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Specialty Description

What is an Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmology is a specialty focused on the medical and surgical care of the eyes. Ophthalmologists are the only physicians medically trained to manage the complete range of eye and vision care. They can prescribe glasses and contact lenses, dispense medications, diagnose and treat eye conditions and diseases, and perform surgeries.

How to become an Ophthalmologist?

Specialty training required prior to certification: Four years

Ophthalmology is the medical specialty concerned with the medical and surgical care of the eye, orbit, optic tract and visual cortex. Training consists of a three-year residency program following a one-year clinical postgraduate year program in internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, or transitional year. During ophthalmology residency there are broad clinic, hospital consultative and operative experiences in a variety of disciplines (subspecialties) including:

  • Cataract/Anterior Segment

  • Cornea/External  Disease

  • Glaucoma

  • Neuro-Ophthalmology/Orbit

  • Ocular Pathology/Oncology

  • Oculoplastics/Orbit

  • Pediatric Ophthalmology/Strabismus

  • Refractive Management/Intervention

  • Retina/Vitreous

  • Uveitis

What does an Ophthalmologist do?

About 75 percent of members of the ophthalmic community are in private practice—some solo, some single subspecialty and some multispecialty. Ophthalmology is particularly rewarding in that its members have the option to treat patients from the neonatal period to the tenth decade of life and to, in many cases, deliver immediate improvements in quality of life. Nearly 50 percent of ophthalmology residents are women, since it permits mixing a rewarding professional life with a full personal life.

Many major ophthalmic diseases(cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy) have their most significant impacts after age 65. Yet ophthalmology also has a rich systemic interface throughout a patient’s life. Nearly every multiorgan systemic disease has ophthalmologic features. Many neurologic diseases affect vision, visual fields or ocular motility. Ocular emergencies, while infrequent, can be management challenges and may have huge personal impact for patients.

About 40 percent of ophthalmologists complete a one- or two-year post-residency fellowship and about 15 percent pursue a career in academic ophthalmology. Compensation falls in the top half of all specialties.