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About optometrists

Optometrists are regulated health professionals who examine patients’ eyes; diagnose vision and ocular health problems; and prescribe treatments to conserve, improve and correct vision and ocular health disorders. Optometrists frequently serve as the entry point to the eye health care system.

Optometrists work in private practices, clinics, hospitals, community health centres, corporate optometry, research, teaching and administration.

Data availability

CIHI’s Health Workforce Database (HWDB) collects aggregate-level, standardized data on the regulatory environment, supply, and demographic and education characteristics of optometrists in Canada.

Reports and analyses

Regulatory environment

In Canada, optometrists are regulated in all 13 provinces and territories.

Practice criteria

To practise as an optometrist in Canada, an individual must obtain a licence from one of the optometric regulatory authorities in Canada. The requirements to obtain a licence are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another.

Common requirements

  • Hold a doctor of optometry (OD) degree from an accredited program
  • Pass the Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry (CACO) exam
  • Register with a provincial/territorial regulatory body 

Scope of practice

The scope of practice for optometrists is articulated in provincial/territorial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of responsibilities that define the boundaries of professional practice.

Optometrists are highly trained professionals whose prime responsibilities are the eye health and good vision of the public. The main functions performed by optometrists includei

  • Examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures
  • Diagnosing ocular manifestations
  • Prescribing medication to treat certain eye diseases
  • Prescribing and fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses, as well as safety eyewear and subnormal vision devises
  • Providing vision therapy and low-vision rehabilitation
  • Working in conjunction with other health care providers to provide integrated, quality care for patients
  • Educating patients about vision health and lifestyle choices for protecting and enhancing good vision and health
  • Conducting research and promoting advancement in the visual sciences

i. Canadian Association of Optometrists. Role of the optometrist (OD). Accessed March 31, 2016.