Your eye doctor may be an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Oculist or Optician. Hard to keep track of all these "O's." Ever wonder whO is your eye doctor? The biggest confusion arises in the distinction between the optometrist and the ophthalmologist. For this discussion, I am going to stick to the differences between these two "eye docs."
Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist - The main difference between these two eye docs is the length and type of training. Ophthalmologists go to medical school and optometrists go to optometry school.
An Ophthalmologist usually goes to medical school following a four year undergraduate program. Medical school is four years and students graduate with an "M.D."
In modern medicine (say since the 70's), most docs specialize by continuing their training in a multi-year residency. It is during this residency that doctors start to specialize. These days, almost every "M.D." has completed residency training. Further sub-specialty training is achieved during a "fellowship."
Many docs go into private practice following a residency. Ophthalmic residencies are usually a three or four year program that follows a one year internship. After completing an Ophthalmology residency, doctors are "general ophthalmologists." They may prescribe glasses and contacts, perform surgery such as Laser Vision Correction and cataracts, and treat diseases such as glaucoma.
I am an ophthalmologist and a retina sub-specialist. I completed undergraduate school, medical school, internship, residency and then fellowship. Since high school, it took 13 years to become a retina specialist. My fellowship allows me to sub-specialize. There are other sub-specialties in glaucoma, corneal disease, plastic surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, ophthalmic pathology, tumors and strabismus/pediatrics.
An Optometrist goes to optometry school following an undergraduate degree. They receive an "O.D." Optometry school takes four years.