9 January 2020

Blog: Orthoptics or Optometry? Seeing the difference

Making the decision of choosing the career path that’s right for you is challenging enough, but a good starting point is choosing a degree that puts you on the first step of the ladder to achieving your goals.

If you’re looking to pursue a role in health care and more specifically, eye health and vision care, it’s handy to know what courses are out there, how you’d be training and ultimately, what you can do with it once you graduate.

There are a number of professions working in eye health, and understandably orthoptics can be often confused with optometry. This is our brief guide to the main differences between the two career options:

What is an orthoptist?

If you study orthoptics you are training to become an expert in diagnosing and treating defects in eye movement and problems with how the eyes work together. As an eye vision specialist, you would also gain an understanding in neurological defects, such as how the brain communicates with how your eyes interpret objects and movement.

What is an optometrist?

If you study optometry you will train to detect any visual issues, disease or injury, as well as prescribe glasses or contact lenses and refer patients for further treatment. Qualified optometrists can also identify the signs of problems with general health, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

In summary, an orthoptist has the responsibility of seeing how the eyes work together and interact with the brain to create vision, whereas optometrists are more focused on the examination of the eye itself.

How long would I need to study?

Studying orthoptics is a three-year degree course. Studying optometry is also a three-year degree course, plus an additional year of pre-registration experience and further clinical exams to be able to practice as an optometrist.

Where would I work?

Orthoptists work mainly in the NHS and hospital setting, but can also work in rehabilitation centres. Hospital eyecare teams, stroke teams, and special educational needs teams all include orthoptists.

Optometrists typically work in high street opticians, but there are also roles available in hospitals or community clinics.

Are there many opportunities after I graduate?

A career in orthoptics pays well, with excellent job prospects. There are approximately 1400 qualified orthoptists working in the UK, and there are plenty of opportunities for roles nationwide due to university place limitations, resulting in less competition and a steady number of professionals graduating each year.

There are approximately 14,000 qualified optometrists working in the UK and no cap on university places, meaning there is significantly more professionals applying for jobs and competition can be fierce.

What next?

Still unsure on which degree is right for you? No problem! You can find out more about orthoptics by visiting the British and Irish Orthoptic Society website or visiting the College of Optometrists website.

Alternatively, why not take a look at out student case studies? You can also have a chat with our staff and students at one of our undergraduate open days.  

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