What is an Orthoptist?
Orthoptists are allied health care professionals who specialise in the assessment of visual function, particularly in children, diagnosing and treating defects in eye movement and problems with how the eyes work together. Orthoptists are experts in understanding why and how neurological defects affect how we see.
Orthoptists commonly work with patients in a hospital setting as part of a wider multi professional team but can work in educational or social care teams in community settings. They help patients to manage the visual symptoms of their condition and provide advice for the visual and general rehabilitation of these patients.
Orthoptists are qualified with a substantial core body of knowledge and expertise. However, their role has grown and many continue to train and study to gain an even wider knowledge base. This enables them to perform much more specialist, advanced or extended roles in clinics including:
- Stroke and brain injury
- Medical retina
- Visual processing disorders
- Low vision
- Neurological conditions
- Special educational needs
Orthoptists are registered professionals monitored by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and are one of the 14 professions known as the Allied Health professions (AHPs).
Is orthoptics the right career for me?
If you enjoy science, working with people of all ages and would relish the challenge of problem-solving, making decisions independently and have highly adaptable communication skills then orthoptics could be the career for you!
Where do orthoptists work?
Most Orthoptists in the UK are employed by the NHS and work in
- hospitals (in patients, out patients and theatre)
- community clinics
- rehabilitation centres
- special schools and child development centres
- mainstream schools
Some orthoptic services may offer home visits and some work in private practice or overseas.
How much do orthoptists earn?
What career progression opportunities are available for orthoptists?
There are many opportunities following qualification, all depending on your chosen career pathway as an orthoptist. You might decide to undertake further training and higher qualifications in subjects including glaucoma, medical retina, visual processing, neurology/brain injury or teaching . These can open up opportunities to work in more specialised clinics. There are also opportunities to work in academia, including research and education. You can progress into management and leadership within the NHS. You could also work on committees that look at improving the future of eye care services.
How do I become an orthoptist?
To become an orthoptist, you require a degree which leads to registration. This can either be an undergraduate degree in Orthoptics (BMedSci (hons) Orthoptics or Bsc Orthoptics) or a pre-registration masters 2 year programme if you already have a degree in a science related subject.
The entry requirements vary for each university so please check their websites for more detail.
- The general requirements are that you must have good GCSE Maths, English and Science grades and A levels/Highers or equivalent, with at least one science subject such as Biology, Maths, Physics or Chemistry. Alternative qualifications are considered and mature students are welcome to apply.
- If you do not have the relevant academic background, there are options to study a Foundation Year degree or Access to Higher Education Diploma in Science prior to commencing the Orthoptic degree. Further details about Foundation Year degrees can be found on the websites of the University of Sheffield and University of Liverpool.
Where can I train?
The following courses are available in the UK.
University of Sheffield Orthoptics BMedSci | 2022-2023 | Undergraduate | The University of Sheffield
University of Liverpool Orthoptics BSc (Hons) - Undergraduate Courses - University of Liverpool
Glasgow Caledonian University BSc (Hons) Orthoptics - Glasgow, UK | GCU
University College London Orthoptics (pre-registration) MSc | Prospective Students Graduate (ucl.ac.uk)
Is there funding available?
Orthoptists who are resident in the UK are eligible for additional funding support via the Learning support Fund. If you study as an Orthoptist in England (Not at Glasgow) you can get £5000 per year training fund, plus £1000 special fund for orthoptics, plus reimbursement of accommodation/placements.
NHS Learning Support Fund | NHSBSA
Are there postgraduate opportunities?
Yes – many orthoptists continue onto Masters Programmes in orthoptics (Sheffield), MPhil or MSc in research or PhD. There is an increasing number of courses being developed in Advanced Clinical practice in the area of ophthalmology and orthoptics. Orthoptists often complete clinical teaching courses too to facilitate high quality student placements.
Do I need previous experience to apply for the course?
It is strongly advised to gain valuable work experience within orthoptics, this will give you the opportunity to see if you find it enjoyable.
How do I get experience?
There are numerous hospital clinics across the country that may offer work experience. Start by contacting your local orthoptic department.
The British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS) work experience lead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the careers pages on the BIOS website.