Ophthalmologist Education and Training

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An ophthalmologist is a medical physician who has undertaken a specialization in the structure, function and health of the eye. This training allows them to perform complex microsurgery in the treatment of eye diseases. The essential steps involved in the education and training required to become an ophthalmologist are outlined below. Although there are some differences depending on the country of practice, the general training requirements are similar worldwide.

Ophthalmologist Careers

Medical School

The first step to becoming an ophthalmologist is to complete medical school. This typically involves at least five years of study, with a science-based bachelor’s degree followed by a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program.

The bachelor’s degree includes a 4-year degree program that is designed to give students an overall picture of the practice of medicine. A wide range of topics is studied, from anatomy to pathophysiology and neurobiology. Students are also given practical experience through the scheduled clinical rotations that are a core part of the program curriculum.

If students already have a particular interest in ophthalmology at this early stage in their studies, they may choose to take more specialized classes that focus on the field of ophthalmology in the second half of the degree.

Medical Residency

After successful completion of an M.D. program, students are required to complete a one-year internship and then a three-year residency program. This helps them to put their theoretical knowledge to use, and gain experience, by working with patients.

Specialization in Ophthalmology

Following certified registration as a medical doctor, a physician may choose to undertake further study in a specialized field such as ophthalmology.

In the United States, this is obtained by studying an advanced scientific degree such as a Doctor of Philosophy in Ophthalmology. Prerequisite requirements for acceptance into such a program include successful completion of a Doctor of Medicine and medical residency. The program typically lasts for four years and involves the completion of a thesis on a chosen topic within the field of ophthalmology.

Career Progression

The American Board of Ophthalmology is responsible for the certification and regulation of ophthalmologist in the United States. Similar boards hold the same responsibility in other regions of the world.

In order to become certified through the board, the ophthalmologist must have completed an M.D. program, 1-year internship, 3-year residency program and successful completion of both a written and oral exam given by the board.

However, it is essential that ophthalmologists continue to study and improve their understanding of the field throughout their career to provide the best care to their patients. This is particularly important due to the intensive use of technology in ophthalmologic management, which is constantly evolving and improving. For this reason, evidence of continued profession development (CDP) is required annually for ophthalmologists to retain their registration and continue to practice.

The career prospects for ophthalmologist are quite appealing, with the majority of specialists earning between $101,244 and $335,876 per year in 2014. Employment opportunities are also expected to rise in coming years due to the aging population in Western countries. It is also possible, however, that advancements in technology which appear to be helping to meet the demand may reduce future job growth.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Yolanda Smith

Written by

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.


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