What does an ophthalmologist do?

Ophthalmologists take on patient referrals from optometrists when symptoms of eye disease are detected. They are able to diagnose diseases and disorders of the eye and visual system and recommend treatment options for their patients. Ophthalmologists can choose to work in a variety of settings, including hospital operating theatres, out-patient clinics or community care centres.


  • Operating specialist equipment including slit lamps, ophthalmoscopes, and lenses
  • Performing microsurgery on the eye
  • Providing diagnoses and treatment plans for eye diseases and disorders
  • Managing the care of patients with chronic eye disease
  • Working with other medical specialists, nurses and care providers

What skills do I need to be an ophthalmologist?

It’s useful to be detail oriented and well organised in your daily practice as an ophthalmologist, juggling many patient records and staying up to date on research. Hand-eye coordination is important for performing microsurgery and other treatments on patients, often in low-light conditions. As you will be working closely with different medical practitioners, nurses, patients and their families, it’s essential that you are an effective communicator.

  • Attention to detail and organisational skills
  • Able to perform well under pressure
  • Exceptional dexterity necessary to perform microsurgery
  • Interpersonal skills to communicate with patients and other medical practitioners
  • Strong research skills to develop your specialist knowledge


Ophthalmology is an interesting medical profession as it provides patients requiring both surgical intervention and non-invasive medical treatments. As your career progresses, you can elect to specialise your practice to suit your interests. Some ophthalmologists will specialise in oculoplastic and laser procedures, cataract surgery or specialise in other surgical work like vitreoretinal surgery. There are also options to work exclusively in research or consultancy.


Combining the fields of neurology and ophthalmology, a neuro-ophthalmologist deals with the neurology of vision. They focus their practice on diseases of the nervous system that affect vision, control of eye movements and eye reflexes. Neuro-ophthalmologists can choose to practice in a clinical or surgical setting, or work as consultants and researchers in this field.

Ocular genetics

This sub-specialty of ophthalmology deals with inherited eye disease, examining the genetic mutations that cause them and how to best prevent and treat them in patients. Ophthalmologists working in this field are tasked with communicating the complexities of inherited eye disease, offering diagnoses and prognoses to patients and recommending appropriate therapies. There are many research opportunities in this area of medicine.

Paediatric ophthalmology

Paediatric ophthalmologists specialise in eye care for children and young people, often working closely with orthopists in monitoring the visual development of children. They are crucial in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders that appear in childhood such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (squint) and others. Working with children presents its own set of challenges, ophthalmologists must be patient and able to identify signs and symptoms of eye problems that children are often not able to vocalise.

Study pathways for ophthalmologists

Ophthalmology requires a minimum of twelve years of tertiary study, first attaining a medical degree, completing internship and residency as a doctor and then undertaking further specialist study as an ophthalmologist.

Getting Started

Find courses in health to put you on the path to a rewarding career.

Skill Building

Take the next step, gain useful experience and nationally recognised qualifications in health.

Professional Development

Explore options for continuing your education and working towards your professional goals.

Industry Recognition

Practicing ophthalmologists will receive their certification from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists following successful completion of their examinations.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your ophthalmology career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for ophthalmology jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

There is a high demand for ophthalmologists, especially in remote and rural areas. Projections predict growth in this field over the coming years.