Difference Between Orthopedist & Optometrist

Jun 04, 2020

Comparing Orthopedists to Optometrists

Orthopedists and optometrists are both medical doctors, but they do very different things. Orthopedists deal with issues concerning the neuromusculoskeletal system, while optometrists are eye doctors dealing with optical disease, eye glasses and contacts. Below is a comparison of these two medical careers, along with some important information on both.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2018-2028)
Orthopedist Professional or Doctoral Degree $250,000 (2020)* 8%** (physicians and surgeons, all other)
Optometrist Professional or Doctoral Degree $115,250 (2019)** 10%**

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Orthopedists vs Optometrists

Orthopedists deal with injuries or defects to the neuromusculoskeletal system. These doctors deal with repairs or corrections to the spine, vertebrae, nerves, tendons or ligaments. Optometrists are eye doctors examining the optic system for disease or injury. Both types of doctors take medical histories, do physical exams of some type, and apply the latest diagnostic tools available to them. They also examine patients before and after surgeries and monitor their progress for a period of time to make sure there are no more issues.


Orthopedic doctors will work closely with general physicians if a patient's problem has to do with the neuromusculoskeletal system. These doctors will listen to a patient's description of the problems, run standard exams and tests to diagnose issues and then speak with their patients about their options for treatment. Orthopedic surgeons are collaborating with other physicians to repair injuries to the knees, elbows, ankles or the spine, repairing bones or spinal disks. Treatment options for some patients might include massage treatment, physical therapy, surgery or medication.

Job responsibilities of an orthopedist include:

  • Utilizing the arthroscope for examinations
  • Performing physical exams and taking medical histories for diagnosis
  • Running imaging tests to determine problem areas
  • Communicating findings with other doctors
  • Performing minor surgeries in office


The majority of an optometrist's job is spent using specialized instruments to examine patients' eyes and prescribe eyeglasses or order contacts that will correct their vision to something near normal. That is not their only job, however; they also check for disease when they are performing eye exams. Optometrists might also specialize in working with children's eye care. They treat eye irritations, and they provide basic eye care before and after surgery. Optometrists treat eyes with eye drops and salves and refer patients to ophthalmologists for more serious problems.

Job responsibilities of an optometrist include:

  • Diagnosing eye problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or an eye disease
  • Performing minor surgical procedures to correct vision
  • Evaluating other physical problems which may affect eyesight (diabetes, hypertension)
  • Determining correct lens prescriptions for eyeglasses
  • Prescribing medications for certain eye issues

Related Careers

Physician assistants are experts who diagnose and treat patients in conjunction with a team of medical experts, including doctors, and this might be another good fit for those looking at a career as an orthopedist. Since optometrists are eye doctors dealing with vision improvement, a related career might be that of an ophthalmologist, who deals with severe eye disease or major optical problems.

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