Frequently Asked Questions


Membership                                        Continuing Education and Training      

Certification                                        Certification Materials                                        Certification Renewal



Membership

How do I become a member?

What should I do if I can't log in?

How much does AOA Associate membership cost?

What if I don't work in an optometric practice or my OD is not an AOA member?

What are the benefits of being a member if I'm not certified / don't need continuing education credits?  

Is membership the same as certification?      

If I become certfied, does that mean I am also a member?

I don't see an answer to my question; click to contact the PRC.


Continuing Education and Training

How do I earn CE if I'm a member?

How do I earn CE if I'm not a member?

How long will it take for my AOA CE to be processed?

How do I find out if my CE will count toward renewal?

When can I start accumulating my continuing education hours and how many do I need?  

What training is available if I don't need CE? 

I don't see an answer to my question; click to contact the PRC.


Certification

What are the benefits of becoming certified?

Can I maintain my certification without being a member?

Where can I get an application for certification?

What are the examination fees?

How do I find a testing site?  

How will I be notified that my application was received?  

I'm having difficulty submitting my application online, need to verify receipt of my application or need to discuss a payment.  

Where can I get a Candidate Handbook?  

Is the examination offered online?  

Who is eligible to pay student fees?  

How long do I have to wait between the CPO and the CPOA examinations and between the CPOA and CPOT?  

When will I get my results?  Can they be emailed to me or can I get them over the phone?  

If I am certified by the CPC am I automatically a member of the PRC?

I don't see an answer to my question; click to contact the CPC.


Certification Handbooks and Study Materials

What is the difference between the Candidate Handbook and the Study Guide?  

How much study time should I allow for preparing for the examination?  

When preparing for the CPOA or CPOT examination, why should I do the self assessment exam?  Is the self assessment exam a pre-test?  

Are there any other study materials available?  

What study materials are available for the CPOC?  

The CPOC examination is an open book examination.  What materials will be allowed in the examination room?  

I don't see an answer to my question; click to contact the CPC.


Certification Renewal

When is my certification renewal due?

Can I maintain my certification without being a member?

What is the timeline for certification renewal?  

How do I find out if my CE will count toward renewal?  Where can I get CE?

When can I start accumulating my continuing education hours and how many do I need?  

If I cannot earn the required hours of education by my renewal date, what should I do?

I have already passed the written (or clinical) portion of the CPOT examination.  A notice to renew my CPOA certification was received.  Do I still need to renew as a CPOA if I've already passed one portion of the CPOT?

I don't see an answer to my question; click to contact the CPC.



MEMBERSHIP

Enrolling for Associate membership is easy!  All paraoptometrics/optometric staff of AOA member ODs may become AOA associate member paraoptometrics and have access to Paraoptometric Resource Center (PRC) member benefits and services at no membership cost to the paraoptometric and no added dues increase to the AOA-member optometrist. Paraoptometrics interested in gaining access to these resources should request that their AOA member OD enroll them. Click here for complete details.

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If you can't log in or don't remember your username or password, please contact PRC@aoa.org or call 1.800.365.2219 ext. 4108.  We would be happy to help you!  Creating a new account through the website will not give you access to the member-only portions of the website.

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Membership for paraoptometrics who work for an AOA Member doctor is free!  

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We also offer a Public membership for those who meet these requirements set forth in our by-laws: "An individual who is not an optometrist but has a substantial interest in the profession of optometry and contributes to the advancement of the interests of this Assocation may be eligible for membership as a Public Member of this Association."  If you are interested in pursuing a Public membership please email PRC@aoa.org with an explanation of how you believe your current employment situation contributes to the advancement of the AOA, and we will be happy to review your submission and determine if your situation satisfies the requirements of the by-laws.

For paraoptometrics who don't work in a traditional practice but work in federal service optometry, we are able to help with enrollment.  Please contact PRC@aoa.org.

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There are many benefits of AOA Associate membership, even if you don't require CE credits.  All of the articles in our Article Archive are free to read; our Paraoptometric Skill Builder (Beginner Level, free) is designed for both new and experienced staff; our Webinar Rewind has several presentations on practice management and billing and coding; and Para Professional, our quarterly newsletter, provides ongoing information, news and resources.  For a detailed description of our many benefits, click here.

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No, membership is not the same thing as certification.  Membership through the Paraoptometric Resource Center and paraoptometric certification through the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification are completely different and are handled by two different departments at the AOA.  Membership is handled by the Paraoptometric Resource Center and requires online enrollment by an AOA OD member.  Certification refers to the level of professional certification one has attained through formal testing and continuing education in the paraoptometric field.  Certification requires renewal every three years and is dependent upon the satisfaction of required continuing education as well as submission of renewal fees to the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification. 

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CONTINUING EDUCATION AND TRAINING

AOA provides a wealth of CE opportunities for Associate members. 

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If you are not an Associate member of the AOA, you still have access to our Education Modules, Certification Review Courses, Billing and Coding series (on CD) and Self-Assessment Exam for Paraoptometric Assistants and Technicians, all fee-based and available through our Marketplace.  You may also contact the CPC for more information about online and in-person opportunities.

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As a general rule CE will take about two weeks to be processed.  The PRC typically grades CE on a weekly basis and issues the CE verification forms via email by the end of the next week.  Please note that Self-Assessment Exam results and certificates are mailed to the paraoptometric rather than emailed.  We ask that paraoptometrics allow 2-3 weeks for the processing of CE, especially in the fall.  CE that is received by October 1 will be processed by the PRC and returned to the paraoptometric in time for certification renewals, which are due to the CPC by November 1.

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Continuing education is available from a variety of sources.  Many state and national optometric or paraoptometric conferences offer opportunities to obtain continuing education that meets CPC requirements. The AOA Paraoptometric Resource Center offers free online CE to its members as well as other opportunities to earn credits.  CPR and First Aid courses offered through the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, or American Safety and Health Institute may be used one time during a renewal cycle.  A list of online CPC approved continuing education is available by contacting the CPC at cpc@aoa.org.  Other opportunities include participation in humanitarian aid missions, authoring, lecturing, and volunteering on CPC committees.  

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CERTIFICATION

You can absolutely maintain your certification even if you do not qualify for AOA Associate membership. Please contact CPC@aoa.org or call 1.800.365.2219  ext. 4210 to discuss individual needs.

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Certification is a valuable asset to your career!  Paraoptometrics who take the time to become certified demonstrate that they are committed to their career and interested in furthering their learning.  They remain on top of the latest education and training available in the field.  The certified paraoptometric may enhance the productivity and profitability of the practice by assuming routine and technical responsibilities and playing a vital role in the office-patient relationship.  Doctors who support certification show that they value their staff as an essential part of the practice, trust them and want them to succeed.

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All applications and payments are processed by Professional Testing Corporation (PTC). CPC does not accept any applications or payments.  Information regarding application procedures can be found at www.aoa.org in the candidate handbooks. The actual applications are housed online at http://www.ptcny.com/clients/cpc. Applications must be completed on a computer and submitted electronically.  Payment for the CPO exam may be made at the time of application using a credit card.  All other applications must go through an approval process before payment is requested.  Upon acceptance of an application, the applicant will receive an email confirmation from PTC and request for payment when applicable.  PTC will email a receipt after payment has been received.  Those candidates who wish to pay by check or money order will receive instructions on where to send payment.  Payments made by check or money order must be received by the application deadline.  If paying by debit or credit card, applications received by the deadline of 9:00 PM EST of the examination deadline date will be considered "on time." Payment will be requested by PTC after the application has been reviewed for candidate eligibility and must be received before the eligibility notice will be issued.

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The examination fee for the CPO and CPOC is $265, each.  The fee for the CPOA, CPOT Written and CPOT Clinical examinations is $285, each.  The student fee for CPOA or CPOT Written is $225.  See Handbook for student eligibility.

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Candidates may search for testing sites at https://candidate.psiexams.com/testdate/testdate.jsp.

1) Select your preferred Sponsor: Certification/Professional Associations

2) Select Sponsor Name: Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC)

3) Select Examination Name: CPO, CPOA, CPOC, CPOT Written or CPOT Clinical

4) When "Select Portions" appears, click "continue"

5) Under Test Center Selection, select country (US or Canada only)

6) Type in zip code or city name and click "search"

7) A list of PSI examination facilities should be displayed

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Professional Testing Corporation will email a confirmation of application to you once your application has been received.  If payment was not made at the time of application you will receive a request for payment from PTC via email.  Several weeks before the examination period begins, an Eligibility Notice will be emailed to you by PTC.  You must have the Eligibility Notice in order to make an examination appointment.  Contact PTC at 212-356-0660 with a fax number if you do not receive the notice at least 2 weeks before the start of the examination period for which you have applied.  

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All issues related to application or payment are handled by Professional Testing Corporation.  A special email address is available to handle forms related issues:  eforms@ptcny.com.  All other inquiries should be addressed to ptcny@ptcny.com or 212.356.0660.

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Handbooks are available to view or print at www.aoa.org or http://www.ptcny.com/clients/cpc.  If you are unable to view or print the handbook, contact the CPC at 800-365-2219 ext. 4210.  

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All of the paraoptometric examinations are proctored examinations that are available as computer-based examinations at specified PSI exam centers.  They are not available for testing in one's office or home.

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Candidates will be considered students only if they are enrolled full-time in a formal vocational/technical paraoptometric education program recognized by the CPC or approved by the ACOE (Accreditation Council on Optometric Education).  Documentation will be required.  Eligible programs are listed on the AOA web site and in the CPOA and CPOT handbooks.

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Six months' optometric work experience is required between each successive level of certification.

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A preliminary pass/fail result will be available immediately following a computer-based examination.  Final results and a score report will be mailed to the candidate within 4 to 6 weeks of the close of the testing period.  Due to confidentiality policies, results are mailed only to the candidate.  No results will be faxed, given over the phone, emailed, nor published on any website. 

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CERTIFICATION HANDBOOKS AND STUDY MATERIALS

The Handbook contains general information regarding requirements and procedures for applying for and taking a paraoptometric examination as well as a study outline and suggested study resources.  Study guides are the actual publications you would use to prepare for the examination.  Some study materials are available for purchase from the AOA Marketplace.  Contact prc@aoa.org for more information.  Orders may be placed at www.aoa.org, emailed to orders@aoa.org, or placed over the phone at (800) 262-2210.

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At least 3 months of study time should be allowed for each examination.  Keep in mind that the examinations get progressively more difficult and length of study time may need to be adjusted accordingly.

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The self assessment examination is more of a diagnostic tool that will demonstrate a candidate's areas of strengths and weaknesses as well as another method of studying.  It is not a pre-test for the examinations.  Candidates who pass the self assessment examination will be awarded a certificate of completion and 12 hours of continuing education that they may apply toward their certification renewal for CPO/CPOA/CPOT renewal.  One time only.  Not for the CPOC renewal.

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A list of recommended reading materials as well as an outline with a brief explanation of the areas to be tested for each examination is listed in the appropriate level Candidate Handbook.

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There is no specific study guide for the CPOC (Certified Paraoptometric Coder). A study map to aid CPOC candidates may be found on the AOA website.  The CPOC examination is an open book test.

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Current versions (Standard or Professional Editions - 2013 or 2014) of the CPT and Codes for Optometry may be used during the Certified Paraoptometric Coder (CPOC) examination.  No loose papers and no other materials will be allowed.  Margin notes and highlighting in the books are allowed.

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CERTIFICATION RENEWAL

CPO, CPOA, and CPOT renewals are due by November 1 of the renewal year (three years after attaining certification or 3 years after most recent certification renewal).  CPOC renewals are due by May 31 of the renewal year (three years after attaining certification or 3 years after most recent certification renewal).   The year of renewal may be found in the lower left portion of the certificate.  If you have not received a reminder by February of your renewal year please contact the CPC.  Invoices are sent out in March.  Reminders and invoices are emailed so it is extremely important that email addresses be kept current with the CPC.  

Please keep in mind that CE earned through the PRC will take time to grade and process.  Quizzes that are received after October 1 will not be graded and processed in time for a certificate holder to receive the CE verification forms and meet the CPC's November 1 due date for renewal.  Ungraded quizzes may not be sent in to the CPC with renewal paperwork and payment; renewals must include the appropriate renewal fee and proof of all previously-earned CE.  No CE hours earned after the renewal deadline of the current certification may be may be applied to its renewal.

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Continuing education may be accumulated beginning January 1 of the first year of certification and may continue through October 31 of the renewal year.  For example, a candidate who passes the examination between January and December 2014 will be due for renewal on November 1, 2017.  Continuing education may be accumulated from January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2017.  Those who have previously renewed may start earning credits beginning November 1 through October 31 of their next renewal period.  Any unused credits, or credits earned and used after November, may not be applied to the next renewal period.  Currently, 18 hours of continuing education are required for certification renewal, except for those renewing a CPOC.  Nine hours of billing and coding related CE is required for renewal of the CPOC.  See renewal guidelines for more information.

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CPO, CPOA, and CPOT certifications are renewable every three calendar years and are due by November 1 of the renewal year.  CPOC renewals are due every third year by May 31. Certified paraoptometrics will be reminded in January of their renewal year that their renewal is coming due.  Invoices are emailed out in March to certificate holders whose renewals are due that year.

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If your renewal date has passed and you have not acquired the hours needed, your certification will be dropped.  In order to regain an active certification, you must retest within 3 years of the date the renewal was due and at the same level of certification previously held.

Renewal candidates who have experienced a serious illness or injury during their current renewal period that may have hindered or prevented them from completing the necessary CE requirements may apply for an extension prior to their renewal deadline.  Documentation from the attending physician must accompany any such request.  Requests must be in writing and submitted via USPS, fax or email to CPC@aoa.org.

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Renewals for CPO/CPOA/CPOT received on or before November 1 must include the early bird $95 renewal fee.  The fee for renewals received or postmarked after November 1 is $195 and must be paid before the renewal will be processed.  Those who receive a renewal extension due to illness or injury and renew after November 1 will be required to pay the $195 fee.  CPOC renewals are due May 31 and the early bird fee is $95; renewals received after May 31 must include the $195 renewal fee.  Renewals received after November 30 (or June 30 for CPOC renewals) will be rejected, and the renewal candidate's certification will be deactivated.

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To be considered a CPOT, a candidate must pass both the written and the clinical examinations within the maximum span of a 3-year period.  If only one portion of the exam has been taken and passed, the candidate would still be considered a CPOA and would need to follow the renewal guidelines and submit their renewal as a CPOA.

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