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Summary of occupation

An ophthalmologist is both physician and surgeon who diagnoses, treats and prevents diseases of the eye. The surgical work of the general ophthalmologist may include cataract extraction, squint and glaucoma surgery, retinal, oculoplastic and nasolacrimal surgery.

There are approximately 60 ophthalmologists in Western Australia. The majority are based in Perth however are small percent base themselves in major regional centres.

ANZSCO description: Provides diagnostic, treatment and preventative medical services related to diseases, injuries and deficiencies of the human eye and associated structures. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Eye Specialist, Eye Surgeon, Medical Ophthalmologist
Specialisations: Clinical Cytopathologist, Forensic Pathologist, Immunologist
Job prospects: Good
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An ophthalmologist needs:

  • intellect to demonstrate thorough knowledge of ophthalmology and the inter-relationships between medical disciplines
  • hand-eye dexterity
  • to be detail oriented and well organised
  • to be a team player with leadership capabilities
  • to perform well under stress
  • to be personable and patient
  • able to communicate and empathise with patients
  • to enjoy working with patients of all ages who are generally healthy with specific eye problems
  • to like a patient mix of both surgical and medical problems
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Working conditions

Ophthalmologists can work in operating theatres, out- patient clinics and increasingly in community care settings. There may be extensive periods when an ophthalmologist works in low level lighting.

There may be times when an ophthalmologist is required to work extra hours and be on-call although out of hours work is generally not as demanding as other specialities and night work is not typical.

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Salary details

An ophthalmologist can expect to earn between $2 692 and $7 692 per week ($140 000 and $400 000 a year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. 

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Tools and technologies

Ophthalmology continues to incorporate new technology including optical instrumentation, lasers and microsurgical instrumentation. The advances in technology, drugs and techniques have led to development of new process and a rapidly changing job role.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an ophthalmologist, you must first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in ophthalmology.

In Western Australia, postgraduate courses in medicine are offered by the University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and attend an interview at your chosen institution. 

Contact the universities you are interested in for more information as requirements may change.

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To then specialise in ophthalmology, doctors can apply to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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