Paraoptometric certification can boost a career

January 2, 2019
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®.
Paraoptometric certification

Ask Carol Lovell, CPOTTM, CPOCTM, who works for a practice in Gillette, Wyoming. "I knew if I wanted to further my career, I needed to seek out knowledge and certification," says Lovell, who has more than 25 years in the paraoptometric field and was named 2018 AOA Paraoptometric of the Year.

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 2019:

Application deadlines:

March 21 (late applications will not be accepted after April 4).
June 26 (late application deadline July 10).
Sept. 18 (late application deadline Oct. 2).
A $50 late fee will be incurred for an application submitted after the original deadline.

Testing periods:

May 4-18.
Aug. 10-24.
Nov. 2-16 .
Candidates due to renew their Certified Paraoptometric (CPOTM) or Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOATM) certifications in 2019 must submit their renewal and have it approved prior to the Sept. 18 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. Complete renewal requirements.

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, including education and training tools.

3 ways to help staff build skills

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 continuing education 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)."
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