Career Development

Ophthalmologist Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology, pathology, and visual disorders of the eye. With an estimated 6 million new cases occurring each year, ophthalmologists are part of a growing segment of the healthcare community.

Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology, pathology, and visual disorders of the eye. With an estimated 6 million new cases occurring each year, ophthalmologists are part of a growing segment of the healthcare community.

Ophthalmologists perform a wide range of procedures to help their patients improve or maintain their vision. Some of these include removing foreign bodies or chemical deposits from the eyes, installing artificial lenses to correct vision problems, and removing tumors. Due to their diverse skill set, they are often called upon to consult with other physicians on complex cases involving all areas of medicine.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an ophthalmologist and what it takes to become one yourself.

Ophthalmologist Job Duties

The duties of an ophthalmologist include the following:

  • Performing eye examinations on patients to diagnose vision problems, using equipment such as retinal cameras, slit lamps, ultrasound machines, and diagnostic software
  • Administering medications to correct vision problems or treat eye diseases
  • Treating diseases of the visual system, including cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, thyroid disease and high blood pressure
  • Performing eye surgeries, including procedures such as cataract removal, corneal transplants, glaucoma surgery, and LASIK
  • Tracking patient progress in treatment plans throughout the course of care, often working in conjunction with optometrists
  • Conducting examinations of newborns to detect congenital defects in the cornea or elsewhere in the eye that could lead to blindness
  • Prescribing and fitting eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other corrective lenses

Ophthalmologist Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for ophthalmologists is $207,896. The top earners make over $400,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in private practice.

Demand for ophthalmologists is expected to grow steadily over the next decade. As the population ages and vision problems become more prevalent, patients will seek out these doctors for treatment and advice on how to prevent eye problems in the future.

Ophthalmologist Job Requirements

The requirements for ophthalmologists are as follows:

Education: Ophthalmologists must earn a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) from a medical school accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). All medical schools require a bachelor’s degree for admission.

Graduate school generally lasts three to seven years, depending on the program. Some schools offer a five-year program, where the first year consists of classroom training and the remaining years are clinical training.

In a classroom program, students learn about topics like eye anatomy, physiology and pathology. Students learn how to diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. The clinical portion of a program allows students to apply the knowledge they learned in a classroom setting.

Training: After graduating from medical school, a doctor must complete a residency in ophthalmology in a hospital accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Residencies are required to gain the necessary skills to become a certified ophthalmologist. They also teach doctors how to run a practice, develop their own professional identity and build a strong network.

Certifications & Licenses: After completing their residency, the doctor must pass the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) exam. The ABO is a national board that certifies ophthalmologists and requires them to meet specific requirements and pass an exam.

Ophthalmologist Skills

In addition to the required medical education and training, ophthalmologists must have the following skills:

Teamwork skills: Ophthalmologists must work well with other healthcare professionals, such as optometrists and opticians

Communication skills: An ophthalmologist should have excellent communication skills in order to explain a diagnosis or treatment plan to patients and other medical professionals

Hand-eye coordination: Ophthalmologists must have steady hands in order to perform delicate procedures on their patients’ eyes. They may also be required to assist surgeons, so they need high attention to detail

Critical thinking skills: Critical thinking is important because you will need to analyze information about your patient’s condition in order to determine the best course of action

Organizational skills: Ophthalmologists must be organized to keep accurate patient records

Research skills: An ophthalmologist must have an interest in medical technology and the skill to research the latest technologies and developments on eye diseases

Ophthalmologist Work Environment

The work schedule of an ophthalmologist varies. In private practice, he or she works during regular office hours and makes patient visits at times that suit his or her clientele. In a hospital, he or she may have to make rounds to visit patients in the evenings.

An ophthalmologist spends most of the day sitting down while performing eye exams on patients, writing out prescriptions, analyzing test results, and discussing treatment plans with them. Some ophthalmologists might also perform surgery. They spend several hours every week reading medical journals and keeping up to date on new advances in their field. 

Ophthalmologist Career Advancement

A career in ophthalmology is highly competitive. Many doctors work their entire lives to reach the position of an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists can specialize in a certain part of the eye, such as the retina, cornea, or lens. They also have the option of specializing in a certain age group or gender, such as pediatrics. They may even choose to focus on a certain medical condition, such as glaucoma.

Once you’ve proven your skills as an ophthalmologist, you may decide to become an ophthalmology professor or an associate professor at a university. You will work directly with medical students and other doctors to train them on the finer points of the field. As you gain more experience, you may also decide to focus mainly on ophthalmology research. This will allow you to focus on making advancements in the field, rather than dealing with day-to-day patient care. You may eventually become the lead researcher at your company or the head of the department. 

Ophthalmologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how ophthalmologists work. Ophthalmologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Importance of Telemedicine

Telemedicine has the potential to improve the quality of healthcare for both patients and doctors.

Using telemedicine, patients can interact with doctors from remote locations via video calls, which enables them to receive advice without having to leave their homes or office environments. 

This also reduces stress on both parties, as it removes the need for long waits in a doctor’s office and allows physicians to work remotely instead of treating a large number of patients at once.

Age-Related Eye Diseases

As the world’s population continues to age, there is a greater need for eye doctors and other specialists who can treat age-related eye diseases.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision loss in adults over 50 and occurs when cells in the retina begin to deteriorate, resulting in blurred or distorted vision. AMD affects over 16 million Americans, with roughly 60% of those cases being categorized as advanced or late stage. Other common age-related eye diseases include cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

Rise of Vision Correction Surgery

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in vision correction surgery. In fact, from 2004 to 2014, the number of people who underwent vision correction surgery rose from 3.6 million to 8.2 million.

Furthermore, eye surgeons in the U.S are now out-earning dermatologists and dentists, due to a growing demand for this procedure among older Americans and a greater focus on preventative health care by younger generations.

How to Become an Ophthalmologist

1. Planning Your Career Path

Ophthalmology is a challenging but extremely rewarding career path that requires in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, extensive education, and certification.

Regardless of the area of specialization you choose, be sure to become familiar with the various tasks involved with the job; some jobs may require more skills than others.  Once you have decided on your career path, start researching educational requirements and seek out entry-level opportunities in your desired industry.

2. Writing a Resume

The best ophthalmologist resumes demonstrate a record of professional achievement and make it clear the candidate is committed to practicing the highest standards of care.

Be sure to include any experience you have in performing surgeries or providing patient care. It’s important that you show that you are skilled in diagnosing the treatments necessary for your patients’ conditions.

3. Applying for Jobs

Ophthalmologists tend to work in small private practices that may not have many openings at any given time. For that reason, it’s helpful to know the people in the office. Try attending conferences, workshops, and social events held by local ophthalmology associations; when you’re there, talk to other doctors about where they trained and what they wish they had known before beginning their careers. If you have the opportunity to volunteer at an eye clinic, do so—it will give you a chance to interact with physicians and hospital staff, which can lead to great connections.

4. Ace the Interview

An interview for this position requires you to focus on your interpersonal skills as well as your medical knowledge. As you prepare for your interview, make sure you research any new advances in the field of ophthalmology so you can show your interviewer you are aware of them

You may also be asked during your interview how you would handle a difficult situation with a patient or colleague. It is important that you demonstrate the ability to stay composed under stress and work quickly yet accurately, in order to manage these situations successfully.

Prepare for your interview by researching the company’s goals, values, and history as well as the job description.


Podiatrist Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Back to Career Development

Professor Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More