As it turns out, it doesn't take an engineering degree to spend a work day using lasers. Ophthalmologists performed an estimated 800,000 surgeries to correct vision in 2010, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This number includes the increasingly popular LASIK surgery used to correct vision and free patients from the need to wear corrective lenses. Lasers aside, a career in ophthalmology offers the opportunity to diagnose and treat a variety of eye conditions.
According to the American College of Surgeons, a career as an ophthalmologist requires a minimum of 12 years of education and training. Students must first take four years of undergraduate pre-medical study, followed by four years of medical study. The students then specialize in three years of ophthalmology training, followed by a one-year internship. Specialties within ophthalmology require additional training of one to two years per specialty.
Responsibilities and the Working Week
Ophthalmologists are specialists. They usually only see patients who have been referred to them by a primary care physician or optometrist. They frequently treat patients suffering from glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, crossed eyes, and complications arising from diabetes. They also correct vision through surgery. And how much do they work? According to Loyola University, ophthalmologists usually work Monday through Friday and perform one or two surgeries per week. Most ophthalmology patients can be treated without resorting to surgery, and many ophthalmologists see 30 or more patients a day.
According to a salary survey conducted by Mercer's in 2012, ophthalmologists are among the highest-paid specialists in medicine. Mercer's reported that ophthalmologists working in the United States earned a median base salary of $628,260 and a total compensation of $748,340. The highest-paid 25 percent of ophthalmologists reportedly earned a base salary of $730,840 or more and a total compensation package of $779,290 or more.
According to website Healio.com, the aging population is behind the increasing demand for procedures, such as corrective vision surgery and cataract surgery. While demand for ophthalmologists has increased, the number of ophthalmologists who graduate each year -- about 400 -- has stayed the same. Healio.com estimates that about 55 ophthalmologists are currently practicing for every 100,000 people. Because ophthalmology is a surgical specialty facing a growing nationwide shortage, graduating ophthalmologists should have excellent employment prospects for the foreseeable future.
- American College of Surgeons: Ophthalmology
- Loyola University Chicago: Ophthalmology Look Book
- Healio: Growing Demand for Eye Care Services May Highlight Shortage of Ophthalmologists
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: Eye Health Statistics at a Glance
- Becker's Hospital Review: 6 Statistics on Hospital Ophthalmologist Compensation
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