Skip to main content Skip to footer

How to become an orthoptist

To become an orthoptist in the NHS, you must complete a pre-registration undergraduate degree programme approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

What is an an orthoptist?

Orthoptists care for people of all ages. They assess, diagnose, and treat eye disorders, including reduced vision, double vision, and childhood vision problems.

Starting your career as an orthoptist

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course that could lead to a career as an orthoptist, useful subjects include: 

  • Human Biology 
  • Physics 
  • Maths 
  • English 

Speak to your guidance teacher about subjects offered at your school.

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

College and university

To become an orthoptist, you'll need an undergraduate degree. Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first. 

You could do an HNC in Healthcare Practice or Applied Science at college. 

Widening access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need. 

Pre-registration degree programme

In Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University offers a 4-year pre-registration undergraduate programme in Orthoptics, approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). 

After graduation, you must register with the HCPC. You can then apply as a newly qualified orthoptist for vacancies in the NHS.

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

As an orthoptist, you’ll investigate, diagnose and treat: 

  • vision problems, including amblyopia or lazy eye
  • strabismus, a misalignment of the eyes or squint
  • abnormalities of eye movement, which may cause double vision 

You could prescribe: 

  • exercises to help eye control
  • eye patches or drops to improve vision in children 
  • prisms for glasses to join double vision 

You may also recommend eye surgery as part of a patient’s care plan. 

Eye problems, such as double vision, may indicate other health problems in the body. You’ll play an important part in spotting these serious conditions and referring people to other healthcare professionals. 

Tasks include: 

  • assessing people’s needs 
  • evaluating and understanding the emotions and behaviours of others 
  • planning and facilitating suitable interventions 
  • accepting referrals from optometrists and other allied health professionals

You'll need these skills:

  • caring
  • communicating
  • problem-solving 
  • teamwork 
  • leadership
  • collaborating 

Orthoptists work with other healthcare professionals, including: 

  • ophthalmologists
  • optometrists 
  • nurses 
  • healthcare support workers 

You could work in: 

  • eye hospitals 
  • hospital eye departments 
  • health centres 
  • nurseries
  • primary schools 
  • a person’s home

Learning and development

During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with continuing professional development.

The British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS) provides courses, conferences, and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills. 

Career progression 

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. 

Professional bodies

When you become a qualified orthoptist, you must register with the HCPC to work in the NHS. You can also join the British and Irish Orthoptic Society.

Navigate page

You can be an AHP

You can be an AHP

Discover the range of AHP careers you can choose in the NHS.

Allied health professions

NHSScotland Careers blog

Our blog includes how-to guides, case studies, and career resources.

Discover more