Eye Care Professionals Defined

Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, Opticians... Who Does What?

What is the difference between the eye care professionals, and how do their roles affect you? Most people who are not in the eye care industry are somewhat confused about what each professional does, and who they need to see to get the best care for their eyes.


An ophthalmologist has the most education and training of all the ECPs. They are medical doctors who specialize in diseases and surgery of the eyes. In BC, most ophthalmologists no longer perform refractions and instead, spend most of their time focusing on surgeries and eye diseases. If you have glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration, your optometrist should refer you to see an ophthalmologist for specialized care.


These doctors of optometry specialize in examining eyes for health and visual acuity. They will routinely go through a number of tests that will evaluate the health of your eyes, as well as your vision. When you leave your eye examination appointment, your optometrist will give you a copy of your prescription. This prescription is used to make eyeglasses, and is used to determine the strength of your contact lenses if you wear them.

An optometrist may also sell eyeglasses and contact lenses at their practice.  In most cases, you will see another professional to help you with your eye wear selection. If an optometrist practice does sell glasses and contacts, please do not feel pressured to purchase your eye wear from their store! You are free to take your prescription with you and purchase elsewhere if you choose to do so.


An optician's role is to help the patient with selection of their eye wear.  They will help you decide on the best lenses for you, and help you with your frame choice, based on your prescription.

In BC, there are three levels of training for opticians:

  • Opticians trained in prescription evaluation for frame and lens selection
  • Opticians can further their training with contact lens fitting
  • Refracting opticians are trained in performing sight tests, which will provide the patient with an evaluation of visual acuity. It is important to note that refracting opticians are not trained to perform a health exam, but can recognize health related issues and refer to an ophthalmologist or optometrist if necessary.

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