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Optician or optometrist? Meet the eye care professionals


Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Vision and Hearing Sciences
Course: BOptom (Hons) Optometry
Category: Vision and hearing sciences

18 May 2018

Do you know the difference between a dispensing optician, optometrist, ophthalmologist and orthoptist? ARU Optometry student Sonija introduces the professionals who provide eye care.

All these professionals provide eye care but have different levels of training and expertise.

Dispensing optician

Dispensing opticians play an important role in advising on, fitting and supplying appropriate spectacles and dispensing low-vision aids to suit their customers’ needs.

They need to complete a course approved by the General Optical Council (GOC), eg an Ophthalmic Dispensing bachelor or a Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing, and a period of working under supervision, and may also need to pass ABDO final practical examinations. They will enter onto the GOC Register once they pass and work as a dispensing optician.

With additional training, dispensing opticians can also fit and provide aftercare for contact lens.


Optometrists provide primary vision care, give advice on visual problems and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. 

They are not medical doctors but they all receive an optometry degree after attending three to four years of university, complete their pre-registration programme and pass their final OSCE. After obtaining these, they are then licensed to practice, perform eye exams, prescribe and dispense corrective lenses, detect certain eye abnormalities and refer to the right medical practitioner if necessary.


Ophthalmologists are medically trained eye doctors: surgical and medical specialists who specialise in eye and vision care and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery.

They diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgery and prescribe and fit eyeglasses, contact lenses to correct vision problems. Medically qualified, they mainly work in eye hospitals and hospital eye departments. Many of them are also involved in conducting research related to eye diseases and vision disorders.


Orthoptists work with ophthalmologists in hospitals. They diagnose and treat eye problems related to eye movements and the inability of the eyes to work together. For instance, binocular vision, strabismus (squint), amblyopia (lazy eye) and double vision (diplopia).

As a student optometrist I always say: see the right eye care professional at the right time!

Optometry at ARU

Sonija studied BOptoms (Hons) Optometry at ARU in Cambridge. We now offer a four-year degree course in Optometry, which includes a Masters year. It allows you to register with the General Optical Council as a fully qualified optometrist when you graduate.

Find out more about our degree courses, and student life at ARU, at an Open Day.


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