How do I earn Board Certification?

board certification optometryDemonstrate your competence and commitment to lifelong learning through the American Board of Optometry’s Board Certification and Maintenance of Certification. Our process is rigorous but rewarding.  To download a printable handout on becoming a Diplomate, click here.

  • Step One: Complete Initial Application

    1. Supply demographic information.
    2. Submit nonrefundable application fee of $300.00.
    3. Identify Qualifying Requirements:
      • Graduation from school or college of optometry accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE).
      • Active license to practice therapeutic optometry in a state, District of Columbia, U.S. commonwealth or territory.
    4. State adherence to principles of the Optometric Oath.
    5. Acknowledge that American Board of Optometry Board Certification must be kept current through enrollment in the 10-year Maintenance of Certification process.
    6. Affirm that all supplied information is true and correct.
    7. Grant permission to the American Board of Optometry to verify all credentials.
    8. Authorize search of National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).
  • Step Two: Verify Qualifying Requirements

    Our verification process is thorough and efficient. You will be designated as COMPLETE on your Learning Builder page once your credentials have been confirmed. Please do not contact the American Board of Optometry, your school or state board during the process. If for some unusual reason verification is not completed within 30 days of your date of application, please contact us. Contacting any other school or agency will only serve to delay the process.
  • Step Three: Attain Active Candidate Status

    Upon confirmation of all Qualifying Requirements, you will be granted ACTIVE CANDIDATE status by the American Board of Optometry for a period of one year. You may renew your Active Candidate status for up to three years total by entering proof of completion of 50 points toward the Post-Graduate Requirements for each year of eligibility. Active Candidate status does not imply Board Certification, but may be used in certain credentialing processes.
  • Step Four: Meet Post-Graduate Requirements

    Permanent Requirements   To be eligible to take the examination, Active Candidates must attain 150 points in accordance with the ABO's "residency or equivalent" process.  If points are not attained by completion of an ACOE accredited residency, the Candidate must show evidence of three years of active licensure and clinical practice.  

    Click here for a downloadable overview of exam qualification requirements.

    1. Residency (ACOE Accredited) - 150 points if completed less than 3 years ago; 100 points if completed 3-10 years ago; and 50 points if completed more than 10 years ago.
    2. Fellowship in the AAO, COVD, NORA, CLSA, SLS  - 50 points if completed within the previous 10 years*.
    3. Diplomate of a section of the American Academy of Optometry* - 50 points if completed within the previous 10 years. *Note: Fellowship and Diplomate status must be active and current as defined by the organizations.
    4. Education - Up to 150 points.
    5. Active Clinical Practice - Five points for each year of practice in the previous 10 years (up to 50 points).
    Note:  Education expires three years from date of completion. However, once education has been submitted for verification, it is locked in through the next testing period.

    Category 1 Education (Up to 150 points)

    Live continuing education conferences or live webinars approved by any state board of optometry or COPE. A minimum of 50 percent of education points must be from Category 1.
    1. Continuing Education – 1 point per hour
    2. Continuing Education with Examination (CEE) – 2 points per hour

    Category 2 Education (Up to 75 points)

    A maximum of 50% of education points can be from Category 2. Other educational activities not listed may be submitted for consideration by the American Board of Optometry. Activities cannot earn duplicate credit; for example, if you are claiming points for Fellowship in the American Academy of Optometry, a case report used in the FAAO process cannot be claimed toward Category 2F credit.      

    Category 2A: 

    Presentation of educational activities at schools and colleges of optometry accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), or medical schools approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

      • Lectures - 1 point per hour
      • Grand Rounds - 1 point per hour

    Category 2B:

    Distance learning courses with examinations that are approved by a state, District of Columbia, U.S. commonwealth or territory board or COPE. Must receive a passing grade as determined by the course provider. Note: Distance learning courses do NOT count as Continuing Education with Examination (CEE).

      • Journal courses - 1 point per hour of credit
      • Online courses - 1 point per hour of credit

    (Click here for a printable list of online continuing education resources under Category 2B.)

    Category 2C:

    Educational or scientific activity portions of hospital meetings; national, regional, state or local optometric or medical meetings; or grand rounds not approved by COPE or a state board.

      • Lectures and Presentations - 1 point per hour of credit

    Category 2D:

    ABO-authorized Performance in Practice activities.

    • Record review using validated format provided by employer - 1 point per 10 records
    • Peer evaluation using validated format provided by employer - 5 points
    • Documented point of care learning (e.g., surgical observation) - 1 point per hour Note: Self-Assessment Modules and Performance in Practice Modules designed for Maintenance of Certification do not qualify for Category 2 credit.

    Category 2E: 

    Educational programs by a university or college that are designed to enhance a participant’s instructional, research, administrative, or clinical knowledge and skills  Note: Category 2E programs are worth 50 points if completed within 10 years.

    • Non-Accredited Residency Program - 50 points
    • Fellowship Program without Degree - 50 points
    • Professionally related master’s or doctoral degree (e.g., MPH, or PhD in vision science) - 50 points

    Category 2F:

    Scholarly Activities.

    • Development of assessment tools
      • Self-Assessment Modules (SAMs) - 5 to 20 points
      • Performance in Practice Modules (PPMs) - 5 to 20 points
      • Item development for ABO or NBEO examination - 2 points per item
      • Service on AAO examination committee - 10 points per year
    • Teaching health-care students or health-care professionals.
      • Residency or externship education - 5 points per quarter
    • Review/editing of manuscripts for publication in a peer-reviewed optometry, medical or scientific journal.
      • Service as journal editor - 20 points per year
      • Service on journal review board - 5 points per year
    • Publication of a clinical, review or research article in a peer reviewed optometry, medical or scientific journal.
      • Original research (1st author) - 20 points
      • Original research (2nd author) - 10 points
      • Review (1st author) - 10 points
      • Clinical case (1st author) - 10 points
    • Presentation at scientific portions of meetings to include, but not limited to, those of the American Academy of Optometry, SECO, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, or AOA Optometry’s Meeting®.
      • Scientific Paper Presentation - 5 points
      • Scientific Poster Presentation - 5 points
      • Grand Rounds Case Presentation - 2 points
    • Development of a COPE approved CE course
      • Original content development per approved course - 5 points
  • Step Five: Take The Exam

    1. Submit 150 points of Post-Graduate Requirements. Your record must show three years of active licensure and clinical practice, OR completion of an ACOE-accredited residency. The verification process can take up to 30 days.
    2. Once verified, you can register for the exam by paying the examination fee of $950. For recent graduates and residents, there is a reduced exam fee. Please call our office to determine your eligibility. Then, schedule your exam at a Prometric Test Center.
      • The Board Certification examination is a computer-based patient assessment and management examination that emphasizes clinical knowledge and skills, not didactic details. In the years after graduation from optometry school, you acquire valuable clinical experience. Reassessing your practical knowledge and skills every 10 years is a means of demonstrating that you are maintaining the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience needed to deliver quality eye care.
      • Standardized assessment is crucial to ensuring credibility of any board certification process. Examinations are held twice annually at Prometric Test Centers worldwide.
      • Active Candidates should pass the examination within 12 months of submitting exam registration. An optometrist who does not pass within 12 months can re-apply for the examination, but is subject to Post-Graduate Requirements. In addition, “Active Candidate” status applies for a maximum of four years.
  • Step Six: Attain American Board of Optometry Board Certification

    Active Candidates who pass the examination are Board Certified and are considered Diplomates of the American Board of Optometry. Successful candidates are notified by mail and via the Learning Builder portal.  American Board of Optometry staff cannot give results over the phone or by e-mail. You will have an opportunity to specify how your name  appears on your printed certificate. Diplomates can purchase additional certificates by contacting our office.
  • Step Seven: Maintain Certification

    Upon successful completion of the Board Certification Examination, the American Board of Optometry confers Board Certified status to the optometrist for a period of 10 years. Board Certification must be kept current through enrollment in the 10-year American Board of Optometry Maintenance of Certification process. For 2016, the annual maintenance fee is $195, which includes the annual Self-Assessment Module or Performance in Practice Module.