It’s not too early to consider American Board of Optometry Board Certification

Your road from candidate to Diplomate is a journey of professional rewards.

By James M. Vaught OD

American Board of Optometry’s next Board Certification exam period is January 2015.  ODs can take the exam at any Prometric Testing Center around the nation, even internationally.  Registration for the January exam is open now, at Here is a two-page fact sheet that gives some key information about the program, which is certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, and includes a CMS-approved Maintenance of Certification process.  ABO Fact Sheet fall 2014 FINAL

You’re a recent optometry school graduate… you’ve successfully completed your required boards, and your professional future is so close you can see it.  Most likely, you’re experiencing the mixed sensations of having accomplished a lot, while knowing there are many hills yet to conquer.  Still, your career path is easing into sharper focus, and that has you searching for ways to stand apart from the crowd.  Obviously, providing dedicated patient care and contributing actively to the professional community are the best ways to accomplish that goal as you start out.

As you progress, there’s even more you can do to show your commitment to patients’ well being – you can start preparing now to take the American Board of Optometry Board Certification exam.

Board Certification is the standard in the health-care industry, a credential that many patients look for when choosing a doctor.

Once you earn the title of Diplomate, you demonstrate to yourself and your patients that you are interested in being the best you can be.  The American Board of Optometry offers this rewarding educational pathway to help ODs show their commitment transcends the profession’s minimum requirements.

Completing an approved optometry residency automatically qualifies you to take the Board Certification examination.  Another way to gain eligibility is by earning points through continuing education.  Once you pass the exam, you can promote yourself as a Board Certified Diplomate, so current and prospective patients know you care about lifelong learning.

The Board Certification process includes an examination every 10 years, and a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program that provides ongoing education in the interim.  First, you register to become an Active Candidate; then, when you pass the exam, you become certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry.  You then accumulate MOC points through educational activities, Self-Assessment Modules (SAMs) and Performance in Practice Modules (PPMs).

Every six months, our team of practicing optometrists crafts an all-new exam to ensure that the relevance of test questions remains high.

The exam is offered at testing centers around the world every January and July, so it’s accessible no matter where you live.  Test questions are divided into a General Practice section covering core knowledge, and two Areas of Emphasis sections of the candidate’s choosing.  The idea is to present an exam that is relevant to the individual optometrist’s practice and patient mix.

You can feel confident about this Board Certification program – it’s based on a process developed by the American Board of Medical Specialties, and has been certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.  Furthermore, our Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process is recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Of the 3,000+ ODs who have sat for the Board Certification exam to date, about 93 percent have passed.

That percentage demonstrates a couple of important things about the exam process:

  • It’s challenging enough to be a meaningful measure of knowledge and skill
  • It’s feasible for the OD who truly cares about lifelong professional development
Here is a Q&A with ABO Diplomates Here is a Q&A with Gundersen Health

The message here?

You can do it, and now is a great time to start preparing.  When you make an active choice to sharpen your clinical knowledge instead of simply completing what’s required, it’s a sign that you take your patients’ health seriously – and personally.  That’s what makes the great optometrist stand out from the good.

To learn more, visit  Click here to download or print an informational PDF about becoming a Diplomate.

VaughtJames M. Vaught OD is chairman of the American Board of Optometry. Dr. Vaught is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry and is in private practice in Conway, South Carolina.  He was president of the South Carolina Optometric Physicians Association in 2009-2010, his second time serving in this capacity.  He is a board member of VOSH International, and served for eight years on the South Carolina Board of Examiners in Optometry.  He has served as a volunteer to the American Optometric Association in many capacities, most recently as chair of the Federal Legislative Action Keyperson Committee.

The American Board of Optometry’s mission is to continually improve patient care by helping optometrists demonstrate ongoing commitment to professional enrichment. The American Board of Optometry was founded in 2009 by the American Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, American Optometric Student Association and Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. 

About Matt Geller

Matthew Geller
Dr. Matt Geller is a technology entrepreneur with a track record of developing successful online platforms to solve problems in the healthcare space. Matt is an optometrist in San Diego and is the founder of, and the co-founder of!

One comment

  1. All these years later, and NOT ONE agency, insurance company or credentialing body has ever asked or advised me to become Board Certified. NONE.

    So do it if you want or need the challenge (nothing wrong with that), but I’d advise you to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. COVD, NORA, or the AAOMC.

    Also be careful of your state laws. Some states precludes using Board Certification or other credentials in marketing, which implies that such a credential means your are more competent. Even the ABO has stated that completing their BC program does not mean you are more competent.

    New grads have a lot on their plates – spending money on BC when there has been no groundswell for its necessity may be a luxury that isn’t worth its cost in time or expense.

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