The Blog

by Sherif Laoun

Opto, opti, ophtha

André Brosseau
Artwork: André Brosseau

Optometrist, optician, ophthalmologist: what’s the difference?


The simple answer is that an ophthalmologist is a medical specialist of the eye, an optometrist conducts eye exams and an optician is the professional who sells glasses and contact lenses, who takes the necessary measurements and who assembles the glasses.



Several of their competencies overlap; ophthalmologists, for example, are also able to conduct an eye exam—like optometrists—and to sell contact lenses—like optometrists and opticians. Optometrists sometimes own their own businesses where they sell glasses and contact lenses, as opticians do, and where they diagnose certain pathologies and prescribe medication, as ophthalmologists do.


All of these professionals collaborate towards the well-being of their patients, but the strongest ties are those between optometrists and opticians; they work in the same office and consult each other daily in an effort to provide their patients with optimum vision and comfort.


What diploma is needed to become an optician?

To become an optician in Quebec, you will need a college diploma (DEC) in visual orthosis techniques. This three year program (strikes not included) is offered by two colleges: Cégep Edouard Montpetit in Longueuil and Cégep François-Xavier Garneau in Quebec city. You must complete the program and be accepted by the Ordre des opticiens d’ordonnaces du Québec.


What diploma is needed to become an optometrist?

The University of Montreal’s École d’optométrie is the only university in Quebec to offer a doctoral program in optometry. It is a four-year program.


What diploma is needed to become an ophthalmologist?

All ophthalmologists are trained as physicians before specializing in ophthalmology. Undergraduate studies are three to four years in length, the specialization can take as many as eight years!

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