INFORMATION FOR - General Public
What is the difference between an optometrist, an ophthalmologist and an optician?

A Doctor of Optometry must complete a 3-4 year Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.) and a 4-year Doctor of Optometry degree (O.D.) before successfully passing the Canadian National Optometry Board Exam. Optometrists provide the vast majority of primary vision care services in Alberta. They:
  • Examine, assess, measure and diagnose disorders and diseases of the human visual system, the eye and its associated structures.
  • Recognize and detect related systemic conditions.
  • Treat, manage and correct disorders and diseases of the human visual system, the eye and its associated structures.
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses and low vision devices.
  • Diagnose, treat and manage binocular and perceptual vision disorders.
  • Conduct research and promote education in the vision sciences.
  • Must maintain their skill set and level of competency by completing the requirements of the Continuing Competence Program through continuing education courses, participating in an on-site practice review on a regular basis and practicing a minimum number of days in each 3-year competency period.
Ophthalmologists complete a 2-4 year Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.), a 4-year medical degree (M.D.) and an additional 5-year residency specializing in eye surgery and secondary vision care consultations. They typically do not provide refractions or other primary vision care services.

Opticians develop their skill set by working in a retail optical dispensary while completing a 2-year correspondence course from NAIT that is supplemented by one evening lecture per month and two compulsory lab sessions per year. They design, fit and dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses that are prescribed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.