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What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has undertaken additional specialist training in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the eye and visual system.

Ophthalmology training equips eye specialists to provide the full spectrum of eye care, including the prescription of glasses and contact lenses, medical treatment and complex microsurgery. This additional training makes them a medical specialist just like a cardiologist, anaesthetist, gastroenterologist or gynaecologist.

An ophthalmologist in Australia and New Zealand is required to have undertaken a minimum of 12 years of training, comprising:

  • 6-7 years at a medical school, graduating with a degree in medicine
  • 2 years (minimum) as a newly qualified doctor undertaking basic medical training
  • 5 years of ophthalmic specialist training and successful completion of examinations set by The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). This includes up to 12,000 hours of training including surgery.

Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research into causes and cures for eye diseases and vision problems. We at RANZCO are responsible for training, examining and representing medical practitioners in the specialty of ophthalmology through our Vocational Training Program (VTP), who upon completion of training, are equipped to undertake unsupervised ophthalmology practice.

Differences Between Ophthalmologists, Optometrists and Orthoptists



Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have taken additional specialist training in the diagnosis and management of eye disorders and disorders of the visual system.



Optometrists are eye care professionals who examine eyes, give advice on visual problems, and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. If eye disease is detected, we will refer patients to an ophthalmologist for further management.


Orthoptists are eye health care professionals who are trained to diagnose and manage disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems. They are also trained to perform investigative testing of eye diseases.



RANZCO’s informational brochure contains more information about the differences between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist to help you make an informed decision.

How do I Find an Ophthalmologist?

It is strongly advised that patients seek referral through a general practitioner or optometrist, who will be able to arrange either public or private eye care. RANZCO staff members are unable to recommend individual ophthalmologists to patients.

Last updated: July 23, 2019

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on which we live and work, and pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
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