Ophthalmology Jobs / Ophthalmologist Jobs

If you are interested in a healthcare but don't wish to pursue a career in medicine, then ophthalmology might be of interest to you.

Ophthalmologists are physicians concerned with eye care, being responsible for examining, diagnosing, treating and managing disorders, diseases and injuries. They then treat the problems, conduct surgery and provide therapy and rehabilitation.

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They are often confused with optometrists who are concerned with testing vision and identifying problems (such as nearsightedness) before prescribing eye glasses or contact lenses. The two professions are not the same, although patients may see both at different stages of their treatments. Dispensing opticians are another profession again - both ophthalmologists and optometrists may write prescriptions for dispensing opticians.

Ophthalmologists work in the National Health Service or in private medicine. Areas of specialisation reflect the conditions of the eye and the nature of health service provision. These include:

What is Involved in the Job?

Ophthalmology is extremely varied, according to the area of subspecialty and location for work. Central duties include:

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Hospital-based surgeons work with patients exhibiting medical issues such as intra-ocular inflammation, raised eye pressure, minor and major eye injuries, or longer term conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, and conditions associated with age, such as cataract treatment and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and by disease, such as HIV/AIDS.

They undertake surgery of the eye, including cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disorders, cornea transplants and oculoplastic surgery. Surgery is performed with an operating microscope and frequent involves laser equipment.

If working in paediatric ophthalmology, they may be concerned with development disorders, squints and, sometimes, conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts.

For ophthalmologists working in the community or primary care, daily duties include conducting vision checks, diagnosis of problems and formulation of rehabilitation therapy. The development of new technology is likely to expand their role to include simple surgical procedures.

Is This Job Right for You?

To undertake this career, you need to be committed, able to work effectively in a team and able to work within a complex health service environment. Essential and desirable qualities are:

Environment and Hours

An ophthalmologist is able to choose their working environment, by working in the public health system, a private hospital or within a university research centre. Some sit on relevant bodies and boards.

This work is constantly interesting and invariably satisfying. Some surgeons take up opportunities to travel to developing countries and work with people who might otherwise be excluded from surgery to address sight problems.

Hours vary, but as in other surgical fields, a minimum 40-hour week is typical and far longer hours are not unusual. Work on call may be required.

Qualifications Required

Ophthalmologists need to first complete a five-year degree in medicine that is recognised by the General Medical Council. Entry requirements usually include A-levels in science subjects and maths, with high grades (i.e., A-A-B). This is followed by a two-year foundation programme of general and higher surgical training. For those without the science subjects, six year degree courses may be available, featuring a one-year foundation course.

After gaining the qualification of MB or BM (Bachelor of Medicine), BChir, ChB or BS (Bachelor of Surgery), doctors then spend one year as a resident Preregistration House Officer (PRHO). This is completed under supervision of a surgeon and upon successful completion they register with the General Medical Council.

They will then apply for a short-term role as a Senior House Officer (SHO), usually in the Accident and Emergency department, before applying for a SHO in Basic Surgical Training, lasting up to three years, during which they rotate in different specialities and complete an MRCS (Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons) course in basic surgery. Subsequent training stages are Higher Surgical Training and, ultimately, the Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training. The number of medical schools offering specialist training in ophthalmology is limited in the UK and interest is high.

Salaries and Prospects

This field is likely to grow in line with an ageing population, requiring increasing eye care due to age-related degeneration and conditions such as diabetes. Technological advances mean that positions in primary healthcare are likely to increase. Compensation for ophthalmologists can be generous and, in line with the desirable working conditions of this surgical sub-speciality, mean that competition for training places is likely to be high.

Annual income for a Preregistration House Officer can be between £21,000 and £26,000. Upon entering specialist training, this can rise to £44,000. Qualified consultants can earn £70,000-£94,000 a year.

During training, doctors can earn additional income according to hours worked, workload and unsocial hours. Many consultants supplement their income by working in private hospitals as well. Additional benefits can lift the consultant's annual income to over £150,000.

Promotional opportunities can be scarce within certain subspecialties and relocation may be necessary in order to further your career, particularly for more senior positions.

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