NHS Careers > Explore by career > Healthcare science > Careers in healthcare science > Careers in physiological sciences > Ophthalmic and vision science

Ophthalmic and vision science

Healthcare science staff working in ophthalmic and vision science study disorders of vision, plus diseases of the eye and the visual pathway.

Working in ophthalmic and vision science, you will assess the structure and function of the eye and the visual system.

You will carry out a diverse range of tests and procedures that may include:

  • measurement of the field of vision
  • measurement of the pressure in a patient’s eye
  • taking images of the eye and its supporting structures
  • taking measurements to determine the optical power of a lens to be inserted in the patient’s eye during cataract surgery.
  • electrophysiological investigation of the eye and visual pathways

You will work as part of a team which might include healthcare scientists working in neurophysiology as well as specialist nurses, optometrists, ophthalmologists and orthoptists

By assessing and monitoring these various visual functions and structural changes, you will provide essential diagnostic, prognostic and surveillance information to help ophthalmologists manage conditions such as glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy.

You may come into contact with patients with a range of problems, from poor sight through to complications of diabetes.

You will see people of all ages,who will have a range of abilities and needs. You will need to show understanding and tolerance and you will need to be as reassuring and patient with a young childas you will need to be attentive and mindful of the  needs of elderly people, in whom many chronic eye conditions occur,.

Most healthcare scientists in this area, work in an outpatient clinic alongside a wide range of other healthcare professionals and in ophthalmic diagnostic units.

There are also opportunities for research work, helping to improve existing techniques and develop new ones.

Healthcare science staff often work at the forefront of research and innovation, so that patients are continually receiving the very best healthcare. For example, in ophthalmic and vision science, healthcare science staff are investigating genetic diseases and possible cures; designing innovative retinal prosthetic implants to restore sight in retinal disease; using and developing more detailed imaging techniques capable ofimaging single cells with high resolution and using different types of light to build reflectance images of hidden structures.

Skills required

To work in ophthalmic and vision science you will need effective communication and team working skills. You will also need to be confident with technology and systems/processes.

If you work in a role with responsibility for resources (such as staff, budgets or equipment) you must have good leadership skills and be able to use your initiative within the remit of your job role. 

More information on the skills required to work in healthcare science.

Entry points and requirements

There are currently three entry points into this area of work.

  • As a healthcare science practitioner through the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) by taking an accredited BSc degree in Healthcare Science (Ophthalmic and Vision Science). You will typically need at least 2 if not three A2/A’ levels including science subjects and a good spread of GCSEs at A-C grade. Alternative/equivalent qualifications may be accepted by some universities, but you are advised to check with each university (or visit their website) before making an application.
  • As a healthcare scientist, after a relevant degree (at a minimum of a 2:1 classification or a 2:2 with appropriate postgraduate qualifications), by applying for a place on the graduate-entry NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) and specialising in neurosensory sciences.
  • As a consultant healthcare scientist, after gaining postgraduate qualifications and/or considerable relevant experience through Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST).  

Training and education programmes

The education and training you will take, will depend upon the level at which you are working.

  • To enter via the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) you will need to take a full-time (usually 3-year) accredited integrated BSc degree in Healthcare Science (Ophthalmic and Vision Science) at university. At least 50 weeks of work-place based training in the NHS is included in these programmes. For the most up to date list of accredited BSc Healthcare Science degrees, please use our coursefinder or visit the NHS Networks website. Applications for full-time courses are made through UCAS.
  • Graduates entering the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) will be employed in  a fixed-term, salaried training post and will study towards a relevant masters degree qualification in Clinical Science (Neurosensory Sciences).
  • Those entering Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST) will study towards doctoral level qualifications.

Programmes are often supported by the development of workplace-based assessment tools, assessment of equivalent learning and the development of academic careers.

No matter what level you are working at, as part of your development you will be expected to do 'Continuing Professional Development' (CPD) to show that you are keeping yourself up to date with the policies and procedures in your area of work.

It can be advantageous to have gained some experience of working in a relevant environment before applying for a place on a course or job vacancy.


Many healthcare science roles require registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). For those parts of the workforce not regulated by the HCPC, professional voluntary registers are in operation.

For registration as a Clinical Scientist individuals must hold an Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) Certificate of Attainment granted upon completion of the MSC Scientist Training Programme or AHCS Certificate of Equivalence.  

You can find out more about the Academy's Certificates on its website:  www.ahcs.ac.uk

Please check individual job vacancy details for information when applying.


For information about pay for staff working in healthcare science, please click here.

Further information

For further information about a career in ophthalmic and vision science, please contact:

Ophthalmic Imaging Association

Website: http://www.oia.org.uk

General Optical Council
41 Harley Street

Tel: 020 7580 3898
Fax: 020 7436 3525