Qualifications & Training

As you choose a career in orthoptics, ask yourself:

  1. Do I enjoy interacting with and helping people?
  2. Do I enjoy responsibility?
  3. Do I want to grow professionally?
  4. Do I want a variety of work opportunities?
  5. Do I want a rewarding and challenging career?
  6. Would I like to join a growing profession?

Orthoptics is a specialized profession that is both intellectually challenging and rewarding. The focus of orthoptics is the evaluation and treatment of disorders of vision, eye movements and eye alignment in children and adults. Orthoptists work in ophthalmology — the branch of medicine devoted to the study and treatment of eye conditions and diseases.

Students of orthoptics must attend a two year fellowship in an accredited program. Presently, thirteen programs affiliated with medical facilities or universities in the US and three in Canada offer an Orthoptic curriculum. Orthoptic education includes both didactic and clinical instruction by staff orthoptists and ophthalmologists in a clinical medical center setting. After completing an Orthoptic fellowship, a student earns national certification as an orthoptist through written and practical examinations administered by the American Orthoptic Council.

Eligibility for national certification requires a baccalaureate degree in addition to successful completion of a two year Orthoptic Program. A basic science or health care background is recommended but not mandatory. The Graduate Record Examination is not required.

Orthoptists are key members of a team whose goal is to provide evaluation, understanding and treatment of children and adults with disorders affecting visual function.

Orthoptics combines diagnostic ability, technical understanding and therapeutic skills. This health care profession encourages decision-making and an active involvement in patient care. On average an orthoptic student will evaluate more than 1500 patients and observe many more during the course of study.

By choosing various test procedures, the orthoptist formulates a statement of impressions including a differential diagnosis and possible modes of non-surgical treatment. This information is then entered into the patient’s medical record.

The orthoptist is the liaison between the ophthalmologist and the patient and as such assists in the explanation and carrying out of a patient’s individual treatment plan. As a consultant, an orthoptist may travel to several offices or clinics to see patients or participate as a professional advisor to community agencies concerned with vision. Orthoptists often serve as directors of state and local vision screening programs.

For those interested in teaching there are opportunities to provide clinical expertise and instruction to medical students, orthoptic students, post doctoral fellows, residents in ophthalmology and clinical staff.

The more academically inclined can participate in clinical research and in the presentation and publication of scientific papers.

Orthoptics offers opportunities for dynamic individuals who want to exercise leadership ability and who would enjoy involvement in a professional association. The role of the orthoptist demands intelligence, sound judgment, intellectual honesty and the ability to relate well to colleagues and patients of all ages. An attitude of respect for others and a commitment to the patient’s welfare are essential attributes.