Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have completed medical school and embark on a training schedule that generally lasts four years after medical school in most countries. Many ophthalmologists also undergo additional specialized training in one of the many subspecialities. Ophthalmology was the first branch of medicine to offer board certification, now a standard practice among all specialties.
In the United States, four years of training after medical school are required, with the first year being an internship in surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, or a general transition year. The scope of a physician's licensure is such that he or she need not be board certified in ophthalmology to practice as an ophthalmologist. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) promotes the use of the phrase "Eye MD" to distinguish ophthalmologists from optometrists who hold the degree OD (Doctor of Optometry). (This, however, sometimes leads to confusion among patients, since a few ophthalmologists' primary medical degree is a D.O., or Doctor of Osteopathy, rather than an M.D. In both cases, the same residency and certification requirements must be fulfilled.) Completing the requirements of continuing medical education is mandatory for continuing licensure and re-certification. Professional bodies like AAO, ASCRS organise conferences and help members through CME programs to maintain certification, in addition to congress advocacy and peer support.
In the United Kingdom, there are four Colleges that grant post graduate degree. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists grants MRCOphth and FRCOphth (postgraduate exams), Royal college of Edinburgh grants MRCSEd, Royal college of Glasgow grants FRCS and Royal college of Ireland grants FRCSI. Work experience as specialist registrar and one of these degrees is required for specialisation in eye diseases.
In Australia and New Zealand, the FRACO/FRANZCO is the equivalent postgraduate specialist qualification. They do not generally accept outsiders with equivalent qualifications and require repeat training on case by case basis, with possibility of certification for doctors with numerous international publications, desirous of joining academic institutions in Australia.
In India, after completing MBBS degree, post-graduation in the form of a Junior Residency at a Medical College, Hospital or Institution under the supervision of experienced faculty leading to degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Master of Surgery (M.S.), or Diplomate of National Board (D.N.B.) degree, or a diploma course leading to (Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery (D.O.M.S.) in Ophthalmology is necessary before one can expertly deal with various problems of the eye. Further work experience in form of fellowship, registrar or senior resident refines the skills of these eye surgeons. All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS) and various state level Ophthalmological Societies hold regular conferences and actively promote continuing medical education.
In Pakistan, there is a residency program leading into FCPS which is composed of two parts.
In Canada, an Ophthalmology residency after medical school and FRCSC is the requirement for becoming a licenced Ophthalmologist. There are about 10 seats per year in whole of Canada for Ophthalmology residency.
Formal specialty training programs in veterinary ophthalmology now exist in some countries.
Ophthalmology includes sub-specialities which deal either with certain diseases or diseases of certain parts of the eye. Some of them are:
- Anterior segment surgery
- Cornea, ocular surface, and external disease
- Eye trauma
- Ocular oncology
- Oculo-plastic surgery
- Ophthalmic pathology
- Pediatric ophthalmology/Strabismus (squint)
- Refractive surgery
- Retina and Vitreous (sometimes labelled as a posterior segment specialization)