The Eye Care Team: Ophthalmologists, Optometrists and Opticians

Our eyes are the windows to our everyday life experiences. That’s why it is important to know the members of the eye care team.

What’s the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist? And what does an optician do?

Here’s a guide to your eye care team.


Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and the leaders of the eye care team.  They are physicians and surgeons who specialize in complete eye and vision care. They are licensed to practice medicine and perform surgery after completing 12 – 14 years of education and training, which includes four years of medical school and 4 years of surgical residency in ophthalmology. Many ophthalmologists also go on to complete a one or two-year post-residency subspecialty fellowship.

An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all conditions of the eye – from primary vison care to test your vision and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, to performing surgery (if necessary) on or around the eye.  Their surgical skills and their judgement of when and when not to perform surgery are learned through thousands of hours of clinical training through medical school and residency. 

With their advanced surgical training and experience, many ophthalmologists also have chosen to devote their lives to scientific research in search of new treatments and cures for diseases and conditions of the eye. 


An optometrist is a healthcare professional who provides primary vision care.

Unlike ophthalmologists, optometrists are not medical doctors.  Optometrists receive a Doctor of Optometry degree (OD) after 2-4 years of post-college education. 

An optometrist is the person you may see for routine eye exams, vision tests and prescriptions for corrective lenses (eyeglasses or contacts). In some cases, they may also prescribe limited medications for certain eye conditions. This varies according to state laws. 

Ophthalmologists and optometrists often work together to treat patients, sometimes as a team in the same office. 


An optician is a technician trained to design and fit eyeglasses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. Opticians do not write prescriptions.  Instead they fill prescriptions provided by ophthalmologists and optometrists. They are important members of the eye care team.