How to become an Ophthalmologist
Job Duties of an Ophthalmologist
Skills and Qualities of Ophthalmologists
Ophthalmologist Salaries
Influential Professionals in the Ophthalmologist Field
Leading Ophthalmologist Organizations
Top Cities for Ophthalmology Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Ophthalmologist

After graduation from high school, formal training to become an ophthalmologist involves four years of college, then four years of medical school plus one year of internship and at least three years at a hospital residency program.

The arduous training ensures that an ophthalmologist is ready to perform a variety of techniques including surgical procedures during their practice.

The term 'ophthalmologist' is sometimes confused with 'optician' and 'optometrist'. An optician is neither trained nor responsible for any type of eye exam; they help a patient choose eyeglass frames and adjust them to fit correctly. An optometrist is a doctor who examines patients for various eye diseases or abnormal conditions. An ophthalmologist is the only professional in the field that is licensed to perform eye surgery.

What does an Ophthalmologist do?

An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. An ophthalmologist is licensed to practice both medicine and surgery.

As part of providing comprehensive eye care, ophthalmologists perform routine eye exams as part of the diagnosis process. They also prescribe and fit eye glasses and contact lenses.

Ophthalmologists can opt to specialize in many areas including the treatment of diseases such as glaucoma, or by choosing to specialize in dealing with adult patients or pediatrics. Others may specialize in a specific part of the eye like the cornea or retina. There are also ophthalmologists that specialize in plastic surgery of the eye and in veterinary ophthalmology.

An ophthalmologist is trained to perform surgical procedures that include laser, cataract and retinal disease surgery. An ophthalmologist may divide their time between their patient loads at a clinic with time performing surgery at a local hospital.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Ophthalmologist?

Good vision, a basic interest in science and a desire to help people is an integral part of the job. Becoming an ophthalmologist requires a keen eye for detail along with good manual dexterity and depth perception in order to perform delicate surgeries.

Ophthalmologists must be well coordinated, quick thinkers and able to pay a great attention to detail along with being committed to learning and continuous skill development.

Patient care and communication is very important as relationships will more than likely be formed on a long-term basis. Working as an ophthalmologist can be a rewarding experience as patients are usually very grateful for any help regarding their vision. It should be noted that much of an ophthalmologist's day is spent in the dark while examining patients which can become somewhat monotonous at times.

In the case of a private practice situation, an ophthalmologist needs to be a team player yet able to manage their own business at the same time. Skills in this area would include management, supervision, dealing with employees on all levels including hiring, firing and training, along with possessing leadership skills in order to motivate and develop the team.

However, with these added responsibilities also comes the opportunity to adapt your practice to fit your own lifestyle. As compared to a regular medical doctor, ophthalmologists are rarely called upon for emergencies, and so regular office hours from Monday to Friday are the norm.

Ophthalmologists are able to mix a combination of medicine with surgery practice, which gives a variety to the job. A true desire to help people and enjoyment of working with others will help lead to a successful career in ophthalmology.

What do Ophthalmologists make?

An ophthalmologist, like any other professional, makes different salaries depending upon their place of employment, geographical area and applicable skills. The median salary for an ophthalmologist in the United States is currently $202,133 annually. The salary for an ophthalmologist with 1-2 years experience is $138,000, with 3 or more years is $314,000, to a maximum projected salary of $511,000.

If an ophthalmologist chooses to specialize in retinal diseases, for example, the salaries increase to $280,000 for 1-2 years experience and then to $469,000 for 3 or more years, to a maximum of $716,000.

These base salaries do not include benefits supplied by many employers such as health & dental insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, life insurance or a retirement savings plan.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Dr. J. Donald M. Gass (1929-2005) was a world-renowned ophthalmologist who won the Helen Keller Prize for visual research in 2001. In the 1970's Dr. Gass authored an unprecedented book on retinal diseases that is still in use today.

Dr. Marshall M. Parks (1918-2005) was another influential ophthalmologist who was considered by many to be the pioneer of pediatric ophthalmology. During his legacy he trained 160 doctors to specialize in this field.

Dr. Arnall Patz, of the Johns-Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the ophthalmology field. Dr. Patz has published over 250 scientific publications as well as 4 textbooks. In 2006 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends in the Blindness field.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

Four of the leading organizations in the ophthalmology field include The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO), the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) and the Cornea Society.

The Glaucoma Foundation is the top not-for-profit organization in the United States that is committed to fighting glaucoma while researching treatments and cures. There are over 3 million Americans and 67 million people worldwide that suffer from this disease.

What are the top cities for Ophthalmology jobs?

As the healthcare industry continues to expand, there is a consistent demand for ophthalmologists. The states of California, Florida and Texas consistently have a high demand for ophthalmologists while the cities of Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami are hot spots.

Ophthalmologists from the baby-boomer generation will soon be reaching retirement age and there will be many jobs for younger ophthalmologists to take over the work or practices from those retiring. The employment outlook for ophthalmologists is expected to grow until the year 2014.

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