Ophthalmic and vision science is a little-known career, but one that offers you a great future. These specialists assess the structure and function of the eye and the visual system. They are experts in disorders of vision, eye diseases and the visual pathway. 

This is a great choice for many reasons. Our top six are:

1. Combine science and technology with people skills 

You need to be able to help and reassure patients and work with the wider, multidisciplinary healthcare team. You’ll see people of all ages, who will have a range of abilities and needs, from poor sight through to complications of diabetes.

You’ll work with people from a wide range of other healthcare professions. Your colleagues might include optometrists ophthalmologists and orthoptists, as well as healthcare scientists working in neurophysiology and specialist nurses. Sharing different perspectives and knowledge is fascinating, each contributing to build up the picture to diagnose, treat and advise patients. 

2. Use the latest technology and complex equipment 

You’ll carry out a wide range of tests and procedures. These include scans and diagnostics to: 

  • measure the field of vision – assessing what you can see straight ahead, to either side, and up and down. 
  • measure the pressure in a patient’s eye.
  • take images of the eye and supporting structures.
  • take measurements to determine the optical power of a lens to be inserted in the eye during cataract surgery.
  • measure the very small electrical signals (electrophysiology) which pass along the optic nerve to the brain and create the sensation of seeing.

The technology includes optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans which produce 3D images showing what’s going on beneath the surface of the eye, 

By assessing and monitoring these visual functions and structural changes, you’ll provide essential information to help specialist doctors – ophthalmologists – manage conditions that affect people’s sight, leaving them with impaired vision, including:

3. Different entry points

There are different routes into roles in vision science, giving you flexibility: 

  • A relevant degree in pure or applied science. The most commonly accepted degrees for vision science are biology, human biology, physiology, pure or applied physics, engineering, or sports science degrees with significant scientific content. 

Graduate entry 

You can apply for a place specialising in neurosensory sciences on the NHS Scientist Training Programme. You must have a 1st or 2.1 either in an undergraduate honours degree or an integrated master’s degree in a relevant pure or applied science subject. 

You can train to work in a senior healthcare science role in ophthalmic and vision science.

4. Pay and rewards

It’s a rewarding, well paid career. Trainee clinical scientists in the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change scale, starting at Band 6 (more than £35,000) and qualified clinical scientists are often appointed at Band 7 (more than £43,000). Experience and further qualifications can take people up to Band 9, from more than £99,000.  

5. A career in research

You could move into research, advancing the discipline of optical science and helping to discover more about conditions that affect sight and how to treat them. Vision scientists work within health and life sciences – see more from centres such as Aston University or the University of Leicester.

6. Make a difference

You’ll be a respected health professional, registered with the Health & Care Professions Council and part of the NHS family. You’ll help to save people’s sight, making a huge difference to their lives. 

The NHS constitution spells out six important values for everyone working in healthcare:

  • working together for patients
  • respect and dignity
  • commitment to quality of care
  • compassion
  • improving lives
  • everyone counts

Find out more about a career in vision science