Ophthalmology Sciences Degree Program Overviews

Ophthalmology scientists either assist doctors in or facilitate the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and injuries of the eyes. Ophthalmology sciences can be studied through undergraduate degree programs and professional residencies.

Essential Information

Various facets of ophthalmology sciences can be studied by undergraduate and professional students. At the undergraduate level, associate degree programs are available that can prepare individuals for support positions such as ophthalmic technician. These individuals are responsible for such tasks as charting patients' medical history information, maintaining and calibrating equipment, testing eye movements and assisting in eye surgeries.

At a much higher level of study, doctors can complete a residency in ophthalmology to become ophthalmologists. Unlike optometrists and opticians, ophthalmologists can diagnose and treat eye diseases and disorders, and they are capable of performing optical surgery. Medical residencies in ophthalmology science include many clinical rotations in eye care and surgery, among other treatment areas. The prerequisites for a residency include completion of medical school.

Associate of Science in Ophthalmic Technology

Ophthalmic technicians work in doctor's offices as medical support staff, assisting patients with contact lens and eyeglass fittings, operating ophthalmic screening devices and assisting with surgical procedures. Most ophthalmic technology programs are offered through community colleges, technical schools and vocational schools, and they take 1-2 years to complete. Many colleges offer classes during nights and weekends, so students can work while completing their degree.

Ophthalmic technology associate degree programs generally only require applicants to hold a high school diploma a GED. Some schools have individual entrance examinations for medical-related programs.

While ophthalmic technicians play no role in the diagnosis of eye conditions or the prescription of treatment, students explore anatomy and physiology as well as studying conditions which affect the eye, such as glaucoma. Students also study the proper use of ophthalmologic scanning equipment.

  • Ophthalmic photography
  • Operation of diagnostic equipment
  • Ophthalmic ultrasound
  • Infection control and sanitation
  • Medical terminology
  • Surgical assisting

Ophthalmology Residency

Medical professionals trained in ophthalmology can be either Doctors of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.), but all must attend medical school and complete ophthalmology residencies before practicing. While basic medical school training does not include an entire rotation on ophthalmology, students may enter residency programs in the discipline after graduation. During residency, ophthalmology students go through seven or eight subspecialty rotations, and may specialize further in one of these areas or practice as a general doctor of ophthalmology.

In order to be accepted to an ophthalmology residency, candidates must have already graduated from medical school. Medical school graduates are assigned to residency programs by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP); departments of ophthalmology don't generally accept residency applications directly.

Ophthalmology residencies generally last three years. Residents learn various aspects of surgery and medical practice over the first two years, culminating by the third year in greater independence as a practitioner of ophthalmic medicine.

  • Refractive surgery
  • Pre- and post-operative care
  • Cataract extraction
  • Plastic surgery and orbital reconstruction
  • Biopsy of the eye
  • Disease diagnosis and treatment

Popular Career Options

While graduates of ophthalmic technician programs are especially well-suited to work in doctor's offices, their training also applies for work in opticians' and optometrists' offices.

  • Ophthalmic technician
  • Optician or optometrist assistant
  • Surgical assistant
  • Ophthalmic ultrasound operator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ophthalmologists are considered a part of the overall physician career field; BLS does not keep track of ophthalmologists' salary and employment potential separately from other medical specialties. As a whole, job opportunities for physicians and surgeons are expected to increase 14% for the decade 2014-2024. O*Net Online reports that ophthalmologists a median salary of $187,200 annually in 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Ophthalmologists can specialize in a concentration area of the field, which are each touched upon during the 3-year residency process. Specialties include corneal and refractive surgery, plastic surgery of the orbital and eye, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, pediatric ophthalmology and ocular oncology.

With highly specific career specializations within ophthalmology, associate's degree programs and professional residencies are available for individuals interested in this field of medicine.

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