How to Become a Fellow

1. Complete the Application

The application for candidacy for Fellowship is in addition to any previously submitted application for student membership. The questions relating to professional activity and (where applicable) clinical activity are not only for assigning a candidate to the appropriate Admittance Subcommittee, but also for fostering subsequent involvement in various Academy programs.

2. Communicate with Your Subcommittee Chair
After the Academy receives a completed application, the applicant will receive an acknowledgement letter by e-mail welcoming him/her as a candidate for Fellowship and informing him/her of the Admittance Subcommittee to which the application has been assigned. Once assigned to a specific Admittance Subcommittee, it is the candidate's responsibility to update the appropriate Chair with any new contact information. For a list of the Admittance Committee Subcommittees and their respective Chairs/Vice Chairs, visit the Admittance Committee page.

3. Compile 50 Points and Submit Written Work
All candidates must submit a Proposed Plan for Written Requirements as the first step towards Fellowship. To get started, first assess into which category you will submit your work. There are three primary categories of Candidates for Fellowship with specific written requirements for each.  

NOTE:  You MUST be the first author listed on Papers and Posters for the works to count towards points.

Written Requirement Options

Clinical Candidates

Scientific Candidates

Special Category Candidates

Case Reports (10 points each)




Publications (10 points each)




Poster and Papers (10 points each)
Candidates for AAO Fellowship may now submit posters and papers from the organizations/meetings listed below who have successfully completed the review process by the Academy’s Inter-Professional Scientific Review Committee. Please note that the Admittance Committee will still review each document submitted for final approval of points and you MUST be the first author listed on the poster or paper for the work to be considered.

- American Academy of Optometry (AAO)
- Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
- American Optometric Association (AOA)

Only able to accept from 2012 and forward:
- Global Specialty Lens Symposium (GSLS)

Only able to accept from 2014 and forward:
- College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)

Only able to accept from 2018 and forward:
- Heart of America (HOA)




Academy Lecture (10 points each)
One hour at least. Grand Rounds presentations do not count.




Residency (accredited by the ACOE) or other graduate degree (20 points maximum)




Leadership Contribution (10 points maximum)




Professionally Related Book (20 points maximum)




Original 6,000 word paper (50 points)




Original 1,200 word paper (10 points)




Synopsis of five consultative services provided to practitioners (10 points each)




Synopsis of educational course work the candidate has given related to the profession of optometry (10 points each)




*At least one case report is required.
**At least three scientific publications (10 points per publication) are required.
***At least one original paper (either 1,200 word paper for 10 points or 6,000 word paper for 50 points) is required.

Clinical Candidates: are optometrists who are licensed to practice at the highest level permitted by law in their jurisdiction and are engaged in active clinical practice. Of the 50 points required from clinical candidates, at least one case report (10 points) is required. This case report should be submitted with the proposed plan for achieving fellowship.

The Academy offers access to the following journals online: Canadian Journal of Optometry, Optometry and Vision Development, Optometry and Vision Science, Optometry and Visual Performance, Journal of Behavioral Optometry, Journal of Vision, and Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. To access these, please login then select “Optometry Journal Library” from your account drop-down.

Scientific Candidates: are primarily involved in research relating to the vision sciences. They have published articles in peer-reviewed journals, and generally have an advanced degree in a vision-science area of discipline. Of the 50 points required from scientific candidates, at least three scientific publications (10 points per publication) are required. For more information see Written Work for Scientists.

Special Category Candidates: may include administrators, executive directors, clinical consultants, librarians, educators, editors or others who have distinguished themselves and optometry by their contribution to optometry or vision science. This category is reserved for those candidates who are not in active clinical practice or participating in publishable scientific research. Of the 50 points required from special category candidates, at least one original paper (either 1,200 word paper for 10 points or a 6,000 word paper for 50 points) is required. For more information see Written Work for Special Categories Candidates.

Additional Information

  • Written work for any of the three primary candidate categories is submitted in the online candidacy application.

  • Each item of written work should be unique. For example, two posters that describe essentially the same set of circumstances but were submitted to different meetings will count as 10 points.

  • Acceptance of written work is at the discretion of the Admittance Subcommittee Chair. The candidate is responsible for providing any and all documentation of papers, posters, case report information, etc. as needed by the Admittance Subcommittee Chair to grant points.

  • All written work is expected to be the candidate’s own original writing. Information taken from references or other source documents must be properly attributed. Plagiarism may cause the candidate’s application for Fellowship to be terminated.

  • All candidates will be notified when they have successfully completed the written section of the examination. The candidate must then notify the Vice Chair of Admittance that s/he would like to schedule the exam for the upcoming meeting.

Time Limits

Candidates have a maximum of three years from the date of application to complete the Fellowship process.

Important Dates and Deadlines

The Proposed Plan for Written Requirements of the admittance process is due as soon as possible after you have received confirmation of your candidacy from the Admittance Subcommittee Chair.

  • April 1: deadline for submitting first case report for clinical candidates, and Proposed Plan for all candidates.

  • June 1: deadline for submitting the balance of all written work

  • August 1: deadline for submitting any required corrections/modifications to the submitted work

  • August 15: deadline for notifying the Vice-Chair of Admittance to schedule the oral examination

4. Complete the Oral Examination
Oral exams are held only during the Academy's annual meeting. Candidates must register for at least one day of the annual meeting.

In 2017, the exams will be held on Thursday, October 12 in Chicago, IL. All Candidates for Fellowship who are taking oral examinations at the annual meeting are required to stay in a contracted Academy hotel if they are planning to book a hotel in Chicago (it is ok to stay with friends/family).

The objective of the oral examination is to evaluate candidates on their professional competence in solving their patients' problems at a level commensurate with the standards set by the Academy. In the case of candidates who are not in clinical practice, standards relevant to the candidate's professional activity will be used. Candidates will be examined on the basis of the credentials and written work they have submitted to the committee. Whenever possible, a candidate will be examined before the same committee that evaluated the written work.

To prepare for the oral exam, see the following:

All candidates will be notified at the end of their oral examinations if they successfully completed their oral examination. Successful candidates will be given a "New Fellow" ribbon to wear on their identification badge. A candidate who was not successful will meet with the Examination Committee Chair and either the Vice Chair or Chair of the Admittance Committee. An explanation of the committee’s reason(s) for the non-pass will be given. The Examination Committee Chair will outline further requirements needed to complete the admittance process in the following year.

5. Admittance and Induction
Upon successful completion of the oral examination, new Fellows are formally presented and welcomed into the fellowship of the Academy by the Academy President during the annual banquet held on Saturday evening of the annual meeting.

6. Responsibilities of Fellowship

Each individual admitted to Academy Fellowship is expected to:

  • Live up to the Membership Pledge and Agreement that is signed at the time of submitting the application.

  • Regularly attend the annual meeting.

  • Contribute to the work of the Academy by serving on a committee when requested, submitting papers, posters and/or courses to the annual meeting and other Academy-sponsored educational and scientific programs, encouraging research in optometry, and being active in an Academy chapter if one is available.

  • Sponsor additional candidates for Fellowship and serve as a mentor for candidates when invited.

  • Fulfill the requirements under Maintenance of Fellowship