About CAO

Role of CAO and Optometrists

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) is the national voice of optometry in Canada, representing 85% of doctors of optometry (ODs). Founded in 1941 and formally incorporated in 1948, the CAO works with its 10 provincial member associations within a federated framework.

The CAO is dedicated to collaboratively advancing the highest standard of primary eye care through the promotion of optimal vision and eye health, in partnership with all Canadians.  

Doctors of Optometry are independent primary health care providers and represent the front line of vision health. The eye health and good vision of the public are the prime responsibilities of Canada’s Doctors of Optometry, who:

  • specialize in the examination, diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of disease and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures
  • diagnose ocular manifestations of systemic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure and complications of the aging process such as cataracts and macular degeneration
  • prescribe medication to treat certain eye diseases
  • prescribe and fit eye glasses and contact lenses as well as safety eyewear and subnormal vision devises
  • provide vision therapy and low-vision rehabilitation
  • work in conjunction with other health care providers to provide integrated, quality care for patients
  • educate patients about vision health and lifestyle choices for protecting and enhancing good vision and health 
  • conduct research and promote  advancement in the visual sciences.

ODs practice in a range of settings: most work in private practice, others work in clinics, hospitals, community health centres, corporate optometry, research, teaching and administration.

Optometry is a regulated profession. A Doctor of Optometry completes a Bachelor of Science degree or higher, followed by a four year Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited university’s school of optometry. Each year, approximately 130 new ODs graduate from the two Canadian schools of optometry (University of Waterloo and Université de Montréal). In addition, there are Canadian graduates from US schools of optometry who return to Canada to practice and internationally trained ODs.

Upon completion of the optometry degree, the graduate is required to satisfy provincial licensing requirements in the province or territory in which they intend to practice. This process includes a national examination administered by the Canadian Examiners in Optometry (CEO). Licensure by the provincial or territorial governing body is required. These requirements ensure the public receives the highest standards of optometric care.