Ophthalmologist • Job Description, Salary & Benefits

Almost as hard to pronounce as it is to spell, an ophthalmologist is quite simply an eye doctor. Nope, they aren’t the guys who test your eyesight and fit you with lenses (that’s an optometrist for the record), an ophthalmologist is a medically trained doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating eye diseases and injuries.

It’s not a specialism to be scoffed at – ophthalmologists do some pretty darn important work. Those wishing to become ophthalmologists (god, it really is a mouthful) must undergo years and years of intensive training.

Not only do these guys diagnose patients, but they also perform surgical procedures, such as keyhole surgery and laser surgery, as well as managing emergency eye clinics, outpatient clinics or other specialist eye clinics.

Some might go down the medical ophthalmologist route. These guys don’t carry out surgery but instead treat medical disorders affecting vision through a holistic approach. They use therapeutic procedures and carry out biopsies.

Due to the nature of the role, medical ophthalmologists often build up great rapports with patients as they’ll be treating them over a much longer period.

Salary & benefits

During the Foundation programme (the two-year training programme after medical school), newly-qualified doctors will be paid somewhere in the region of £33,000 to £41,000 a year.

After that, plus completion of specialist training, an ophthalmologist could be earning between £44,000 and £67,000 a year.

Consultant ophthalmologists earn a staggering £74,000 to £176,000 a year.

Working hours

Ophthalmologists have some of the most regular working hours of any medical profession. Working outside of normal hours or being on-call might be required, but most ophthalmologists don’t work nights and have pretty sociable working hours.


To become an ophthalmologist, you’ll need to get a five-year degree in medicine first. Competition for medical school is fierce, and most applicants will need very strong maths and science A-levels.

Alternatively, there are graduate entry-level medicine courses for those with a first degree already. Undergraduates wishing to become ophthalmologists are usually advised to do an elective placement in ophthalmology and take a specialised module in it as part of their course.

After graduating, you’ll have to complete two foundation years of training, and then gain a specialist training post by applying to individual deaneries. To become an ophthalmologist, you’ll need to have good hand-eye coordination, organisational skills, and excellent communication, problem solving and decision making abilities.

Training & progression

Ophthalmic specialist training is an additional seven years on top of the time it takes to complete your medical degree and Foundation programme. It is competence based and leads to a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT).

Ophthalmologists continue to train throughout their careers to sharpen their skills and keep abreast of new developments in the field. Most have their hearts set on becoming consultants, whilst others might look to go down the academic route.

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