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Where to Get an Eye Exam: Picking an Optometrist

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A female optometrist smiling while standing with her arms folded

Choosing where to get an eye exam isn’t a complicated process, but it pays to do a little research before booking with the first clinic that pops up on Google.

All optometrists have similar education resulting in a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. However, different eye doctors will often focus on specific aspects and increase their experience in these areas through continuing education.

For example, not all optometrists will advise you on laser eye surgery. If that’s something you are considering, you’ll want to find a clinic with optometrists knowledgeable about the pros and cons of getting eye surgery. 

Who Performs Eye Exams?

Two primary professionals can perform a comprehensive eye exam—optometrists and ophthalmologists. An optician is another professional in the industry. If you’ve already received your prescription from either of these eye doctors, you can visit an optician for glasses or contacts. But they won’t be able to perform an eye exam.

Differences Between Eye Doctors

There are a couple of significant differences between these eye doctors. Your eye care needs will determine who you should see.


As mentioned above, optometrists have their OD degrees. At a minimum, this will be around 8 years of education. From there, many optometrists take additional training in various specialties.

When it comes to primary eye care, this is where an optometrist is typically the first choice. They are qualified to perform comprehensive eye exams and fit glasses and contacts. In addition, they can manage various eye diseases, infections, or injuries.

If you need advanced eye care for any reason, an optometrist can refer you to an ophthalmologist.


Like the optometrist, an ophthalmologist is qualified to perform comprehensive eye exams. However, the main difference in their practice is that an ophthalmologist is qualified to perform eye surgery to correct or manage various eye conditions.

Pediatric Optometrist/Ophthalmologist

Both of these eye doctors can specialize in dealing with children. So, they would have advanced knowledge of specific problems common to children and how to treat them medically and surgically.

A male optometrist checking a young patient's eyes with a phoropter

Which One Should You Choose?

Many people see an optometrist for most of their eye care needs. Several factors contribute to this:

  • Training: Routine eye care is a major aspect of being an optometrist. Most people don’t require the advanced care that an ophthalmologist will provide.
  • Price: If you have medical coverage—personally or through your work—the chances are good that at least part of your eye exams is covered. But if they aren’t, an optometrist typically has lower prices.
  • Availability: Like most specialists, finding an ophthalmologist is easier in a big city center. In comparison, even a small town will likely have an optometrist. Also, there are more optometrists than ophthalmologists because of the significant differences in schooling length.

Unless your doctor or optometrist has advised you to seek an ophthalmologist, you’re better off finding a reputable optometrist in your area.

Picking the Best Optometrist

If you live in a small town with only one optometrist and can’t travel, that makes your choice easy. But it’s common for even a smaller city to have several optometrists. So, the question is: how do you pick the right one?

Ask Around

Talk to friends and family and see which optometrist they visit. It’s easy to sound great in an advertisement, but there’s a lot more confidence in the decision when the opinions of real people back up an optometrist’s claims.

Consider Your Eye Care Needs

If you know that certain things about your eye health aren’t routine, you’ll want to find a knowledgeable optometrist.

For example, remote work has been exploding in popularity in recent years. And more people than ever are spending their days in front of a computer. There are eye problems that can lead to an increased risk of digital eye strain. So, finding an optometrist well-versed in this area would be important for you.

Optometrist Availability

Whether you’re looking to book a comprehensive eye exam or get advice on a new pair of glasses, you shouldn’t have extreme waits.

More Than Just Eye Exams

Yes, you need to see an optometrist for an eye exam. But what about after you have your prescription? It’s convenient if your optometrist’s clinic also has an extensive eyewear collection to choose from.

There are many brands and styles to choose from for glasses and contacts. It’s nice not to feel the need to “shop around” for lack of selection.

Closing Thoughts on Picking an Optometrist

If you’ve decided that an optometrist is the eye doctor you’d prefer to see, contact us today. We’re happy to discuss your needs and schedule you with an optometrist that fits your needs in your area.

Written by Total Vision

At Total Vision, we pride ourselves on ensuring healthy eyes for the whole family and work hard to help all our patients look, feel, and see better. With many locations throughout California, we continue to set new industry standards for professionalism and quality. We empower all our partners to offer leading-edge testing, treatment, and eyewear. With the support of our entire network behind each care provider, patients all over the state can enjoy consistent quality and incredible value.
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