Ophthalmologist Degrees and Education Requirements
A career in ophthalmology is the culmination of a carefully chosen academic path, usually embarked upon early in a student's career. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and must attend medical school in order to practice.
M.D. with Residency in Ophthalmology
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in treating and diagnosing ailments of the eye. Such problems can include diseases like cataracts or glaucoma; injuries; and problems with vision, like farsightedness. Ophthalmologists have more specialized training in the eye than family doctors and, contrary to optometrists, have completed medical school and have a knowledge of general medicine and surgery. Because of this training, ophthalmologists often get referrals of patients with serious eye disorders from optometrists and family physicians.
In order to become an ophthalmologist, students must attend medical school and specialize in ophthalmology. Students typically complete four years of medical school and then take on three years of residency in a hospital.
Many medical school programs in ophthalmology advise students to enroll in pre-ophthalmology or pre-optometry bachelor's degree programs. These programs are usually rigorous and prepare students to take the Optometry College Admission Test. These programs usually contain at least one year of biology, chemistry, physics, math and physiology. Microbiology and statistics are also parts of most programs.
Coursework in a medical school program includes general health studies, such as anatomy and physiology. Aspiring ophthalmologists will also learn about:
- Retcam retinal imaging
- Automated analysis of visual fields
- Strabismus surgery
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2012, those in the all other physicians and surgeons category, including ophthalmologists, earned a mean annual salary of $184,820. In 2010, the BLS predicted that employment of physicians and surgeons, which includes ophthalmologists, would grow 24% through 2020.
Ph.D. in Ophthalmology
Master's degrees in ophthalmology are almost always awarded as parts of M.D. or Ph.D. programs, and Ph.D programs are often parts of dual degree programs offering both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. Doctorate degrees in ophthalmology are best for students who already have a medical degree or wish to pursue a medical degree simultaneously. Graduates of these programs also usually have an interest in teaching and doing academic research.
Educational prerequisites vary by school, but generally include a bachelor's degree and minimum GPA. Most Ph.D. programs will expect applicants to have some experience with ophthalmology or optometry, including previous coursework in math, science and anatomy.
One important component to nearly all ophthalmology programs is a teaching component, in which students either teach undergraduate science courses or assist tenured professors. Here are some courses common to most ophthalmology Ph.D programs:
- Vision research
- Computer science
Popular Career Options
In addition to working in a hospital or medical office as an ophthalmologist, graduates of Ph.D. programs can work as:
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