Orthoptists provide diagnostic and treatment services for people with vision defects involving incorrect eye movements and positions, such as ‘lazy eye’ or amblyopia, binocular vision and ‘squinting’ or strabismus.
They use complex testing equipment to diagnose such defects and provide appropriate advice and treatment options, such as corrective surgery, visual aids or exercises and tips on things like lighting and viewing distances.
Orthoptists are usually employed by hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities. Some also work on a freelance basis or carry out academic research and teach budding orthoptists. The majority of this lot work in facilities managed by the NHS.
Salary & benefits
NHS orthoptists earn salaries between £21,000 and £65,000. Entry-level orthoptists earn between £21,000 and £28,000 per annum, while experienced professionals can earn around £26,000 to £35,000.
Senior orthoptists with managerial responsibilities are the top earners with annual salaries that range between £30,000 and £65,000.
Orthoptists work around 35-40 hours per week on a shift basis, which means you may have to work evenings and weekends on a frequent basis.
Opportunities for independent practice are very rare, unless you can set up a multidisciplinary practice, with specialists from other related fields, such as ophthalmology.
To become an orthoptist, you’ll need a degree in orthoptics. This niche degree course involves both theoretical and practical components and clinical practice placements during the study period itself. Presently, the degree programme is offered only by the University of Sheffield and the University of Liverpool.
Training & progression
Upon completion of the orthoptics degree and clinical placements, new orthoptists must complete the membership requirements of the Health Professions Council (HPC).
As you progress in your career with the NHS, you will become a senior orthoptist and then a head orthoptist. Some people even specialise in a particular area of orthoptics and become an expert consultant in that area.
Alternative routes involve becoming a lecturer at a higher education institution or setting up your own private practice.