Ophthalmologists are able to choose from a variety of exciting and challenging work environments. Many ophthalmologists go into private practice, sometimes by themselves, but more commonly in a small group. These small group practices are either multispecialty practices, or single-specialty practices. Other ophthalmologists choose to work at universities and medical schools, teaching and conducting research. An academic career offers the clinical exposure of a private practice combined with the opportunity to perform more unusual surgeries. Usually, academic careers provide the opportunity to teach, as well as handle administrative duties. The additional responsibilities of teaching and running a department are time-consuming, but rewarding.
There are no shortcuts to entering the medical profession. Requirements are an M.D. or D.O. degree, a licensing examination, a one- or two-year internship, and a period of residency usually lasting three years.
Upon completing this program, which may take nine years or more, ophthalmologists are then ready to enter practice. They may choose to open a solo private practice, enter a partnership practice, enter a group practice, or take a salaried job with a managed-care facility or hospital. Salaried positions are also available with federal and state agencies, the military, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, and private companies. Teaching and research jobs are usually obtained after other experience is acquired.
Job-seekers should check out the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Ophthalmology Job Center, https://secure.aao.org/aao/ophthjobs for job listings. Visit https://www.usajobs.gov for job opportunities with the federal government.
Ophthalmologists advance in their careers by keeping current with new technologies, medications, and techniques. Publishing articles in respected medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and Ophthalmology, is another avenue for professional enhancement. Many ophthalmologists combine research and teaching with a private practice. Others work as professors at universities or teaching hospitals and may advance to an administrative position as the head of a university or hospital ophthalmology department.
Tips for Entry
To get an idea of the wide range of conditions an ophthalmologist may encounter, read up on opthalmology in a good encyclopedia and find out more on common eye problems that many of us have heard about or experienced, such as nearsightedness, conjunctivitis (often called "pinkeye"), glaucoma, and cataracts.
Investigate some of the areas an ophthalmologist may specialize in, such as ocular immunology, vitreoretinal diseases, ophthalmic plastic surgery, and pediatric ophthalmology.
Contact a local ophthalmologist to arrange for an information interview. Create a list of questions about the profession to bring to the interview.