Careers in Ophthalmic and Vision Science (OVS)

Diagnostic tests and investigations are essential for the diagnosis and management of ophthalmic disease and virtually every patient who attends an eye clinic will have some form of diagnostic testing. Staff who perform these investigations are important members of the multidisciplinary team and should be appropriately trained to a consistent standard and have the opportunity to progress in their careers.

To achieve these goals AHPO worked with Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC), a UK-wide government initiative that developed an education and training strategy and career pathway for the whole healthcare science workforce in the NHS and associated bodies. The healthcare science workforce consists of some 51 different specialisms. All involve the application of science, technology, engineering or mathematics to health. There are four broad divisions:

  • life (biological/laboratory) sciences
  • physical science and engineering
  • physiological science
  • bioinformatics (genomics)

Ophthalmic and Vision Science is one of the disciplines within Physiological Sciences.

The Healthcare Science Career Framework has career levels from assistant at Level 2 to consultant clinical scientist at level 9, as shown in the table. The training and qualifications currently available for Ophthalmic and Vision Science (OVS) staff are highlighted in purple.

The National School of Healthcare Science is seeking recognition for apprenticeship standards at levels 3 and 5. If successful the AHPO Level 5 Diploma in Ophthalmic and Vision Science could become a Level 5 BTEC Diploma and Apprenticeship.

Universities are offering level 6 degree apprenticeships for Healthcare Science Practitioners in other disciplines in Healthcare Science. If there is sufficient demand these may be offered for Ophthalmic and Vision Science.

As stated in the table it is possible to become a registered Healthcare Science Practitioner through an equivalence route. If you have the BTEC Level 4 Diploma and AHPO Level 5 Diploma you would only need to demonstrate equivalence at Level 6.

Career level Role activities Education and training route
OVS training route in purple
Professional Registration

Levels 2 & 3

Undertake clearly defined tasks and protocol based, high volume, low risk activities. Level 2 Healthcare Science BTEC Diploma and Apprenticeship

No Level 3 qualification but AHPO offers relevant Level 3 and 4 units that can be taken with Level 2 BTEC Diploma


Levels 4 & 5

Undertake, analyse and report more advanced and complex high volume low risk diagnostic tests and investigations. Level 4 Healthcare Science BTEC Diploma and Apprenticeship

Level 5 Diploma in Ophthalmic and Vision Science (awarded by AHPO)

No externally awarded Level 5 qualification

Level 6

Undertake, analyse and report a wide range of diagnostic tests and investigations; Uses judgements & deals with ambiguity; May assess the effectiveness of treatments and ensure that they are working correctly. Level 6 Healthcare Science Degree Apprenticeship in Ophthalmic Imaging  

Potential equivalence and progression route from level 4/5 with accredited additional scientific practice

Academy for Healthcare Science Practitioner Register

Levels 7 & 8
Clinical Scientist

Complex scientific and clinical roles. High risk, low volume activities which require highly skilled staff able to exercise clinical judgement about complex facts and clinical situations. Direct entry into Scientist Training Programme (STP) / MSc in Healthcare Science

Potential equivalence and progression route (It is possible that qualifications and training based on the curriculum for the Ophthalmic Common Clinical Competency Framework will provide substantial equivalence to STP)

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

Level 9
Consultant Clinical Scientist

In-depth, highly complex role. Similar to medical consultant role as requires clinical judgement, scientific expertise, leadership and dealing with uncertainty in direct patient care. Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) / PhD Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

For more information see:

Voluntary registration Vs. Statutory registration, what’s the difference?

Currently for most practitioners in healthcare science, being registered is not a legal requirement to be able to practice. It is however recommended or even demanded by employers in certain roles where voluntary regulatory bodies exist for a given profession in healthcare science.

Statutory regulated professionals must be registered by law. In other words, it is illegal to practice without having the correct statutory registration in place. Be this for clinical scientists (Health and care professions council), medical doctors (General Medical Council) or nurses/midwifes (The nursing and midwifery council.) Statutory regulatory bodies have the power to sanction and remove persons from the register, thus taking away their ability to practice.

Registration whether voluntary or statutory shows that the registrant meets the required standard for his or her profession and is becoming a standard requirement for many healthcare science roles in the NHS.


Trainee healthcare science practitioners follow what is called the practitioner training program or PTP. They are employed and funded by the NHS as a trainee for 3 years, whilst also completing a university degree on day release. On completion of their studies they can apply to become a registrant on their voluntary regulatory bodies register.

There is currently no PTP route for ophthalmic and vision science (OVS).

Due to the fact that OVS has historically been lacking an official training program/qualifications and has a large experienced work force already practicing, the academy for healthcare science (AHCS) has set up a PTP equivalency process which allows registration as a practitioner on the AHCS register. During the PTP equivalency process the candidate’s application is assessed against set healthcare science practitioner standards and if the candidate is deemed to have enough experience and have met the standard, PTP equivalence is granted and a certificate of competence is awarded to the candidate, allowing registration on the AHCS practitioner register. The application process is carried out online and incurs a fee, with a yearly fee payable to stay registered.

There are certain caveats to submitting an application and potential candidates should read the guidance notes available at the Academy for Healthcare Science website titled;

  • Certificate of Competence Guidance
  • Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) Equivalence Guidance

Which are available at the following link:

Clinical Scientists:

Trainee clinical scientists follow the scientist training program or STP. Most STP trainees will have already completed a first degree and will undertake a masters level qualification during their time as a trainee scientist whilst also being employed/funded by the NHS. Much like the AHCS PTP equivalency process, an STP equivalency process is also available to prospective candidates who wish to register as a clinical scientist. Many OVS staff have the experience and will be working at the level of a clinical scientist but have not followed the traditional pathways to becoming registered as such. There is no requirement to be a registered practitioner already to apply for scientist level equivalency. The application process is carried out online and a fee is payable to the AHCS. If STP equivalency is granted, the AHCS equivalency certification can then be used to register with the HCPC leading to state registration and the use of the protected title ‘Clinical scientist’.

There are certain caveats to submitting an application and potential candidates should read the guidance notes available at the academy for healthcare science website titled;

STP Equivalence process

Scientist Training Programme (STP) Equivalence Guidance

Which are available at the following link:

Provided by Martin McLeod MSc, Senior Ophthalmic Science Practitioner and AHPO Careers Adviser

To read Martin’s bio please click here