An ophthalmologist is a medical professional that diagnoses, treats, and researches eye and vision problems. They specialize in providing preventative and current treatments for eye diseases and problems with vision.
Some ophthalmologists can also perform surgery on the eye when it is necessary to treat disease and vision obstructions.
In short, ophthalmologists are highly dedicated, skilled eye professionals who can help you relieve eye pain and discomfort.
Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor that has graduated from medical school. Ophthalmology is a specialty in medical practice. This means that doctors who graduate from medical school specifically choose ophthalmology as their field. They are qualified to perform surgery on the eye and the surrounding areas if necessary.
Optometrists attend specialized optometry schools to obtain their Doctor of Optometry degree. This is different from a general medical doctor degree, although optometrists are still extensively trained.
After four years of optometry school, optometrists are required to have three additional years of college education.
There are some key differences between the two types of eye professionals. Below is a summary of the similarities and differences between ophthalmologists and optometrists.
Optometrists are responsible for:
- Correcting vision
- Prescribing proper eyewear
- Prescribing some medications for eye issues
- Performing eye exams
- Detecting eye disease and injury
These are daily tasks for an optometrist. Their primary focus is on correcting a patient’s vision so they can see clearly and painlessly.
An ophthalmologist is qualified to:
- Perform eye surgery
- Prescribe medications
- Diagnose eye diseases
- Treat eye problems
- Prescribe eyewear
- Fit eyewear
- Correct vision problems
- Specialize in a specific eye disease
Since ophthalmologists are medical doctors, their range of tasks is far broader than an optometrist’s duties. However, they both work to correct vision and provide patients with comfortable eyewear.
Like many other medical doctors, ophthalmologists have options for their practices. They can choose to practice privately, which means that they are the primary authority in their office.
Other ophthalmologists choose group practice, while still others may choose public service. Each type of practice has benefits and disadvantages.
An ophthalmologist can choose to own a private practice. Private practice gives the ophthalmologist a lot of freedom over their facility. They can handle business decisions on the back end while also treating patients each day. There is also a lot more schedule flexibility in private practice.
Along with freedom and authority, private practices generally operate on a much smaller scale than a hospital or public practice. This means that ophthalmologists see fewer patients per day and can dedicate more quality time to each patient individually.
Public ophthalmology practice can look different depending on the setting. For example, some ophthalmologists work at universities to teach students proper practices. Others may work for the local VA to provide services to those who are desperately in need.
Ophthalmologist Education Requirements
To become an ophthalmologist, an individual must follow the educational pathway of a medical doctor.
Typical ophthalmology students journey into the profession as follows:
- Bachelor’s degree (four years)
- Medical school (four years)
- Residency and training (three to four years minimum)
- Own a practice or become permanently employed
Students can choose a variety of bachelor’s degree majors to be admitted into medical school. It is smart to choose majors that involve science, like biology or human anatomy.
Earnings for ophthalmologists vary greatly by location. However, the national median salary for ophthalmologists is $303,119. This means about 50% of ophthalmologists make at or below this salary in the United States.
The national average is about $188,062 annually. This takes all reported salaries into account and averages them to give an accurate representation of the baseline ophthalmologist salary.
However, ophthalmologist salaries can range anywhere from $98,000 to $700,000 annually. It depends heavily on the location of practice, the ophthalmologist’s experience level, and other factors.
A Rewarding Career
Ophthalmology has many benefits as a career pathway. The job helps people see clearly and live without eye pain. There is a lot more flexibility and less stress than some other medical specialties.
Ophthalmology is a great career choice for those who want to help people see clearly and comfortably.