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.

Essential Information

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.

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree in pre-medical studies
  • Program Length: Four years
  • Other Requirements: One year internship and three year residency program following graduation required

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 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.

Popular Career Options

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.

Continuing Education

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.

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.

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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