Become an Ophthalmologist

Ophthalmology is a vibrant and diverse medical and surgical specialty. Find out what's involved and the diversity of career options for an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmology is a small but highly competitive medical and surgical specialty, dealing with diverse ophthalmological problems and a wide range of patients from premature babies to the older population. Working alongside other professional colleagues, you will have the chance to offer sight-saving microsurgical or pharmacological treatments to patients of all ages, along with sub-specialty work in rare diseases.

Doctors in training to be a consultant ophthalmologist will train in a variety of sub-specialties and go on to make a career in one or more of the following:

  • Cornea and anterior segment
  • Medical retina
  • Glaucoma
  • Oculoplastic surgery
  • Paediatric ophthalmology
  • Medical ophthalmology
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Academic research
  • Vitreoretinal Surgery
  • Ocular Motility
  • Urgent Eye Care
  • Community Ophthalmology.

I became an ophthalmologist because it allowed me to blend medicine and surgery in a highly technical environment and in a discipline which is evolving. I wanted the challenge of learning new skills and knowledge and the satisfaction of highly effective treatments.

Kavita Aggarwal

What to expect as an ophthalmologist

Whilst a general ophthalmologist’s surgical workload may include squint and glaucoma surgery, oculoplastic and nasolacrimal surgery, cataract surgery is the most commonly known eye condition that ophthalmologists deal with.  Many of the population will need cataract surgery at some point in their lifetime. Because of the diversity of eye disease and patients, ophthalmologists may discuss a patient’s care and co-morbidities involving many other areas of medicine such as diabetes, rheumatology, neurology, ENT and maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, paediatrics and genetics.  Read the short career guide So you want to be an Ophthalmologist? for more information.

Another important part of the patient care involves partnerships with other professions that ensure a joined up approach across primary and secondary care. Find out about who else is involved in ophthalmology.

The road to qualification is challenging, but there are plenty of rewards and career routes to pursue, including academic research.

Find out more about our Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST) Curriculum

National Recruitment for Ophthalmic Specialist Training

Health Education South West (Severn) coordinate national recruitment into Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST) on behalf of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

Candidates are able to preference all available posts across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

All enquiries should be made directly to the recruiting team either by ringing 01454 252610 or emailing [email protected]

2023 recruitment

Please follow the links below for further information about the 2023 recruitment process:

OST1 2023 recruitment

OST3 2023 recruitment

Update on OST3

The launch of the new Ophthalmology OST Curriculum will be in August 2024. To enable the transition and starting of this new competence-based system, entry into OST will be at ST1 level only from 2024. This means that the last entry at ST3 level will be at interviews in March 2023 to start in post from August 2023.
Those applying for OST Training from 2024 onward with prior experience will need to review the new guidelines, which will be published nearer to the time, to ensure they fulfil the requirements for application. Candidates will need to explore the CESR route to Specialist Registration if they have more than 30 months of ophthalmology experience.
All successful candidates to Ophthalmology Specialty training from 2024 will have any prior ophthalmic experience and competencies mapped against the new curriculum to Level 1,2 and/ or 3. This will be assessed at the first ARCP enabling progression to ST2 or a higher point dependent on that exercise. Please click OST Curriculum 2024 for further details.

National Recruitment Deanery Proforma Information

The College has produced additional information by region for trainees applying for National Recruitment to assist in deciding on preference. Please select each region for detailed information:


Northern Ireland



Medical Ophthalmology

There was a change to the ST3 Medical Ophthalmology entry requirements in 2016. Trainees from an ophthalmology background – who completed ST2 and passed the FRCOphth Part 1 by August 2016 – may be eligible to apply. Successful applicants enter at ST3 level but complete a period of core medical training as part of their programme.

More information about medical ophthalmology


OST Curriculum

Find out what to expect from the Ophthalmic Specialist Training Curriculum

Ophthalmic Specialist Training Curriculum