Ophthalmologist Tākuta Whakaora Whatu

Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat eye conditions and injuries, and perform eye surgery. 

Ophthalmologists need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Ophthalmologists may do some or all of the following:

  • diagnose eye conditions, such as cataracts, and eye injuries  
  • perform eye exams
  • discuss and prescribe medications
  • perform eye surgery
  • check patients' progress after an operation
  • write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses
  • consult with other medical professionals about patient care and treatment
  • keep medical records and send reports to general practitioners and optometrists
  • teach medical students and trainee ophthalmologists
  • carry out research. 

Useful Experience

Useful experience for ophthalmologists includes:

  • work in hospitals and clinics, or other health-related work
  • work caring for people.

Personal Qualities

Ophthalmologists need to be:

  • able to work well under pressure
  • able to make good decisions
  • good at problem solving
  • good at time management
  • able to work well in a team   
  • able to listen and communicate well
  • understanding of different cultures' attitudes to medical treatment.


Ophthalmologists need to have knowledge of:

  • the anatomy of the eye and how vision works
  • eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts
  • medical conditions that can affect the eyes, and how to diagnose them
  • how to perform different types of surgery on the eyes, including laser treatment
  • latest research, treatments, technology and practices in eye care
  • medical ethics and law.



  • usually work regular business hours, but may also work evenings and weekends
  • work in hospitals and clinics
  • travel locally and overseas to conferences and meetings.

Ophthalmologists can earn around $58K-$195K per year.

Chances of getting a job as a Ophthalmologist are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for ophthalmologists varies depending on skills and experience. 

  • Trainee ophthalmologists (house officers and registrars) working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $58,000 and $195,000 a year.
  • Experienced ophthalmologists working full time for a DHB can earn between $152,000 and $240,000 a year.

Ophthalmologists working in private hospitals or clinics usually run their own businesses and can earn more than this. 

Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, ‘2017 to 2020 National DHB Collective Agreement’; and Resident Doctors’ Association, ‘2019 to 2021 DHB Collective Agreement’. 

Ophthalmologists may progress to teach students and trainee ophthalmologists, or become senior consultants with responsibility for ophthalmology departments in hospitals.

Ophthalmologists can specialise in a number of roles including:

Corneal Specialist
Corneal specialists diagnose and treat diseases of the cornea, such as dry eye disease and corneal trauma.
Glaucoma Specialist
Glaucoma specialists treat conditions that affect the optic nerve, the most common being glaucoma.
Neuro-ophthalmologists treat vision problems related to the brain and nervous system, such as those caused by stroke. 
Ocular inflammation specialist
Ocular inflammation specialists work with immunology specialists to treat immune system conditions that affect the eye, such as scleritis. 
Oculoplastic Surgeon
Oculoplastic surgeons perform restorative and reconstructive surgery of the structures around the eye, such as the eye socket and eyelids.
Paediatric Specialist
Paediatric specialists diagnose and treat eye conditions that affect infants and children. 
Refractive Surgeon
Refractive surgeons perform vision correction procedures to correct astigmatism and short-, long- and age-related sightedness. 
Retinal Specialist
Retinal specialists diagnose and manage diseases affecting the back of the eye.

Years Of Training

13 years of training

To become an ophthalmologist you need to:

  • complete the Health Sciences First Year programme at the University of Otago, or the first year of either the Bachelor of Health Sciences or Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science at the University of Auckland
  • complete a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree at the University of Auckland or Otago
  • work for two years as a house officer (supervised junior doctor) in a hospital
  • work for another five years as a registrar with specialist training and passing examinations to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.

You also need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.