Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
To get on a course that could lead to a career as an orthoptist, useful subjects include:
- Human Biology
- Administration and IT
Work placements and volunteering
You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.
A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to start your career journey as an orthoptist.
Find out more about a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.
College and university
To become an orthoptist, you'll need a university degree. Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.
At college, you could do an HNC in Care and Administrative Practice or an HNC in Applied Science.
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
In Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University offers a 4-year pre-registration undergraduate programme in Orthoptics, approved by the HCPC.
For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.
As an orthoptist, you’ll investigate, diagnose and treat:
- vision problems
- abnormalities of eye movement
- damage to sight caused by illness or accident
Some common eye conditions include:
- amblyopia (lazy eye)
- diplopia (double vision)
- reduced vision
- strabismus (squint)
You might need to prescribe:
- eye patches
You might also recommend eye surgery as part of a patient’s care plan.
Eye problems, such as double vision, may be indicators of other health problems in the body. You’ll play an important part in spotting these serious conditions and making referrals to other healthcare professionals.
What you’ll do
Some of the typical tasks of an orthoptist include:
- assessing the vision of babies and small children including children with special needs
- treating adults with double vision associated with diabetes, thyroid disorders or multiple sclerosis
- helping the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered a stroke or brain injuries
- diagnosing and monitoring long term eye conditions such as glaucoma
- assessing patients before and after surgery for cataracts
You’ll need these skills:
- caring for people
- communicating with people
- problem-solving skills
- working in a team
- working accurately
- helping people
Who you’ll work with
Orthoptists work independently or in multidisciplinary teams with other eye specialists including:
- ophthalmologists (eye surgeons)
- healthcare support workers
You could work in:
- eye hospitals
- hospital eye departments
- health centres
- a person’s home
To work as an orthoptist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
Did you know?
There are around 1,500 registered orthoptists in the UK and more than 100 working in the NHS in Scotland.
Learning and development
During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with continuing professional development (CPD). The British and Irish Orthoptists Society (BIOS) provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.
With training and experience, you could become a specialist orthoptist. You could also progress to advanced or consultant orthoptist roles. As head of an orthoptics service, you would be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget.
There are also teaching and research opportunities.
As well as registering with the HCPC, once you’ve qualified as an orthoptist you can join: