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Optometry vs Ophthalmology: Which One Should You Choose?


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Selecting a medical career can be difficult if you choose between two related specializations. This can be the case when selecting between ophthalmology and optometry. Both present fulfilling opportunities, but each has specific duties and a focus. 

With this blog’s thorough explanations of the ophthalmology vs optometry differences, you can decide which field is best for you.  


Understanding the basics first

What is Optometry?

Optometry is the medical study of the eyes and vision. Optometrists, or ODs, practice in this field. They examine the eyes to diagnose and provide treatments. This includes writing prescriptions for contact lenses or glasses and diagnosing and treating eye diseases and problems.

An optometrist primarily focuses on maintaining optimal health. Through routine eye exams, they track the eyes' health and identify issues early. They also provide vision treatment to help improve visual ability. Thus, optometrists ensure everyone can see well and maintain good eye health.


What is Ophthalmology?

Ophthalmology is the medical specialty of surgical and medical treatment of the eyes. Specialized physicians in this field are called ophthalmologists. They treat and operate on many different eye conditions. 

These eye specialists offer whole-eye care and can manage challenging eye diseases. They also prescribe contact lenses and perform complex eye surgery. Their experience in eye health enables them to provide complete treatment for various eye disorders.


Career pathway

Now, let's discuss how to enter and establish a career in these fields. The following table provides information on the career pathways.

Optometrists Ophthalmologists
Eligibility PCB in class 12. PCB in class 12, and also the qualification of the entrance exam.
Education Doctor of Optometry, which takes four years. A Doctorate in Medicine, which takes three years.
Residency Not relevant. The three-year residency offers comprehensive instruction in medical and surgical eye care.
Specialization Not relevant; no specialization. Extra education in a subspecialty of ophthalmology.
Licensing Optometry practice requires passing national and state board exams. The practice of medicine and surgery requires licensing.


Ophthalmology vs optometry: Key differences

In this section, we’ll examine the key distinctions between these two work positions to help you make the best decision. Optometry and ophthalmology differ in the following aspects:

Optometry Ophthalmology
Education Doctor of Optometry Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathy
Training Duration 7-8 years (including undergraduate studies) 12-14 years (including undergraduate studies, medical school, and residency)
Scope of Practice Vision care, corrective lenses, eye exams Medical and surgical eye care
Surgical Procedures Not typically performed Extensive range of eye surgeries
Common Treatments Prescribing glasses/contact lenses, vision therapy, managing minor eye conditions Treating complex eye diseases, performing surgeries, and comprehensive eye care
Licensing Requirements National and state board exams Medical board certification and state licensure
Work Environment Private practices, retail optical stores, clinics Hospitals, clinics, private practices, academic institutions
Average Salary INR 3.3 LPA INR 12.9 LPA





Fees and expenses

Moreover, a further important factor is the money needed for training and education.

  • Optometry: Although optometry school can be expensive, it is less costly than medical school and the additional training for ophthalmologists. Early practice starts for optometrists, making way for income possibilities sooner.
  • Ophthalmology: Medical school, residency, and possible fellowships in ophthalmology require a significant financial and time commitment. Over time, though, the prospect of increased income can more than cover these expenses.


Work-life balance

Choosing between optometry and ophthalmology should also take work-life balance into account.



With many working regular office hours, they frequently have more predictable work schedules. This can make a better work-life balance possible for individuals who want flexibility.



They work more demanding schedules, including emergency procedures and on-call duty. Treatment of complicated diseases and life-changing surgery are rewards of the often more demanding labor.


Optometry or ophthalmology: Which one should you choose?

For choosing between optometry and ophthalmology, you can consider the following questions:

  • Do complicated medical problems and surgery fascinate you? In that scenario, ophthalmology could be a better option.
  • Do you prioritize better work-life balance and more predictable hours? Your desired flexibility may be found in optometry.
  • What is the most you are prepared to spend on your training and education? Consider the time and money needed for each path.
  • Do you want to work at a hospital, do research, or teach at a university? Ophthalmology might offer better prospects in these fields.
  • Are you interested in treating severe eye disorders and carrying out procedures? Then, ophthalmology could be the best option for you.


Wrapping up

Optometry and ophthalmology are very different specialties. Selecting one requires serious consideration of one's interests, objectives, and lifestyle choices. Both fields present professional paths and the opportunity to improve patients' eye health. You saw all the variations in optometry vs ophthalmology salary, scope of practice, career prospects, and work-life balance. Now, the choice is yours based on your professional goals.

At ITM, you can get individualized support and the best program in optometry with a Bachelor of Optometry. The four-year course (including one year of internship/clinical experience) provides comprehensive and practical knowledge to examine and treat visual disorders. Visit itm.edu to learn more about the optometry program. 


Frequently asked questions

1) Can a BSc-held optometrist open their clinic?

A BSc in optometry does allow an optometrist to start their practice. They are qualified and experienced to launch their own company or provide online consultation.

2) Is an optician a doctor?

You can call an optometrist or a doctor. They are not medical doctors; they are licensed vision care specialists.

3) Can an optometrist prescribe medication?

Optometrists can prescribe medication to treat certain eye conditions and provide pre and post-surgical care.

4) What is the duration taken by an optometry vs ophthalmology school?

Optometry school focuses on vision care and lasts four years. Ophthalmology requires medical school and residency, taking 8-10 years.

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