What is an optometrist?

Previously known as ophthalmic opticians, optometrists are trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. They make a health assessment, offer clinical advice, prescribe spectacles or contact lenses and refer patients for further treatment, when necessary.

Other careers in eye health care

If you’d like to work in eye health care, but are not sure that optometry is for you, there are other roles you may be interested in:

Dispensing optician

Dispensing opticians advise on, fit and supply spectacle frames and lenses after taking account of each patient's lifestyle and vocational needs. Dispensing opticians are also able to fit contact lenses after undergoing further specialist training. Visit the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) website to find out more.

Ophthalmic medical practitioner (OMP)

OMPs are registered medical practitioners who have undertaken postgraduate training in ophthalmology. Like optometrists, they examine eyes, test sight, diagnose abnormalities and prescribe suitable corrective lenses. Visit the Royal College of Ophthalmologists website to find out more.


Ophthalmologists are surgical and medical specialists able to perform operations on eyes. Medically qualified, they mainly work in eye hospitals and hospital eye departments. Visit the Royal College of Ophthalmologists website to find out more.


Orthoptists generally work with ophthalmologists in hospitals and in the community. They are concerned with eye problems relating to eye movements and the inability of the eyes to work together. Examples of these problems are squint (strabismus), lazy eye (amblyopia) and double vision (diplopia). Visit the British and Irish Orthoptic Society website to find out more.

Career pathways in optometry

There are a range of career options available to qualified optometrists, including working in a hospital clinic, carrying out essential research, and more.