How to Become an Ophthalmologist
Ophthalmologist Careers & Degrees

An ophthalmologist is a specialist in diseases of the eye, and works to both diagnose problems and treat them with the use of surgery and medicine.

An ophthalmologist is trained in both medical and surgical care of the eye.

If you are interested the eye and want a career in medicine, then you might like to become a ophthalmologist.

To become an ophthalmologist, you will work with patients suffering from a wide range of conditions.

Some could be threatened with blindness, others glaucoma or cataracts.

Sometimes an ophthalmologist will work to correct muscle imbalances in the eye.

Education Requirements to Become an Ophthalmologist

The training to become an ophthalmologist is very long, in fact it can take over a decade to become qualified.

You’ll need to start with a four year bachelors degree in pre-medicine.

Concentrate on achieving a high grade point average, as you will need this to gain a place in medical school.

Entrance is based on college grades, the MCAT, and an interview process.

Medical school takes roughly four years to complete.

You’ll take part in a range of classroom theory work as well as practical experience with patients.

After graduation from medical school, you can apply to become licensed as a medical doctor in your state.

The requirements differ slightly place to place, you can find out the specific requirements for you state at the Federation of State Medical Boards.

You’ll then be ready to complete your one year internship in a hospital, specializing in either medicine or surgery.

After this, you’ll need to complete a ophthalmology residency which can last between three and five years.

To become a certified ophthalmologist, you will need to register with the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Some ophthalmologists will also go on to complete a sub-specialty.

Ophthalmologist Job Description

When you become an ophthalmologist you will work to diagnose and treat disorders of the eye.

An ophthalmologist differs from many other field of medical specialty, as they provide both medical and surgical treatment for disease.

Many cases involve the prevention of blindness, or sometimes the rehabilitation of some conditions.

An ophthalmologist may work in a hospital, they may also work out of private consulting offices or day surgery centers.

Often, they divide their time between hospitals and a private office.

A typical day for an ophthalmologist could involve patient rounds, sessions with patients out of consulting rooms, surgery, and teaching.

Many in this field contribute to teaching, and often also to research in the field.

Some of the tasks of an ophthalmologist include:

  • Meeting with patients in a consulting room
  • Performing a rage of tests
  • Making a diagnosis
  • Making a treatment plan
  • Performing surgery
  • Performing patient rounds
  • Teaching medical students
  • Medical research

Ophthalmologist Salary and Career Path

When you first train to become an ophthalmologist, you will work closely with qualified professionals.

After your residency is complete you will start to work with your own patients.

You could be working out of a hospital, or your own consulting office.

You will also spend time completing surgeries from a day center or hospital.

Many ophthalmologists contribute to teaching and research as a part of their role, but some go on to pursue this full time.

Others may go on to senior management positions within medicine and health.

Others complete fellowships and attain sub-specialties.

The median wage for a specialist medical doctor is $338,000 a year.

Those working in private practice will have the ability to earn more than those in the public system.

Additional income can even be earned through teaching or research.

Some similar jobs to that of ophthalmologist that you might be interested in include:

  • Optometrist
  • Medical doctor
  • Surgeon
  • Neurologist
  • Medical researcher

If you are looking for a challenging role within the field of medicine then you might like to become an ophthalmologist.

While there is much work and responsibility involved, seeing the good results that you achieve through working with your patients can be very rewarding.

There is very secure employment available, as well as the ability to complete charitable work overseas, or to continue your professional development through teaching, research, or further education.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$203,450
$60K
$112K
$203K
$K
$K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$196,650
Alaska$258,550
Arizona$216,200
Arkansas$174,440
California$210,140
Colorado$220,710
Connecticut$208,310
Delaware$224,130
District of Columbia$182,120
Florida$212,780
Georgia$236,530
Hawaii$229,310
Idaho$234,390
Illinois$190,750
Indiana$244,980
Iowa$218,830
Kansas$182,180
Kentucky$225,240
Louisiana$193,670
Maine$251,930
Maryland$191,690
Massachusetts$186,040
Michigan$168,190
Minnesota$236,270
Mississippi$171,050
Missouri$205,580
Montana$247,720
Nebraska$177,080
Nevada$219,430
New Hampshire$257,220
New Jersey$207,440
New Mexico$229,770
New York$179,110
North Carolina$185,290
North Dakota$229,550
Ohio$213,930
Oklahoma$177,420
Oregon$195,930
Pennsylvania$198,750
Rhode Island$205,090
South Carolina$201,290
South Dakota$218,290
Tennessee$192,190
Texas$200,590
Utah$209,420
Vermont- NA -
Virginia$187,740
Washington$238,350
West Virginia$207,040
Wisconsin$246,060
Wyoming$225,190
Guam$217,300
Puerto Rico$96,980
Virgin Islands$137,810

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $258,550.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $258,550
New Hampshire - $257,220
Maine - $251,930
Montana - $247,720
Wisconsin - $246,060
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Physicians and Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric, OCC Code 29-1228, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing, treating and preventing vision problems and diseases of the eye.

They can treat all types of eye conditions, perform eye surgery and prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Ophthalmologists may also refer their patients to a specialist if, during an exam, they suspect possible illnesses unrelated to eyes.

Some ophthalmologists choose to specialize in a particular sub-field such as glaucoma treatment, pediatrics, or oculoplastic surgery.

Like all physicians, ophthalmologists need many years of training and a multitude of personal skills, including compassion, attention to detail, dexterity and communication skills.

As an ophthalmologist, you may have to work long hours in order to accommodate your patients’ needs.

QuestionHow much does an ophthalmologist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons, in general, was equal to or greater than $208,000 as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors and as an ophthalmologist, you can earn anywhere between less than $100,000 and more than $500,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists need a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, therefore they need to graduate from medical school or from a school of osteopathic medicine.

Four years of medical school will cost you, on average, somewhere around $120,000-$130,000 at a public college and more than $200,000 at a private college.

To be eligible for enrollment at a medical school or at a school of osteopathic medicine you first must earn your bachelor’s degree.

Pre-med bachelor’s degree programs cost, on average, around $40,000 per year but costs vary widely depending on the school you choose.

QuestionWhat is the demand for ophthalmologists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of physicians and surgeons is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2018 to 2028 but the demand varies depending on the physician’s specialty and the region.

Ophthalmologists who specialize in treating diseases that affect the elderly should have better job prospects.

Also, if you’re willing to relocate to a rural or underserved area you may have access to more job opportunities.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists need at least 12 years of training beyond high school.

This includes four years of college, four years of medical school, a three-year residency school and one year of fellowship.

Before applying to medical you will need to pass the Medical College Admission Test because the MCAT score will be submitted along with your application.

The competition for medical school admission is high and in order to have better chances of being accepted at a reputable school, you should have a high score at the MCAT.

An undergraduate program with pre-medicine coursework will help you prepare for the MCATs.

After finishing medical school and completing the residency period you will also need a state license.

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