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 training to be consultant ophthalmologists are trained in a variety of special interest areas and go on to make a career in one or more of the following:

  • Oculoplastics and Orbit
  • Cornea and Ocular Surface Disease
  • Cataract Surgery
  • Glaucoma
  • Uveitis
  • Medical Retina
  • Vitreoretinal Surgery
  • Ocular Motility
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Paediatric Ophthalmology
  • 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 the surgical workload of a general ophthalmologist may include squint and glaucoma surgery, oculoplastic and nasolacrimal surgery, cataract 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.

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 (OST)

NHS England, Severn PGME coordinate national recruitment into 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 queries should be made directly to the recruiting team either by ringing 01454 252610 or emailing [email protected]

2024 recruitment

Applications are now closed.  Please consult the person specification to review eligibility.

OST1 2024 recruitment

A new, competence-based OST Curriculum is due to launch in August 2024. To enable the transition to the new system, entry into OST is now only possible as ST1. The last possible opportunity of direct entry as OST3 was in August 2023.
From 2024, those applying for OST posts with prior experience will need to review the new guidelines to ensure they fulfil the requirements for application. Candidates will need to explore the Portfolio pathway (formerly known as CESR) to Specialist Registration if they have more than 30 months of ophthalmology experience.
All successful candidates to OST posts 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 (summer 2025), enabling progression to OST2 or a higher point dependent on the result of that exercise. Please visit OST Curriculum 2024 for further details.

National Recruitment Deanery Proforma Information

The College has, in the past, produced additional information by region to assist in made available.


Northern Ireland



Medical Ophthalmology

ST3 Medical Ophthalmology entry requirements changed in 2016. Trainees from an ophthalmology background – who completed OST2 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