Orthoptists diagnose and treat abnormal eye movements and vision problems. A lot of work is with children, for example, treating strabismus (squints) and amblyopia (lazy eye). However, they treat people of all ages. In some clinics, they help doctors to diagnose and treat conditions like glaucoma.
As an Orthoptist, you will diagnose and treat problems with vision, and abnormal eye movements.
You'll treat problems such as:
- amblyopia (lazy eye)
- diplopia (double vision)
- strabismus (squints)
- poor binocular vision (not being able to use both eyes together properly)
You will see patients of all ages. For example, as experts in childhood vision screening, you could test children's eyesight at the age of four to five, in school. In older adults, eye problems are often linked to problems such as stroke, thyroid disorders and injuries in accidents. Some people with physical and learning disabilities have problems with eye co-ordination.
As an Orthoptist, you will use a wide variety of tests to help you to diagnose eye problems. Visual problems can give clues that the patient has a serious underlying health problem such as stroke or multiple sclerosis. This means that you will also need to know about general health conditions.
Diagnosis can include:
- eye pressure tests (tonometry) and testing the patient's field of vision (perimetry), which can help to diagnose glaucoma
- fundus photography - taking pictures of the retina
- biometry - measuring the length of the eye to assess cataracts before operations
Glasses can sometimes be all that's needed to correct problems such as squints and lazy eye. However, some children need further treatment. You can treat one lazy eye (amblyopia) by covering the better eye with a patch for several hours each day. You will then carefully monitor the situation. Some patients need surgery to straighten the eyes. In this situation you will manage the care and assessment of the patient after the operation, working closely with the Eye Surgeon.
You can treat some conditions using exercises, or by adding extra lenses or prisms to spectacles.
Orthoptists are part of a team, working with people such as specialist Doctors and Surgeons, Nurses and Health Visitors.
You'll work in hospital eye departments, health centres, schools and local clinics.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become an Orthoptist, you'll need:
- an interest and ability in science, especially biology
- the desire to treat people's eye problems
- patience, tact and sensitivity
- the ability to reassure people and put them at their ease
- communication skills to explain things and give advice clearly
- the ability to persuade people, as they might be reluctant to wear glasses or a patch, for example
- accurate record-keeping skills
- written skills
- organisational skills
- teamwork skills
Pay and Opportunities
NHS employees are paid on a rising scale within defined pay bands, according to your skills and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: Band 5 pay of £23,023 - £29,608
Pay rates in the private sector are broadly in line with those of the NHS.
Hours of work
Orthoptists usually work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Where could I work?
The NHS employs most Orthoptists (in hospitals and in the community). A small number of Orthoptists work in private hospitals, in university research and in teaching undergraduate Orthoptists.
Opportunities for Orthoptists occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, in local/national newspapers and on job boards.
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
To become an Orthoptist, you need to complete a degree course in orthoptics.
Degree courses are available at the universities of Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow Caledonian. They take three years to complete and include subjects such as theoretical and clinical orthoptics, optics, the anatomy of the eye, physiology and pathology. Students also spend time gaining clinical experience in hospitals and community settings.
Having completed your degree, you will be able to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC); you need this to work as an orthoptist.
The University of Liverpool runs a foundation to health and veterinary studies (Year 0) course. This is for people who don't have the academic A levels usually needed for entry to the University's orthoptics degree (or other health-related and veterinary courses). Please see the University's website for information about entry requirements.
The Welsh Government funds the education and training for a range of health professional education courses, (details of the specific courses can be found at: http://www.nwssp.wales.nhs.uk/undergraduate-education). To be eligible for a bursary you must commit to working in Wales following completion of your programme.
More information about the NHS Wales Bursary Scheme can be accessed on the Student awards Services website: http://www.nwssp.wales.nhs.uk/course-starts-on-or-after-1-september-20
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Previous experience working in a care home or in a hospital would be really useful for this career.
In the NHS, you will be able to follow a well structured career path. Progression might lead into an Orthoptist specialist and then advanced Orthoptist role. You could also move into a research or teaching post.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
For entry to a degree course in orthoptics, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 3 A levels. Biology will usually either be preferred or essential.
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, to include English, maths and a science subject
Equivalent qualifications, such as BTEC level 3 qualifications and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, might be acceptable for entry - please check college/university websites very carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree in orthoptics, you might be able to start one after completing a college or university Access course, such as Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
The University of Liverpool runs a Foundation to Health and Veterinary Studies (Year 0) course. This is for people who don't have the academic A levels usually needed for entry to the University's orthoptics degree (or other health-related and veterinary courses). Please see the University's website for information about entry requirements.
To get financial support from the NHS, you need to meet certain criteria. If you meet the criteria, you'll usually have your tuition fees paid in full and you might get a bursary. You will receive a £1,000 grant each year. You can apply for a means-tested bursary of up to £4,395 each year (or more in London).
For more information, see the NHS Business Services Authority website.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Address: Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 3006184
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
NHS Business Services Authority
Address: PO Box 804, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 9DF
Tel: 0845 1295001
British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS)
Address: 62 Wilson Street, London EC2A 2BU
Tel: 01353 665541
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales