Orthoptics degree: Course structure

The BMedSci (Hons) orthoptic degree is a 3-year full time degree.  It includes the theoretical teaching and practical clinical experience necessary for professional practise as an orthoptist.  The degree examines ocular misalignment (strabismus), eye-movement (ocular motility) disorders and ocular diseases in patients of all ages.  A range of subjects are taught to equip graduates to be able to accurately investigate and diagnose such patients and develop suitable management plans.  Throughout the 3 years of study students go on clinical placements in eye departments at hospitals across the UK, Ireland and Gibraltar.

BMedSci Orthoptics - a typical course overview

Student Overview

Year 1

  • Clinical skills
  • Optics
  • Anatomy and physiology dissection
  • Ocular anatomy, physiology and neuroscience
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Participation and Society
  • First aid
  • Strabismus
  • Clinical placement at hospitals (total of 7 weeks)
Year 1 students receive an introduction to concepts of strabismus, clinical skills, optics and the scientific background required for an understanding of the normal eye. The importance and different approaches to interpersonal and communication skills are examined and related to working within the NHS.

Year 2

  • Strabismus and ocular motility
  • Clinical skills
  • Visual optics
  • Clinical visual optics
  • Visual perception
  • Pathology
  • Medical microbiology
  • Medical ethics and law
  • Organisation and structure of the NHS
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Research methods
  • Clinical placement at hospitals (total of 12 weeks)
Year 2 further develops the understanding and examines ocular motility abnormalities and disease states. More subject related to the orthoptic profession are studied including visual perception, pathology and medical microbiology, electrodiagnosis, medical ethics and law, and the organisation and structure of the NHS. At the end of year 2, Research methods looks at how to approach and carry out research and leads into a choice of topic for year 3 research project.

Year 3

  • Strabismus and ocular motility
  • Opthalmology
  • Pathology
  • Paediatric neurology
  • Associated professional studies
  • Sale, supply and administration of medicinal products
  • Research project
  • Clinical placement at hospitals (total of 14 weeks)

Year 3 involves more self-directed study. Students must manage their own time as there are several assignments, presentations and a research project to be completed. Students individually carry out the research project which involve collecting and analysing data of fellow students. It is an excellent opportunity to develop research skills with the potential to publish study findings in a medical journal or present at conference. New subjects such as paediatric neurology, associated professional studies and sale, supply and administration of medicinal products are introduced.

Clinical placements

A total of 33 weeks of clinical experience are completed during the 3 years of study.  The clinical placements are a compulsory element of the Orthoptic degree programme and are carried out in orthoptic departments across the UK, Ireland and Gibraltar and are organised in 2-4 week blocks.  Students get the opportunity to examine patients of all ages including children, the elderly and those with disability in many different types of hospitals and community clinics, and acquire experience performing vision screening of children.  Comprehensive clinical experience will be gained and interpersonal communication skills built upon.

Towards the end of the final year a 2 week transition to work placement is undertaken.  The aim is to improve students' clinical competence and confidence and ease the transition to work as a practising orthoptist.


Students studying orthoptics at Sheffield attend full time. There are no opportunities for study as a part time or external student except where a student is required to repeat part of the course or an examination due to failure of that subject.


As a student at the University of Sheffield you will be given a Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). It is a comprehensive report of your university achievements which you can access online throughout your time as a student. It includes academic information about your course, subjects studied and grades, extra-curricular activities and awards you have obtained.

We encourage orthoptic students to become involved in volunteering activities during the three years of study. Orthoptic volunteering is an extra-curricular activity designed exclusively for orthoptic students which is approved by HEAR. It comprises of 6 activities within the department. These include

1. Participant for undergraduate orthoptic research projects
2. Participant for staff research within the unit
3. Help at open days/ interview days
4. Peer teaching
5. Volunteer at practical exams
6. Attend local schools/colleges with the admissions tutor to promote the orthoptic degree programme

You can use your HEAR as evidence of the knowledge and skills you gain at the University of Sheffield and it can help demonstrate your broad range of achievements when applying for jobs or further study.