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

I remember once while I was still in school and someone asked me what I was studying. I said that I was studying to be an optometrist and without batting an eye they looked at me and said “Oh, what’s it like to work with teeth?” So close but so far.

There is a lot of confusion out there about what we in the industry refer to as ‘The Three O’s’, perhaps better known as opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. Even for people who are reasonably familiar with the optical industry people often ask me what the difference is. It absolutely can be confusing but let’s think of it in a way most of us are very famliar with.

"Opticians are sort of like technicians."

Opticians are sort of like technicians. They receive an optical prescription and fill it. They are your lens and frame experts. In Alberta they take a two year course to learn how to fit lenses properly and take all the necessary and extremely important measurements. They learn all about how to adjust frames to fit your face properly as well as what frames will work best on which face shapes. They know all about things like progressives versus bifocals, refractive index, anti glare coatings and a whole bunch of other technical things that are vital to you getting the right lens. They are an integral part of  your vision care team.

In case you weren't sure, this is what an optometrist might look like.

In case you weren't sure, this is what an optometrist might look like.

"You should see an optometrist regularly to pick up any problems that are happening silently, with no symptoms."

Optometrists are like your family doctor. You have  any sort of problem with your eyes and we are the people you need to come and see. It might be a problem seeing, a red gooey eye or maybe you got something in your eye that won’t come out. You come see an optometrist and we’ll fix you up. Of course just like getting a yearly physical you don’t have to have something wrong to see an optometrist. In fact you should see one regularly to pick up any problems that are happening silently, with no symptoms.
Optometrists in Canada take a minimum of a three year undergraduate degree followed by a four year course at the only English speaking Optometry school in Canada at the University of Waterloo or the only Canadian French speaking school at the University of Montreal. They are then required to write national board exams before being licensed to work in Canada.

"Seeing an ophthalmologist requires a referral..."

Ophthalmologists are eye surgeons performing complex eye surgeries. They are medical doctors who have gone on to do even more schooling to specialize in the eye. Much like other specialists like brain surgeons, heart surgeons, kidney specialists etc you require a referral to see them. It is the job of an optometrist or your family doctor to refer you if there is an eye problem beyond what we are able to treat. For example, if you had a cataract that required surgery, an optometrist would refer you to see an ophthalmologist that specialized in cataract surgeries.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

I spy YOU as our next employee.

Eye Spy Optometry is opening up in the trendy area of 17th Avenue and looking for a part time Optician. Eye Spys mission is to provide patients with excellent customer service in a comfortable environment where patients can ask questions, get solid advice and leave with great eyewear.

We are looking for an upbeat, energetic Optician who is genuinely excited to meet patients, looking to gain experience in a small environment and support the community. You will need to be good at quickly assessing the needs of clients and determining the best next step for them. Eye Spy is a small, highly motivated team and requires an individual who can work independently, take on multiple duties and do it with a smile. And if you can juggle flaming knives while adjust frames, youll get serious praise from the boss!

The Role:

          Greeting Patients

  • Assist with frame selection

  • Enter lab orders

  • Help with insurance forms and receipts

  • Verify prescriptions

  • Monitor job status from optical labs and ensure accuracy and quality

  • Schedule appointments

  • Dispense, adjust and repair eyewear

    Behind the Scenes

  • Maintain and order supplies as required

  • Liaise and coordinate with frame suppliers and develop an inventory management system

  • Keep an eye on pricing, products and trends

    Being Part of the Team

  • Bringing ideas, improvements and issues to the table

  • Willing to implement ideas

  • Participate in development training and initiatives, including staff meetings, continuing education and conferences


  • 1-2 years of previous experience as an optician

  • Experience in a small office environment is an asset

  • Community involvement or interest is a definite plus

  • Work well under pressure

  • Must be organized and able to prioritize

  • Must have willingness to learn and show initiative

The 411:

Since this is a brand new office, Eye Spy will be open:

Monday and Wednesday: 12pm 8pm

Thursday: 7am 3pm

Saturday: 10am 4pm

More hours will be added as the practice grows and these hours are subject the change, based on patient demand.

The Next Step:

If this is exactly what youre looking for, were willing to pinch you, but if you dont want to wake up from this dream, please apply at:  eyespyoptometry@gmail.com