Program Overview

New CCOA Program! Over the last year the CCOA team has been busy building a more innovative program for OAs.  We know that with ever-evolving practices, the education and support we provide to ODs and their staff also needs to constantly evolve. So we have transformed the program to reflect today’s challenges. CCOA program features:

  • 9 new modules
  • New videos
  • More resources such as lectures linked to each module

What is an Optometric Assistant? Optometric Assistants (OAs) assist the optometrist in the delivery of eye health care services. In a typical optometric setting, an OA will see a vast array of patients from all walks of life: infants, children, men, women, seniors, able-bodied and disabled. The OA must be able to respond effectively to each patient’s needs, and to deliver care in a professional, efficient manner. The OA will have exceptional interpersonal, communication, and time management skills.

What is the CCOA Program? The Canadian Certified Optometric Assistant program (CCOA) is an online distant education program that gives optometric assistants the skills and knowledge they need to contribute to a thriving optometric practice, today and in the future. Available exclusively to employees of CAO members, the CCOA helps improve the efficiency and professionalism of your staff.

The training is rigorous. CCOA candidates continue to work while completing nine course modules, a practicum, one workshop and a final examination. The modules cover the full range of relevant skills and knowledge: from anatomy and physiology, to patient management, sales, customer service, frame and lens dispensing, and contact lenses.

Full Courses begin each September 15th and run for a total of 36 weeks. We will begin to accept registrations for the 2017-2018 full course cycle as of July 5th, 2017. A workshop must be attended. An online, closed-book exam is administered in June; to pass, participants must score a minimum overall grade of 75 percent. Certification is valid for three years; to renew, graduates must complete 18 hours of certified continuing education.

Individual modules can be purchased at any time.

Workshops: The workshop is an integral component of the Full Course curriculum.  Assistants benefit from experienced instructors delivering in-depth review of critical concepts from each course Module. The workshop is designed to meet the training needs of those who are new or more experienced in optometric assisting. Complete workshop details are made available to all in November of each year. Workshop registrations are accepted from November 1st to December 1st of each year and are hosted yearly between January and March. 2018 workshops are hosted in the following cities;

  • January 6-7, 2018                 Vancouver, BC
  • January 13-14, 2018             Calgary, AB
  • February 24-25, 2018          Saskatoon, SK
  • March 3-4, 2018                   Toronto, ON
  • Halifax, NS (Biennial, 2019, 2021)  Note* A workshop will be hosted in 2019 should we obtain more than 20 participants

Access to the latest edition of the textbooks is mandatory for all registrants to complete the course Modules. Textbooks may be ordered online through . Both textbooks are available in e-book and hardcopy versions.

1.  Textbook: System for Ophthalmic Dispensing, Third Edition, Brooks & Borish

2.  Textbook: The Ophthalmic Assistant, 10th Edition, Stein, Stein & Freeman

What is the Optometrist's Role? Active mentorship by optometrists helps ensure that participants properly integrate the academic and practical aspects of the CCOA program. Sponsoring optometrists explain concepts and techniques, and monitor the development of clinical skills, while participants improve their practical abilities by working in a professional office environment.

CCOA Program Benefits

For Employer:

  • Increased productivity, professionalism, and retention of staff
  • Improved patient service and satisfaction
  • Greater flexibility in practice models

For Employees:

  • Comprehensive training in all aspects of practice
  • Increased self-confidence, engagement and satisfaction
  • Improved problem-solving and client-relations skills
  • Better client relations


2017-2018 Full Course cycle registrations will be held from July 5th, 2017 to September 8th, 2017.