How to Become an Ophthalmologist

Ophthalmology is a medical discipline that focuses on conditions and surgical procedures of the eyes and related organs and tissues. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that are eye specialists and treat a variety of conditions related to the eyes.


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What does an ophthalmologist do?

Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat a variety eye conditions such as eye injuries, eye diseases, cataracts, glaucoma, and vision problems. They perform routine eye examinations, prescribe glasses and medication, fit contact lenses, and perform surgery. They perform many different surgical procedures such as cataract surgery, Laser vision surgery, retinal disease surgery, and glaucoma treatment surgery. They also provide advice on eye exercises and other alternative forms of treatment. Many Ophthalmologists specialize in a specific area such as glaucoma, corneal diseases, plastic surgery, retina and vitreous diseases, and pediatric eye conditions. Some ophthalmologists exclusively focus on performing LASIK laser eye surgery, which uses laser equipment to reshape the cornea.

What kind of training does an ophthalmologist need?

Ophthalmologists must complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, internship, and residency training. Medical school provides intensive classroom and laboratory instruction as well as clinical rotations in all major medical disciplines. After medical school prospective ophthalmologists complete internships in ophthalmology settings. They then take a series of examinations to become licensed in general medicine. Residency training typically lasts at least 3 years and includes a surgical portion. Some ophthalmologists complete fellowships after residency training to specialize in a specific area. Most ophthalmologists gain board certification from the American Board of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists must keep their skills up to date and stay abreast on the current advancements in the field. They often complete continuing education and additional training through their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as an ophthalmologist?

Employment of all physicians is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased need for vision care will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for ophthalmologists with extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace ophthalmologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do ophthalmologists make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of ophthalmologists earn annual salaries between $221,791 and $318,685. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $375,201 (2).

A career as an ophthalmologist is an excellent choice for individuals that have a strong interest in ophthalmology and providing care to patients with a variety of eye related conditions. Ophthalmologists must have a solid understanding of the eye and other organs and tissues that are related to vision and the treatment of many different conditions. Manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, patience, and good problem solving skills are essential characteristics. Ophthalmologists must have excellent communication and be able to make patients feel at ease. They must be able to work under stress and make executive decisions in emergency situations.

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