Orthoptics degree: Frequently asked questions
How does Orthoptics differ from Optometry?
An Orthoptist is a health professional who deals principally with the investigation, diagnosis and management of visual defects and abnormalities of eye movement. This differs from an Optometrist who deals principally with the recognition and correction of defects of sight, by the prescription of glasses or contact lenses. Most orthoptists work within the NHS and see patients of all ages. They play a key role in the eye care team and can also be involved in the community health service.
I am undecided between Orthoptics and Optometry as a future career. What should I do?
We strongly advise all students considering applying for Orthoptics to arrange to observe the work of an Orthoptist. You should contact the Head Orthoptist at your local hospital eye department to arrange a visit.
Would I be required to do a pre-registration clinical year before I can practice as an Orthoptist?
No. Throughout the three years of the Orthoptics degree programme, you will undertake a total of 33 weeks of clinical placement. The aims of clinical placements are to put the theory and clinical skills you have learnt at university into practise. With the exception of the first placement in your first year, clinical placements are assessed, the marks obtained going towards your final clinical exam at the end of each academic year. Upon graduation you will be eligible to apply for professional registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to practice as an Orthoptist. If a student fails to achieve honours, the degree of BMedSci (Ocular Studies) will be awarded. This is not an honours degree and not eligible for admission to the HCPC register.
Where may my clinical placements be held?
Throughout the extended 3 year full time programme you will undertake a total of 33 weeks of clinical placement. These are arranged in blocks (usually a 4-week block). Your clinical placement may be held in a hospital anywhere in the UK, Ireland and Gibraltar that has a recognised clinical teaching Orthoptic department.
Am I able to choose where I go for my clinical placement?
Allocation of placement is chosen by the Academic Unit of Ophthalmology and Orthoptics to ensure students get the opportunity to examine patients at different hospitals, such as Children´s, General, Neurological and Eye Hospitals, and experience the varied roles of orthoptists. Nevertheless, as part of your final year you have a 2 week clinical elective period. You may choose to spend your elective period at any hospital in the UK, Ireland and Gibraltar which has a recognised clinical teaching Orthoptic department, and which is available to take you.
How much will it cost?
For applications for entry in September 2017 and beyond, the government has announced changes to how it funds students to train in professions allied to medicine, including Orthoptics. All students are now required to pay annual tuition fees on the BMedSci Orthoptics course. This means the BMedSci course will be just like most other undergraduate degree programmes at the University of Sheffield and other Universities in the UK.
Where may I expect to work once I graduate?
Upon graduation and professional registration with the HCPC you will be able to take up employment in hospital eye departments, health centres and special schools. There are opportunities to specialise in various areas of orthoptic care, such as paediatrics, neurology, stroke and low vision. Postgraduate research in orthoptics and different aspects of vision science is a further option. The BMedSci (Honours) Orthoptic degree is recognised internationally so employment abroad is a possible career option.