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Ophthalmologist Job Description, Career as an Ophthalmologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College, medical school, and specialized medical training

Salary: Median—$199,423 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Ophthalmologists are physicians who diagnose and treat diseases of the eye, including glaucoma and cataracts; vision problems such as nearsightedness; and eye injuries. Optometrists and family doctors often refer patients with serious eye conditions to ophthalmologists. Because of their extensive training, ophthalmologists can often link eye problems to other disorders. For example, they are sometimes the first to detect brain tumors, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.

Ophthalmologists use a variety of instruments, including ophthalmoscopes, which enable them to see the inner part of the eye. They can prescribe medicine, contact lenses, and eyeglasses. Sometimes they recommend eye exercises. When necessary, they perform surgery, which may involve removing a piece of Ophthalmologists use a variety of instruments to examine the eyes. (Royalty-Free/Open Door/Acclaim Images Stock Photography. Reproduced by permission.) glass embedded in the eye or transplanting a cornea (the transparent covering of the iris and pupil). Because the eye is so small, ophthalmologists usually operate with the help of microscopes and magnifying lenses. They must work with great care.

Most ophthalmologists have private practices, although some work in hospitals, health agencies, and medical colleges. Others are teachers or researchers.

Education and Training Requirements

Ophthalmologists need extensive training after high school: four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and three years of training as hospital residents in ophthalmology. After their internships, students take a series of exams to become licensed to practice general medicine. After their residencies, ophthalmologists must pass exams and other requirements for certification in their specialty.

Getting the Job

Placement services at medical schools can usually refer graduates to established doctors who are hiring associates; many ophthalmologists begin their careers as associates. Others work as salaried employees of hospitals or government agencies. Professional organizations and journals may also have job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Ophthalmologists usually advance by expanding their practices. Some may specialize in one disease or disorder, such as the detachment of the retina, or in one kind of eye care, such as ophthalmology for children or elderly people. Others become teachers or researchers at colleges and universities.

Employment of physicians and surgeons in general is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. The demand for ophthalmologists should increase because of a larger elderly population and extended health-care benefits.

Working Conditions

Most ophthalmologists work in private practice, with regularly scheduled hours in their offices and in operating rooms. Emergencies are rare, so ophthalmologists keep more regular hours than general medical practitioners. Ophthalmologists must keep up with new developments in their field, however, so they often spend extra hours studying, researching, and attending seminars.

Ophthalmology is an important, respected profession. It requires high intelligence, good depth perception, and excellent coordination.

Where to Go for More Information

American Academy of Ophthalmology
PO Box 7424
San Francisco, CA 94120-7424
(415) 561-8500

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary with experience, skill, and location. In 2006 the median salary for ophthalmologists was $199,423. Those in private practice provided their own benefits. Benefits for salaried ophthalmologists included paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

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