Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
The Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) is the entry level core designation designed to start eye care professionals on the path to success. The COA designation confirms an assistant’s knowledge in specific content areas.
Individuals interested in IJCAHPO certification must first establish eligibility to test. The eligibility pathways should be reviewed prior to submitting an examination application and related fees. IJCAHPO retains the sole authority to establish eligibility requirements and final decisions regarding examination eligibility.
To be eligible, candidates must meet one of the three following education and work experience categories:
COA-A1: Clinical Training Program Graduates
International Council of Accreditation (ICA) accredited training program at the Clinical Assistant level.*
- If the program was completed more than 12 months ago, you will need to submit 18 IJCAHPO CE credits for each year following graduation. The credits must be earned within 36 months prior to submitting your application.
REQUIRED WORK EXPERIENCE
COA-A2: Non-Clinical Training Program Graduates
International Council of Accreditation (ICA) accredited training program at the Non-Clinical Assistant level, including distance learning programs.*
- If you completed the program more than 12 months ago, you will need to submit 18 IJCAHPO CE credits for each year following graduation. The credits must be earned within 36 months prior to submitting your application.
REQUIRED WORK EXPERIENCE
500 hours under the supervision of an ophthalmologist within 12 months prior to submitting your application.
COA-A3: Work Experience
Graduated from High School or the equivalent
Completed an approved independent study course. Approved study courses include the JCAHPO Career Advancement Tool (JCAT) or the AAO Ophthalmic Medical Assisting course.
- If you completed the course more than 36 months ago, you will need to repeat the course or submit 18 IJCAHPO CE credits for each year following the 36-month period.
REQUIRED WORK EXPERIENCE
Employed 1,000 hours under the supervision of an ophthalmologist within 12 months prior to submitting your application.
*Certification examination candidates who attend a formal training program may apply for the certification examination(s), including the practical examinations, up to two months prior to graduation from the program; however, no examination results will be sent by IJCAHPO to the candidate until official notification of graduation is received and if applicable, verification of work experience.
The IJCAHPO certification process is examination-based. Examinations are based on research conducted every five years to determine the typical tasks performed by Allied Ophthalmic Personnel (AOP). These tasks are grouped into categories, and the examinations are designed to include questions pertaining to each category.
Certification applications must be received within the allotted time frame in each eligibility pathway. Application for retest must be received within 12 months of initial examination.
Candidates who meet one of three education and work experience categories are eligible to sit for the COA Practice Examination for a fee. If the candidate passes the examination, they must pay an additional fee to obtain the COA certificate within 30 days of receiving their official practice examination results from IJCAHPO. The practice examination will not be considered a formal attempt unless a passing score has been achieved. If a passing score is not achieved, there are no refunds and candidates will be required to retest with the initial COA examination fee within 12 months of the practice examination date.
Scheduling & Test Center
Candidates may schedule their examination at a Pearson VUE test center upon receipt of the confirmation notice. Candidates may use the toll-free number (888) 231-1929 or go online to www.pearsonvue.com/jcahpo to schedule their examination. A current list of test sites may also be viewed at www.pearsonvue.com/jcahpo by selecting “Find a Test Site.”
IJCAHPO does not control test site availability or examination scheduling. To avoid scheduling complications, schedule examination times promptly after receiving the confirmation notice.
Number of Exam Questions
IJCAHPO Core Certification Criteria Handbook
Scheduling & Taking the Examination
IJCAHPO and its test vendors do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities and make every effort to reasonably accommodate candidates with documented disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you have a disability as defined under the ADA, you must notify IJCAHPO by submitting a form regarding your request from your physician or a qualified healthcare professional.
If an applicant does not meet the IJCAHPO eligibility criteria, but believes that their education, training, and/or experience are equivalent, they may request special consideration. People who received ophthalmic training outside the United States and Canada may be among those qualifying for special consideration.
The special consideration process is designed to serve an applicant who’s educational and/or employment background is different from the established eligibility criteria but may be deemed equivalent. Contact the IJCAHPO Certification Department for information on the documentation required to support special consideration requests.
How to Prepare
Build your confidence by studying all areas of the examination content thoroughly. Use multiple resources, take practice quizzes and tests, and make sure you understand what you are studying. View the resources IJCAHPO has available to help you prepare for your examination.
Quick Study Cards and Study Guides to help you prepare for your certification examination.
Independent Study Courses
In-depth resources for the day-to-day knowledge and skills you need to know.
Certification Exam Prep Sessions
Offered live and virtually, attend this course to prepare for the written certification examination.
Once you have met the requirements to apply for the COA examination, submit your application online or by mail.
In Need of Recertification?
Maintaining certification is just as important as earning it. Review the requirements to recertify and submit your application.