What Is an Ophthalmologist? (With Primary Duties and Salary)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 18 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Ophthalmologists are responsible for treating patients with various vision-related problems. They have advanced degrees in ophthalmology and may work in hospitals or have independent clinics. By understanding the work and responsibilities of an ophthalmologist, you can make an informed decision on whether you want to pursue this career. In this article, we discover the answer to the question of, "What is an ophthalmologist?", find out their job requirements, educational qualifications, salary and how to become one.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

What Is An Ophthalmologist?

To better understand the answer to, "What is an ophthalmologist?", it's beneficial to review their job duties. An ophthalmologist is a medical professional who diagnoses and treats human eye and vision problems. They carry out eye examinations and vision tests and use the results to diagnose and treat eye infections, diseases and disorders. They are also qualified to perform eye surgeries and provide patients with post-surgery treatment.

What Does An Ophthalmologist Do?

An ophthalmologist may perform any of the following tasks on an everyday basis:

  • Conduct a comprehensive eye test of patients and assess their vision

  • Check the response of pupils to light and the alignment of the eyes

  • Examine the condition of the retina, eye muscles and optic nerve

  • Order specialised tests and imaging examinations such as eye ultrasonography, corneal topography and fluorescein angiography

  • Look for signs of cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, eye infection and other eye disorders

  • Prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision

  • Provide oral and topical medication to treat eye diseases

  • Undertake eye surgery and treatments like cryotherapy and chemotherapy

  • Maintain detailed medical histories for patients and advise them on proper eye care

Related: What Is Optometry? A Comprehensive Guide

Medical Specialisations For Ophthalmologists

Some ophthalmologists may choose to specialise in specific ophthalmology fields that focus on parts of the eyes or certain diseases. These subspecialties include the following:

  • Anterior segment surgery

  • Cataract and refractive surgery

  • Corneal and external diseases

  • Glaucoma

  • Oculoplastic and orbit surgery

  • Neuro-ophthalmology

  • Pediatric ophthalmology

  • Vitreoretinal diseases

Skills For Ophthalmologists

An ophthalmologist can benefit from developing the following skills:

Communication skills

An ophthalmologist requires excellent verbal, listening and written skills for communicating well with their medical staff and patients. With excellent communication, they can give clear instructions to their staff and reduce the chances of medical errors that may happen due to miscommunication. They can also better understand the eye problems their patients are suffering and find appropriate treatment procedures.

Empathetic attitude

Ophthalmologists can treat patients of different ages and backgrounds, and it is necessary for them to build trusting relationships with these patients. By taking an attentive and empathetic attitude towards their patients, they may find it easier to explain vision problems, calm the patients and reduce their anxiety. They may also be able to get them to follow the appropriate treatments for their eye disorders or diseases.

Focus and dexterity

Good vision and eye and hand coordination are necessary for examining patients and performing eye surgeries. Being able to focus and pay attention to detail are also important qualities for ophthalmologists. They require these skills for conducting eye examinations and diagnosing eye disorders or diseases. These skills are also important for providing medical treatments, including surgery. It is essential for them to be able to work efficiently and without distraction.

Technical proficiency

Ophthalmologists may perform corrective surgeries, such as repairing the cornea and removing cataracts. They may also do advanced surgical procedures such as laser or keyhole surgeries. By having technical expertise, an ophthalmologist can perform these tasks efficiently. They can also keep up with new medical technologies to utilise them in eye and vision treatments.


An ophthalmologist requires excellent organisation and time management skills to manage their office, staff and finances and to keep scheduled appointments with their patients. Being organised can enable them to maintain accurate medical records of their patients and keep track of their treatments. They can also make time to follow new research and developments in ophthalmology, attend medical conferences, update their medical skills and gain new knowledge.

Related: An In-Depth Guide To Professionalism

How To Become An Ophthalmologist

You can become an ophthalmologist by taking the following steps:

1. Complete 10+2

It is essential to pass the 10+2 Higher Secondary Certification (HSC) examination in the science stream from a recognised board. You can select physics, chemistry and biology or physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics and English as core subjects. Since admissions to medical colleges can be competitive, many colleges only accept students that score above the minimally required 55% marks.

2. Pass college entrance exams

Medical colleges in India require you to pass the competitive National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) course. Students who have passed the 12th HSC exam and are over 17 years of age are eligible for the exam. There is currently no upper age limit for taking the NEET exam and also no restriction on the number of times you can appear for it before passing.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts this examination in 11 Indian languages, and students get 30 questions each from physics, chemistry and biology. Your test scores determine whether you get admission to a medical college for the MBBS programme.

3. Earn an MBBS degree

The MBBS course consists of four and a half years of academic education and one year of mandatory medical internship. The course has 19 medical subjects, and that includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, microbiology, forensic science and community medicine. To be considered a doctor, all students are required to pass their MBBS programme.

Related: How To Become A Doctor (With 6 Steps You Can Follow)

4. Clear post graduation entrance tests

After completing the MBBS course, you are eligible to take admission to the post-graduate courses in ophthalmology. To have a medical practice, it may be necessary for you to undergo national level and state level counselling and pass any of the following post-graduate entrance tests:

  • National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for Post-Graduation (NEET PG)

  • All India Institute of Medical Sciences for Post-Graduation (AIIMS PG)

  • Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research for Post-Graduation (JIPMER PG)

5. Finish post graduation in ophthalmology

Once you have cleared the post-graduation entrance test, you can gain admission to any of the following ophthalmology courses:

  • Master of Surgery (MS) in Ophthalmology

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Ophthalmology

  • Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery (DOMD)

MS in Ophthalmology and Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery are both two-year courses, while the duration of MD in Ophthalmology is three years.

6. Participate in an internship in ophthalmology

You can pursue an internship to improve your skills and enhance your clinical knowledge of ophthalmology. Internships can range in duration from three to eight weeks to one year. They can provide you with knowledge of standard operating procedures, various processes and training in working with different patients. You can begin working full-time as an ophthalmologist after completing the internship.

Related: What Are Internships And How Do You Find One?

7. Find an ophthalmology job

You can find ophthalmologist jobs on online job sites, hospital or clinic websites, professional networking sites and social media. Prepare a well-presented cover letter and resume and customise it for every job application you send. Reading each job advertisement with care, noting the keywords and key phrases used and including them in your application, can be helpful. Many employers use applicant tracking system software to process applications, and having the right keywords can improve your chances of getting selected. You can also benefit from compiling and practising answering frequently asked interview questions.

Related: How To Crack A Job Interview

What is the work environment of an ophthalmologist?

The work environment of an ophthalmologist can vary depending on whether they work in a hospital, in a group practice or their own clinic. They generally keep regular office hours, and much of their work involves sitting or standing to examine patients and provide the necessary medical treatments. Ophthalmologists who work in hospitals or group practices may work in shifts or be on call overnight and during weekends. Ophthalmologists with their own practice can generally schedule their own work hours.

Some ophthalmologists may work as medical consultants, clinical data analysts and clinical assistants. You may undertake medical research to find causes and cures for various eye diseases and vision problems. You can also teach in medical colleges or accept speaking engagements on eye-related medical topics.

What Is The Average Salary Of An Ophthalmologist?

The national average salary for ophthalmologist jobs in India is ₹96,220 per month. The exact pay scale may depend on location, the employer, educational qualifications, experience and skills. Senior ophthalmologists and those with established medical practices can generally have higher earnings.

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