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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 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.




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




We 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.




We are eye health care professionals who are trained to diagnose and manage disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems. We 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.


We, here at RANZCO, are unable to recommend individual ophthalmologists to patients. 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. You can search for an ophthalmologist in your area using the 'Find an Ophthalmologist' feature on the right-hand side of this page, however you will need to pop into see your GP or optometrist for a referral. If you are experiencing an emergency please visit your nearest hospital.