What’s the difference between an optician and an optometrist?

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Eye Care Blog

The term optician is regularly used to describe anyone who is involved in eye care. We call ourselves G.T Harvey & Partners Optometrists – so what’s the difference between an optician and an optometrist?

“Optician” is not a protected title, which means anyone could call themselves an optician. So lets look at who you are likely to be visiting when it comes to your eye care.

What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is the person who examines your eye.

They are primary eye care experts who are professionally qualified, having undergone a degree-level qualification and passed rigorous professional examinations.

An optometrist will test your eyes to see if you need spectacles or contact lenses. They can fit contact lenses and give you advice on choosing the correct frames and lenses for your needs.

As part of the eye examination, the optometrist will closely inspect both the internal and external structures of your eyes, looking for any diseases or abnormalities. In addition to this, they will look at your binocular vision status which is to check your two eyes are working together.

Once the optometrist has completed your eye examination and issued you with your prescription, you may well then be introduced to another eye care professional if you need spectacles – the dispensing optician.

What is a dispensing optician?

A dispensing optician is the person who is specifically qualified to ensure you get the most appropriate frames and lenses for your visual requirements. They will ensure that your spectacles fit you properly and ensure that you look good in them too (we offer a styling consultation service for this).

Dispensing opticians have also undergone several years of training (in some cases obtaining a degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing) and again passed professional exams. Some Dispensing Opticians under go extra training and qualifications to allow them to fit contact lenses.

What is an ophthalmologist?

Should your optometrist find signs of disease or abnormalities in your eyes during your eye examination, then they are likely to suggest you see an ophthalmologist at your local hospital eye department.

An Ophthalmologist is a medically trained doctor who has gone on to specialise in conditions of the eye. They are qualified to perform eye surgery and prescribe treatments for all eye abnormalities and diseases.

So, in summary, when we get asked the question “what’s the difference between an optician and an optometrist?” we explain it as simply as this:

Your optometrist will examine your eyes and check to see if anything may be wrong with your eye health, and your optician will dispense your spectacles and makes sure your lenses and frames are right for you. Both are qualified eye care professionals.

When you visit G.T. Harvey & Partners, you are likely to meet Stuart or Jenny, who are optometrists, and then we have Claire, Jan, Sophie, and Sonia who are our dispensing opticians.