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Optician vs. Ophthalmic Technician: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Opticians and ophthalmic technicians are both eye care professionals who help patients with their vision. They are similar in that they both require an understanding of the eye and its anatomy, but they differ in the type of care they provide. Opticians dispense and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, while ophthalmic technicians work under the supervision of an ophthalmologist to provide diagnostic and therapeutic services. In this article, we compare and contrast opticians and ophthalmic technicians, and we provide information on what you can expect from each profession.

What is an Optician?

Opticians are eye care professionals who work in optical stores and eye care clinics. They help customers select the right eyeglass frames and lenses based on the customer’s individual facial features and prescription. They also adjust and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, and provide instruction on how to properly care for them. In some states, Opticians are licensed to dispense contact lenses. In addition to helping customers select glasses, Opticians also measure customers’ eyes for proper fit, and they may help to educate customers about different types of eyewear.

What is an Ophthalmic Technician?

Ophthalmic Technicians are responsible for conducting preliminary vision and eye health tests under the supervision of an Ophthalmologist. They measure patients’ visual acuity, refractive error and depth perception. They also test patients’ ability to see in low light and peripheral vision. Ophthalmic Technicians use a variety of specialized instruments to complete these tests, including the phoropter, which is used to measure refractive error. They also take and develop retinal photos, which are used by Ophthalmologists to diagnose and treat eye conditions. Ophthalmic Technicians typically work in ophthalmology offices, hospitals or clinics.

Optician vs. Ophthalmic Technician

Here are the main differences between an optician and an ophthalmic technician.

Job Duties

Both opticians and ophthalmic technicians perform a variety of tasks to help improve the vision of individuals. These professionals take patient medical histories, measure their eyesight and determine which eyeglasses or contact lenses best suit them. They also fit patients with appropriate eyewear and instruct them on how to properly wear and care for their glasses and contacts.

The primary difference between these two professions is that opticians primarily work behind the counter at optical shops and in hospitals and doctors’ offices. They are responsible for performing eye exams and selecting and fitting eyewear for customers. Ophthalmic technicians typically perform these duties in a clinical setting, such as an eye clinic. This means that opticians rarely performs invasive procedures, such as inserting contact lenses or repairing broken eyewear.

Job Requirements

Opticians typically need to complete a two-year training program at a vocational school or community college. Some opticians also have a bachelor’s degree in ophthalmic science. Ophthalmic technicians usually need to complete a one-year training program, although some may have an associate degree in ophthalmic technology.

Work Environment

Opticians work in a variety of environments, including optometry offices, retail stores and hospitals. They may also work for themselves as independent entrepreneurs who own their own businesses. Ophthalmic technicians typically work in ophthalmology clinics or hospitals. Some states require them to be licensed before they can practice, so they may need to pass an exam to receive licensure.


There are several similarities in the skills needed by opticians and ophthalmic technicians. Both roles require excellent customer service skills, as they will be working with patients on a daily basis. They also need to have good communication skills to be able to explain procedures and answer any questions that patients may have. Additionally, both roles require good attention to detail, as they will be working with delicate equipment and performing precise measurements.

There are also some differences in the skills needed by opticians and ophthalmic technicians. Opticians benefit from having strong sales skills, as they often help patients choose the right glasses or contact lenses. They also need to have good visual acuity to be able to properly measure patients’ eyes. Ophthalmic technicians, on the other hand, need to have strong medical knowledge, as they often perform tests and assist doctors in diagnosing and treating conditions. They also need to be comfortable using medical equipment, such as lasers and microscopes.


The average salary for an optician is $45,048 per year, while the average salary for an ophthalmic technician is $46,567 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the location of the job, the size of the company and the level of experience the professional has.


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