Skip to content

How long does it take to be an eye doctor in Singapore?

November 9, 2011

I was asked this question the other day by a high school student who has an interest to become a doctor. How long do you think it takes – from the start of University till the time a person can be called an eye doctor (Ophthalmologist)?

Med School

Medical school in Singapore follows the British system, i.e., it is an undergraduate course. It takes 5 years to complete, followed by one year of Housemanship (known as Internship in North America). Upon completion of Housemanship, the person is fully registered as a medical doctor in Singapore.


A doctor then chooses which field of specialty to train in.Ā  He/she will need to apply to get into a training program. Ophthalmology is one of the more competitive programs to get into and it may take several tries before a person gets into the program. Each try means one year.

The training program (known as Residency in North America) in Singapore is similar to the system in the United Kingdom. The program involves 3 years of basic training and 3 years of advance training. There are several examinations spread out over these 6 years, culminating in an Exit Examination at the end. The examination is taken in Singapore and it is conjoined with a College of Surgeons in U.K.

When you see that a doctor has this title: FRCS, it stands for Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons. This means that he has completed and passed the requirements of that particular College. The doctor can also choose to take the examination in the U.K. Having successfully completed the training program, the doctor can now call himself a Specialist in Ophthalmology and he can get accredited with the Specialist Accreditation Board in Singapore.


It doesn’t end here for most of us. The trend throughout the world is to sub-specialise. The eye is a very small organ but it can be divided into many parts and there are many different eye diseases. Doctors in many large cities will choose an area of the eye to sub-specialise in and to do this they spend a year or two in a Fellowship program. For example, I am Fellowship trained in Cornea and Refractive Surgery. How many sub-specialties are there in Ophthalmology? There are nine of them! Check out this list at the Singapore National Eye Centre:

Cataract & Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Cornea, Retina, Glaucoma, Oculoplastics… to name a few.

So how long does it take to become an Ophthalmologist? 14 years from the start of medical school! Yes, it is a long journey. šŸ™‚

I am not quite sure who will be reading this post. Perhaps those we are thinking of entering medical school or doctors who are choosing their specialty? Feel free to ask any questions you have. Please note that training programs for doctors evolve over time. There has been a shift to follow the U.S system of residency program in the last few years. What I have written in this post is what i went through and may not be the same if you are just about to enter your training program now.

I am certain that many other professions – bankers, lawyers, accountants… also have a long path, not just doctors. Feel free to share the years it has taken you to get to where you are. šŸ™‚

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2011 5:44 pm

    loving your blog…very informative indeed šŸ™‚

  2. Calvin Ng Min-Chiang permalink
    November 14, 2011 11:44 am

    Hi Dr Lee,

    Thank you for reaffirming the notion that success does not happen overnight. As a human resource professional, have noticed that many generation Y jobseekers expect a rapid rise to the top. Hopefully your revelation has provided this group with a sense of perspective.

    Warmest Regards,
    Calvin Ng Min-Chiang

    • November 14, 2011 2:02 pm

      HI Calvin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I would think that most people go through many years to get their diplomas or degrees, work some years and perhaps go through some other courses. It’s a combination of hard work and meeting the right people (the correct bosses that steer you the right way). And in many careers, the right dose of IQ coupled with the right dose of EQ helps the person along the way. šŸ™‚

  3. Erwrty permalink
    January 27, 2013 12:38 pm


    I am interested to be an opthalmologist. Thanks for the detail info! Are there doctors that only stop at general opthalmology without subspecialities šŸ™‚

    • January 30, 2013 11:02 pm

      Hi Erwrty,
      Thanks for your question. Yes, there are doctors who practise general ophthalmology without sub-specialising.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: