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An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats diseases, injuries and deficiencies of the eye.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has undertaken additional specialist training in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the eye and visual system. Future Growth Very StrongAn ophthalmologist is both physician and surgeon who diagnoses, treats and prevents diseases of the eye. The surgical work of the general ophthalmologist may include cataract extraction, squint and glaucoma surgery, retinal, oculoplastic and nasolacrimal surgery.

ANZSCO ID& description: 253914: Provides diagnostic, treatment and preventative medical services related to diseases, injuries and deficiencies of the human eye and associated structures. Registration or licensing is required. eye exam

Alternative names: Eye Specialist, Eye Surgeon, Medical Ophthalmologist

Specialisations: Clinical Cytopathologist, Forensic Pathologist, Immunologist

Knowledge, skills and attributes

An ophthalmologist needs:

  • intellect to demonstrate thorough knowledge of ophthalmology and the inter-relationships between medical disciplines

  • hand-eye dexterity

  • to be detail oriented and well organised

  • to be a team player with leadership capabilities

  • to perform well under stress

  • to be personable and patient

  • able to communicate and empathise with patients

  • to enjoy working with patients of all ages who are generally healthy with specific eye problems

  • to like a patient mix of both surgical and medical problems

Duties and Tasks

  • Read patient's history

  • Examine patients and determine whether surgery is necessary

  • Consults with anaesthetists about the operation and the patient's treatment

  • Gives instructions about preparing patients for operating theatres

  • Performs and manages operations

  • Provides instructions for post-operative care

  • Monitors patients after surgery

  • Keeps medical records and sends final reports to general practitioners

  • May teach trainees

Working conditions

Ophthalmologists can work in operating theatres, out- patient clinics and increasingly in community care settings. There may be extensive periods when an ophthalmologist works in low level lighting.

There may be times when an ophthalmologist is required to work extra hours and be on-call although out of hours work is generally not as demanding as other specialities and night work is not typical.

Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research into causes and cures for eye diseases and vision problems.

Tools and technologies

Ophthalmology continues to incorporate new technology including optical instrumentation, lasers and microsurgical instrumentation. The advances in technology, drugs and techniques have led to development of new process and a rapidly changing job role.

Education and training/entrance requirements

Ophthalmology training equips eye specialists to provide the full spectrum of eye care, including the prescription of glasses and contact lenses, medical treatment and complex microsurgery.

To become an ophthalmologist, you must first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in ophthalmology. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and attend an interview at your chosen institution.

In Australia and New Zealand, an ophthalmologist is required to have undertaken a minimum of 12 years of training, including:

  • 5 years at a medical school, graduating with a degree in medicine,

  • 2 years (minimum) as a newly qualified doctor undertaking basic medical training,

  • 5 years of ophthalmic specialist training and successful completion of examinations set by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To then specialise in ophthalmology, doctors can apply to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.

Did You Know?

What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, optometrist and orthoptist?

All are eye care professionals, but only an ophthalmologist is a medically trained specialist.


Optometrists examine eyes, give advice on visual problems, and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses.


 If eye disease is detected, an optometrist will refer patients to an ophthalmologist for further management. In certain circumstances, ophthalmologists and optometrists work collaboratively in the care of patients, especially those with chronic eye diseases.

The typical training for an optometrist in Australia and New Zealand includes:

5 years at university leading to a degree in optometry.
1 year of pre-registration experience.


Orthoptists are allied health professionals who are trained to diagnose and manage disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems. They are also trained to perform investigative testing of eye diseases. They work in a diverse range of settings, including hospitals, private practices, low vision and rehabilitation settings and research centres.

Orthoptic training is undertaken in a 4 year Bachelor of Health Sciences/ Master of Orthoptics university degree. (Source: Australian Society of Ophthalmologists)

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