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Working in the optical field includes a wide range of different jobs that relate to eyes. The jobs involve taking care of the eyes, performing surgeries, administering tests, giving prescriptions and even making eye glasses. Each different job serves a vital step in maintaining eye health and they all complement each other to some degree. The four main jobs within the optical field include optician, optometrist, ophthalmologist and orthoptist.
There are two types of opticians: a dispensing optician who sells eye glasses to the general public and a manufacturing optician who makes the eyeglasses. Opticians are employed in hospitals, private practices, eye care centers and corporations. The primary function of those who are manufacturing opticians is to make and repair eye glasses; the primary function of dispensing opticians is to sell these eye glasses, as well as do basic administrative tasks, patient scheduling and filing, education and occasionally even simple repairs and adjustments.
Optometrists administer eye tests and are probably what you most often think of when you think of an eye doctor. They do everything from prescribing glasses or contacts for patients, to diagnosing eye problems and disease. Becoming an optometrist requires you to attend and graduate from an accredited optometrist eye school, which normally means at least three years at an accredited college.
An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor who is licensed to perform eye surgery. This means she has completed four years of pre-med studies at college, four years of medical school, one year of internship and then three or four years of special surgical training. Ophthalmologists specialize in diagnosing and providing treatment to specific diseases of the eyes. They operate on damaged or diseased eyes in surgical eye centers or hospitals and also perform all of the duties of an optometrist in terms of administering eye exams and writing prescriptions.
An orthoptist is someone who focuses on problems that affect both eyes. These afflictions include binocular vision, double vision and depth perception. Orthoptists also treat people who have "crossed eyes" and who have been referred after having their problems first diagnosed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Orthoptists can also assist in the surgeries done by ophthalmologists. To perform this job, you must have completed an undergraduate degree as well as two years certified training from the American Orthoptic Council.