2020 paraoptometric certification

Make your practice shine in 2020 through paraoptometric certification

You might call Melanie Jenkins, CPO, a self-starter.

When she started as a technician at the Tennessee practice of Rob Szeliga, O.D., Jenkins had no experience working in an optometric practice. She was eager to learn, though. On her own, she researched ways to improve her techniques and attended continuing education. To surprise Dr. Szeliga, she earned her CPO. And last year, she passed the office manager certification course offered through the University of Houston School of Optometry. Along the way, she took on more responsibility in the practice. Today she is office manager and jane-of-all-jobs.

Jenkins is the AOA's 2019 Paraoptometric of the Year.

"She is worth more than I could ever afford in salary. She is as dedicated and loyal as they come," says Dr. Szeliga.

"Being certified has increased my confidence in studying for both certifications; I learned so much about optometry, staff management and human resources," Jenkins says. "I believe having the knowledge and confidence has helped me grow as a professional in my career.

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As an office manager, there are lots of things I get to do-from payroll to filing insurance to staff meeting management, etc.," she says. "I like the variety. Most of all, I like the doctors, staff and patients I get to be with and know personally. Sight is so often taken for granted. None of us would want to lose the ability to see. By educating the public more of how important eye health is, I believe we would see a greater surge into this field. What a difference we make daily!"

Learn more about certification.

How to get your certification


The AOA offers four certification programs for optometric staff. Each program requires successful completion of an examination prepared and administered by the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC), with the assistance of the Professional Testing Corporation®.

Below are the application deadlines for paraoptometric certification and the two-week testing periods when the examinations will be given in 2020:

2020 Testing Dates Application Deadline
($50 late fee will be incurred for applications submitted after this date)
Late Application Deadline
(Applications will not be accepted after this date)
Feb.15-29  Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020
May 2-16 Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Aug. 1-15 Wednesday, June 17, 2020 Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Nov. 7-21 Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020


Those registering for a CPO examination must upload a completed CPO Attestation Statement.

Renewing certification


Candidates due to renew their Certified Paraoptometric (CPOTM) or Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOATM) certifications in 2020 must submit their renewal and have it approved prior to the Sept. 23 application deadline if they are planning on testing for the next certification level in November. Applications to take the exams are available on the AOA's website. Late applications are accepted as stated on the examination schedule. Once certified, individuals holding a designation of CPO, CPOA or Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOTTM) must earn a minimum of 18 hours in continuing education (CE) every three years and provide proof of this CE credit to the CPC by Nov. 1 of their renewal year.

Those who hold a Certified Paraoptometric Coder Certification (CPOCTM) must earn a minimum of nine hours of CE every three years and provide proof of this CE credit to the CPC by May 31 of their renewal year.

Renewal dates for all certifications for paraoptometrics are based on the year in which they attained their current certification level or the year in which they most recently renewed their current certification status. The renewal year may be found on the current certificate. Find out how to maintain your certification.

AOA member benefit

Doctors of optometry may enroll their paraoptometric staff as associate members-at no additional membership dues for the AOA-member doctor. Once enrolled as associate members, doctors' staff members automatically have access to the Paraoptometric Resource Center's career development resources.

How can doctors of optometry develop their staffs' skills?

  • Ensure staff members meet the deadlines to take their certification examinations. The deadlines can come up quickly for CPO, CPOA or CPOT.

  • Remind paraoptometric staff they can earn free CE credits. Paraoptometrics may earn six free CE credits by reading articles covering a broad range of topics on patient care. To receive CE credit, paraoptometrics must review each article, complete its accompanying quiz and submit the results online.

  • Enroll paraoptometrics at no additional cost-as AOA associate members. As associate members, paraoptometrics can access many AOA educational and training resources. As members, they also are eligible for discounts on educational materials and registration fees for Optometry's Meeting® and other benefits. Doctors may enroll their staff members online, but will need a paraoptometric's legal name, date of birth and unique email address. To access various study resources, go to AOA Marketplace and click on the topic "staff certification (para)."

December 20, 2019

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