optometrist's duty to diagnose body conditions that may affect the vision, for e.g. diabetes or hypertension.
An optometrist treats patients suffering from basic visual conditions, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia, and astigmatism, and the prescription usually involves medication, contact lenses, spectacles, or basic-level surgeries that treat such kinds of vision impairments.
An ophthalmologist, on the other hand, is a medical doctor with a doctorate, who is trained to cover the entire eye care procedures, ranging from basic-level surgeries to major surgical procedures which are too delicate in nature.
Eye research is a part of an ophthalmologist's job, so that he/she is able to work deeply on eye conditions that are otherwise too difficult to diagnose, let alone treat properly.
The field of work for an ophthalmologist ranges from treating diseases associated with the cornea, optic nerve damage, and visual pathways. Moreover, the specific areas under which an ophthalmologist operates are Neuro-ophthalmology, Pediatric Ophthalmology, Vitreoretinal diseases, and Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery.

Pay Scale

For the reason that both eye care professionals deal with a rather intricate part of the body, the salary range ought to be something much more than an average job.
In accordance with the statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), America, while the average optometrist salary on an annual basis is somewhere between $75,000 - $200,000, for an ophthalmologist, the annual salary figures lie well between $100,000 - $350,000.
The pay scale of both optometrists and ophthalmologists is highly driven by the number of years of experience, as well as the geographical region, but from the statistics, it can be clearly concluded that, since ophthalmologists deal with a rather delicate eye care process in comparison to optometrists, the salary range is comparatively higher for them.
Turns out, ophthalmologists are the only professionals who are licensed to carry out eye surgeries, courtesy their residency program which involves medical training specially for their chosen area of expertise. With that said, now, pretty sure as I am, you know who to visit in case of an eye ailment, don't you?