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How to become an ophthalmologist

10 July 2020
A step-by-step guide to becoming a specialist eye doctor
Pursuing a specialist career in ophthalmology requires students to complete a medical degree and a minimum of two years pre-vocational training, before applying to RANZCO to undertake a five-year vocational training program.

Like most medical specialities, becoming an ophthalmologist requires time, dedication and skill. Selection into the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) Vocational Training Program is reliant upon a strong curriculum vitae, professional references, testing and an interview. 

To plan your career journey, we’ve mapped out the main phases medical students must take to become an ophthalmologist.

1. Complete an undergraduate degree

After graduating from high school, students will need to complete an undergraduate degree at an Australian tertiary institution.

Some universities may require students to complete a science or health related undergraduate course, however for entry into the Doctor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, any undergraduate course is encouraged and accepted.

A select number of students may also be successful in gaining entry directly into a combined medicine degree straight from high school, if this is the case your undergraduate degree is built in to your medicine pathway.

2. Pursue a postgraduate Doctor of Medicine

Upon completion of your undergraduate course, students must be accepted and complete a four-year degree Doctor of Medicine degree.

To gain entry, students must sit the GAMSAT, and achieve a score of 50 or more. You will also need to meet the minimum GPA requirement of 65. Some universities may also ask you to attend a multiple-mini-interview (MMI).

To learn more about the University of Sydney’s course entry requirements, please review to our domestic admissions guide or international admissions guide.  

3. Finish your intern year and gain medical registration

All medical graduates must complete a compulsory internship year after finishing their studies in Australia or New Zealand. Students are responsible for arranging their own internships. On completion of this 47-week rotation, candidates are then awarded registration by the Medical Board of Australia.

4. Complete additional years of full-time pre-vocational training

To be eligible to apply for an ophthalmology training program, medical officers must complete a minimum of two years of pre-vocational training (including an intern year). This additional training must be varied and include 18 months of practice in non-ophthalmic medical, clinical and surgical settings.

5. Apply for selection into the RANZCO Vocational Training Program

Upon completing sufficient pre-vocational training, medical officers hoping to become ophthalmologists must apply to pursue additional training through RANZCO. All applicants must be citizens or hold permanent residency status in Australia or New Zealand by 1 April of the preceding year.

The application process for the vocational training program is based on a number of contributing factors, including a strong curriculum vitae, professional references, a situational judgement test and a multiple-mini-interview.

To learn more about the selection process and the importance of each of these application components, visit the RANZCO website.

6. Undertake five years of training in the RANZCO program

Once applicants have gained entry, they must complete five years of vocational training. This is divided into three distinct segments including; two years of basic training, two years of advanced training and one final year of training.

Basic training focuses on ophthalmic sciences and competencies, and is undertaken at training hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.

Advanced training focuses on integrated clinical and surgical skills and knowledge in a range of clinical practice areas. This training has some formal assessment elements including the Ophthalmic Pathology Examination and the RANZCO Advanced Clinical Examination once you have made satisfactory training progress.

In the final year, it is encouraged that trainees undertake experience at an institution other than where they have previously completed their vocational training. During this time, they will focus on an area of specialist interest. 

On completion, trainees are prepared to work as general ophthalmologists or to pursue further qualification.

7. Complete fellowships and apply for Fellowship with RANZCO

Ophthalmologists who successfully complete their vocational training are eligible to apply for Fellowship with RANZCO. Their final reports must also be accepted by the Censor-in-Chief. If accepted, Fellows must undertake on-going professional development and training in compliance with their membership.

Many newly-qualified ophthalmologists will also follow their vocational training with a year or two of fellowship training in their chosen subspecialty area. 

Opportunities are listed on the RANZCO website.

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