In short an optometrist and ophthalmologist are doctors. Both an optometrist and ophthalmologist can provide a variety of eye care services. Although the most thought of service is prescribing glasses and contacts, both are qualified to diagnose a variety of eye diseases and disorders, such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachments, and macular degeneration.
An ophthalmologist has a doctor of medicine degree (M.D.) specializing in surgical eye care. An ophthalmologist must complete four years of medical school and spend a minimum of four years of residency (hospital-based training).
An optometrist has a doctor of optometry degree (O.D.). An optometrist must attend four years of optometry school. Optometrists have the choice to complete a residency (hospital-based training) or enter practice directly after licensure.