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The Optometrist's Guide to Academic Accolades

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12 min read

Gain insight into the four most prevalent academic designations for optometrists and a breakdown of how to achieve each accolade.

The Optometrist's Guide to Academic Accolades
Have you ever wondered about the extra letters behind some OD’s names? Curious to know what they are and what it takes to obtain them?
In this New Optometrists’ Guide to Academic Accolades, we’ll explore a few of the most common accolades as well as the benefits and costs of each.

American Board of Optometry (ABO)

Dipl. ABO

Letters after OD: ABO
What it means: Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry
Requirements for new candidates:1
  • Applicable to graduates from an optometry school in the United States or Canada accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) who have completed an approved 1-year residency program or a minimum of 3 years of active clinical practice.
  • Hold a valid active license to practice therapeutic optometry in a US state, territory, or the District of Columbia.
  • Pass the ABO certification exam, offered twice a year in February/March and July/August, which consists of clinical knowledge and skill.
  • Pay a $300 application fee and $950 exam fee.
Requirements to maintain:2
  • Complete necessary activities within a 4-year period of the Continued Assessment Program (CAP) cycle with the following requirements:
    • 100 continuing education (CE) hours, which are earned through the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE) and non-COPE-approved CE
    • Additional CE can be earned through CAP activities such mini-assessments, learning modules, and sponsored webinars
    • Pass seven of nine mini-assessments, which are open-source assessments focused on a single topic and 25 questions in length
    • Progress will be reviewed at year 3 with the opportunity to use year 4 as a remediation year
  • Pay the annual $250 maintenance of certification (MOC) fee.3
Other highlights:
  • Recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and is incorporated into CMS’ online physician search tool.
  • Earns the designation of “Board Certified Optometrist.”


A large part of growing in the field is related to gaining a higher level of education. Becoming an ABO Diplomate offers a structured pathway for continued personal and professional development.

American Academy of Optometry (AAO)


Letters after OD: FAAO and/or Dipl. AAO
What it means: Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (FAAO), Diplomate of the American Academy of Optometry
Requirements for new fellowship candidates:4
  • Send an updated curriculum vitae.
  • A current fellow must serve as your proposer to certify that you are a strong candidate for the fellowship.
  • Submit a proposed plan to earn 50 points for written work consisting of the following:
    • Case reports (10 points each), which demonstrate clinical and technical knowledge (minimum of one required for clinical/OD track)
    • Publications (10 points each) to a list of approved journals
    • Posters and papers (10 points each) submitted to a list of approved conferences and organizations
    • Academy lecture (10 points)
    • Residency (accredited by the ACOE) or other graduate degree (20 points)
    • Leadership contribution (10 points maximum)
    • Professionally-related book (20 points maximum)
  • Pay the initial application fee of $60.
Requirements to maintain FAAO:
  • Submit initial association dues:4
    • Graduated from professional school during the current calendar year: $0
    • Graduated from professional school during the previous calendar year: $190
    • Graduated from professional school 2 calendar years ago: $295
    • Graduated from professional school 3 or more calendar years ago: $400
    • Note: After the initial prorated fee, the annual dues for fellows is $400
  • Fellows must renew their fellowship status every 10 years.
  • Fellows need to acquire 15 points during a consecutive 10-year period for activities such as:5
    • Attendance at an Academy annual meeting (3 points), with a minimum of one meeting per 10-year period
    • Attendance at any CE-qualifying event at an Academy annual meeting (1 point per 2 hours of CE)
    • Present a 1-hour lecture or any workshop at an Academy annual meeting (2 points per presentation)
    • Present a scientific paper or poster or serve as a symposium speaker at an Academy annual meeting (1 point per presentation)
    • Serve as a volunteer in the Academy (1 point per year)
    • Complete Academy Online CE courses (1 point per 2 hours of CE)
    • Author an article in an accepted peer-reviewed journal (3 points per article published in Optometry and Vision Science or Clinical Insights in Eyecare, or 2 points per article in any other accepted journal)
    • Author a book chapter (3 points per chapter)
Other highlights:
  • Access to additional optometric journals such as Optometry and Vision Science, Clinical Insights in Eyecare, and Academy’s Optometry Journal Library.
  • Reduced rates to attend the annual Academy meeting.
  • Free and reduced costs to distance learning education via Academy Online.
  • Additional opportunities for publications and lectures at the American Academy of Optometry.
  • Opportunity to join special interest groups and/or continue on for Diplomate status in the fields of anterior segment, binocular vision perception and pediatric optometry (DipBVPPO), comprehensive eye care, cornea, contact lenses and refractive technologies (CCLRT), glaucoma, low vision (DipLV), optometric education, public health and environmental vision, and/or vision science.


Achieving FAAO and Diplomate status from the American Academy of Optometry is a widely recognized achievement nationally and internationally. Fellowships provide additional opportunities for networking and lecturing within the profession.

College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)


Letters after OD: FCOVD
What it means: Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development
Requirements for new candidates:6
  • Application for fellowship to be submitted within 4 years to complete requirements:
    • Completion of ACOE-accredited optometry school
    • Minimum of 2 years and 1,000 hours of direct clinical diagnosis and office-based vision therapy hours
    • Document at least 100 hours of CE in vision development, binocular vision, visual perception, visual information processing, and vision therapy completed within 5 years prior to application
      • Completion of a vision therapy/rehabilitation residency program can count towards these 100 hours
      • Residents can take a multiple-choice examination (MCE) that, if passed, will give them credit for that portion of the fellowship process upon enrollment
    • Fellowship registration cost(s):7
      • Member’s fees:
        • Guided study fee: $800
        • Examination fee: $700
      • Non-member fees:
        • Guided study fee: $1,000
        • Examination fee: $1,000
      • MCE retake fee: $250
    • Connect with an FCOVD mentor—you can get assistance with this via COVD
    • Complete six open-book question (OBQ) submissions
    • Submit three case reports
    • Complete the MCE (if not taken during residency)
    • Oral interview after finishing the above requirements
Requirements to maintain:8
  • There is a 75-point requirement that must be completed over a period of 5 years, with opportunities to obtain in the following ways:
    • CE hours: Accepted CE topics include developmental optometry, traumatic brain injury, vision therapy, or rehabilitation
    • COVD volunteer service: As a committee/subcommittee member or liaison
    • FCOVD mentorship: By mentoring a colleague who successfully completes the FCOVD process (points dispensed per FCOVD)
    • COVD annual meeting lecturer: Presentation of CE
    • COVD Poster or oral research/case report or panel participant presentation: Accepted content related to developmental optometry, traumatic brain injury, vision therapy, or rehabilitation
    • Article author: Publication in a peer-reviewed journal on the topic of vision development, diagnosis, or treatment related to developmental/behavioral optometry
    • Book chapter author/co-author: Book publication on the topic of vision development, diagnosis, or treatment related to developmental/behavioral optometry

Scleral Lens Education Society (SLS)


Letters after OD: FSLS
What it means: Fellow of the Scleral Lens Education Society
Requirements for new candidates:9
  • Become a member of the SLS and keep your profile information up to date.
  • Pay the $100 application fee.
  • Notify the fellowship chair of intent to pursue fellowship and confirmation of payment of application fee.
  • Submit necessary documents via the editorial manager website.
  • Obtain 60 points within 3 years of the application start date—20 points from case reports and 40 from any combination of the following:
    • Completion of a cornea and contact lens residency or fellowship certified by the ACOE
    • Diplomate of the cornea, contact lens, and refractive technologies section of the American Academy of Optometry
    • Standard case report
    • Peer-reviewed journal article with the candidate as the first author
    • Peer-reviewed lecture greater than or equal to 1 credit hour, presented at a major meeting and/or with COPE approval, with the primary topic of scleral lenses
    • Peer-reviewed poster—the candidate must be the first author with a copy of the abstract or poster
    • Non-peer-reviewed articles featured in editor-reviewed publications like Contact Lens Spectrum, Review of Cornea & Contact Lenses, or Review of Optometry
    • Scleral lens multiple choice quiz—the questions based on “A Guide to Scleral Lens Fitting, 2nd edition” by Eef van der Worp, which may be taken three times
Other highlights:


The FSLS is a scleral lens society that denotes an advanced competency in scleral lenses. The application process appears less arduous than Diplomate status in CCLRT for FAAO, which may require upwards of four exams and 10 case reports.

International optometry designations

  • BOptom: Bachelor’s of Optometry designated for international colleges of optometry.
  • MCOptom: Member of The College of Optometrists—the professional, scientific, and examining body for optometry in the United Kingdom.
  • FCOptom: Life and Honorary Fellowship of The College of Optometrists (United Kingdom). Nomination process by which The College recognizes outstanding achievements of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the profession of optometry.
  • FBCLA: Fellow of the British Contact Lens Association that recognizes contributions and commitments in the field of contact lenses and the anterior eye.


As a new optometrist, it’s important to be aware of the various academic designations you can pursue following optometry school to deepen your understanding of how to provide exceptional patient care or knowledge of a specific subspecialty.
Hopefully, by using this guide, you can decide if pursuing one of these certifications is the next best step in your optometry career.
  1. American Board of Optometry. Certification Process. American Board of Optometry.
  2. American Board of Optometry. CAP Requirements. American Board of Optometry.
  3. American Board of Optometry. Maintaining Board Certification Policies & Fees. American Board of Optometry.
  4. American Academy of Optometry. Fellowship in the American Academy of Optometry. American Academy of Optometry.
  5. American Academy of Optometry. Current Fellows. American Academy of Optometry.
  6. College of Optometrists in Vision Development. Fellowship Certification Guide. College of Optometrists in Vision Development. Updated May 2023.
  7. College of Optometrists in Vision Development. Summary of FCOVD Fees 2023-2024. College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
  8. College of Optometrists in Vision Development. FCOVD Maintenance of Certification. College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
  9. Scleral Lens Education Society. Become a Fellow. Scleral Lens Education Society.
  10. Scleral Lens Education Society. Fellowship Requirements. Scleral Lens Education Society.
Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO
About Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO

Dr. Emilie Seitz is a North Coast native from Cleveland, Ohio. She studied Biology at The Ohio State University. Following her undergraduate studies, Dr. Seitz obtained her doctorate degree in 2020 from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, PA.

She completed her optometry rotations in 4 different states: Ohio (Cleveland Eye Clinic), Pennsylvania (Nittany Eye Associates), Kentucky (Danville Eye Center), and North Carolina (South Charlotte Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center). After graduation, Dr. Seitz completed her residency in ocular disease at the WG (Bill) Hefner VAMC in Salisbury, NC, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO
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