Ophthalmology Training Programs and Requirements

Ophthalmology is the study of the structure, function and diseases of the eye. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of eye disease through surgery.

Training Requirements and Recommendations

The path to becoming an ophthalmologist requires an undergraduate degree with a pre-med emphasis, four years of medical school and a residency program in the field. Certification and continuing education are available and encouraged for practicing ophthalmologists.

Formal Education

Most students interested in becoming an ophthalmologist begin their career by completing a bachelor's degree that includes some science courses in the curriculum. Students must then complete a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program in order to begin practicing. Students may also pursue an advanced, scientific degree in the field, such as the Doctor of Philosophy in Ophthalmology.

Doctor of Medicine

The Doctor of Medicine is a 4-year degree program that is designed to prepare students to practice medicine. Students study a wide range of topics, including gross anatomy, neurobiology and pathology. Clinical rotations also form part of the curriculum, which give students the chance to experience several forms of medicine first-hand. Prospective ophthalmologists take general classes in the first two years and then may focus their studies in years three and four.

Doctor of Philosophy in Ophthalmology

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Ophthalmology is often offered in tandem with an M.D. program. The Ph.D. program is designed for students who wish to pursue an academic or scholarly career in the field. The curriculum of such a program is based in research and students are required to complete and defend an original thesis before graduating. Most Ph.D. students spend some of their time teaching undergraduate classes.

Job Experience

After graduating from an M.D. program, ophthalmology students must complete a 1-year internship. This is followed by a 3-year residency program which allows them the chance to work closely with patients and gain valuable eye disorder diagnosis and treatment experience. An additional 1-2 years of training is required if one decides to specialize.

Licenses and Certifications

The American Board of Ophthalmology offers a certification process for ophthalmologists. In order to be eligible, students must have completed an M.D. program, 1-year internship and a residency program of at least 36 months. Ophthalmologists must pass a written and oral exam in order to become certified by the board.

Workshops and Seminars

Because the technology associated with ophthalmology is constantly improving, workshops that address these common advances are often available. Seminars may discuss laser treatment skills or ways to control ophthalmology costs.

Additional Professional Development

In order to maintain certification, ophthalmologists must complete approximately 30 credits of continuing medical education from an accredited institution each year. Ophthalmologists may study specialized topics in the field, including oculoplastics, pediatric ophthalmology and refractive surgery.

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