Continuing Education

Questions and Answers for Optometrists

General Information | Continuing Education: Who is required to take it and why? | Continuing Education Hours | Continuing Education Courses and Acceptable Subject Areas | Continuing Education Sponsors | Recordkeeping, Reporting and Auditing | Other Relevant Information | Contact for Further Information |

General Information

Optometrists in New York State with the phase one therapeutic pharmaceutical agents (TPA1) privilege ("U") and/or the phase two therapeutic pharmaceutical agents (TPA2) privilege ("V") are required to complete 36 contact hours of continuing education in each three-year registration period.

Specific requirements for continuing education for optometrists are contained in Article 143 of New York's Education Law.


Continuing Education: Who is required to take it and why?

  1. Why is continuing education important?

    Answer: The healthcare professions are always changing. New medications and new procedures are always being developed. To give the best care to your patients and allow your practice to evolve with your profession, you will want to continue your education throughout your professional career.

  2. Who is required to take continuing education and how many hours must be completed?

    Answer: Every optometrist who has been certified to use and prescribe therapeutic pharmaceutical agents and is registered to practice in New York State must take 36 contact hours of continuing education during each three-year registration period to be eligible for continued certification in the use of therapeutic pharmaceutical agents. Optometrists who do not have these certifications/privileges are not required to complete continuing education.

  3. How can I tell if I have prescribing privileges?

    Answer: Each New York State license is six digits long. If you have prescribing privileges, the letters "U" and/or "V" would precede your license number. The letter "U" is used to designate the phase one therapeutic pharmaceutical agent privilege. The letter "V" is used to designate the phase two therapeutic pharmaceutical agent privilege. The order of the letters does not matter.

  4. If I have the Diagnostic Pharmaceutical Agent privilege, am I required to take continuing education courses?

    Answer: Although it is recommended that all optometrists take continuing education in order to keep abreast of changes in the practice of optometry, it is not required by law.

    Remember that all registered optometrists practicing in New York State, regardless of what privileges he or she has, must complete a State approved infection control course every 4 years. A list of approved providers can be found on the Office of the Professions' Web site.

  5. I recently graduated and received my license and am in my first registration period. Do I need to begin taking continuing education immediately?

    Answer: Yes. Licensees are required to complete continuing education during every registration period during which they are certified to use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents.

  6. I just received my registration and it is less than three years in length. Am I still expected to complete the total number of continuing education hours required for my profession?

    Answer: No. Registration periods are adjusted so that renewals occur during the licensee's birth month. When this happens, you can calculate how many continuing education hours you are required to complete. To do this, count the length of the registration in months and complete one hour of approved continuing education for each month of the registration period. For example, if you are issued a registration effective 7/1/05 and it expires 10/31/07, this registration is for 28 months and you would need to complete 28 hours of continuing education.

  7. I just received my certification to prescribe therapeutic pharmaceutical agents, but my registration expires soon. Do I still need to complete 36 hours of continuing education?

    Answer: No. If you receive your TPA certification after your registration period begins, the minimum number of hours of continuing education required will be equal to one hour of continuing education per month of certified registration. Hours and months are counted in whole units; therefore, any part of a month in which you are TPA certified will count as one month. For example, if you receive your TPA certification on 12/20/05 and your registration expires 5/30/06, you will be required to complete a minimum of six hours of continuing education.

  8. I am licensed in New York State and I do not have either TPA certification, but my registration is inactive. Do I need to complete continuing education before I can reactivate my registration?

    Answer: No. To reactivate your New York State registration, you will need to request a delayed registration application from the Registration Unit and submit it along with your registration fee.

  9. I am licensed in New York State with "U & V" Privileges but my registration is inactive because I am practicing my profession in another jurisdiction. Do I need to complete continuing education before I can reactivate my New York State registration?

    Answer: Yes. To reactivate your New York State registration you will need to complete the amount of continuing education required for a normal triennial registration period. Since you are actively practicing your profession, you will be able to count continuing education credits earned up to 36 months prior to the month in which you reactivate your registration.

  10. I am licensed in New York State with "U & V" Privileges but my registration is inactive because I have not been practicing my profession. Do I need to complete continuing education before I can reactivate my registration?

    Answer: Yes. To reactivate your New York State registration you will need to complete the amount of continuing education required for a normal triennial registration period. Since you are not actively practicing your profession, you will only be able to count continuing education credits earned up to 12 months prior to the month in which you reactivate your registration.


Continuing Education Hours

  1. What is an hour of continuing education?

    Answer: An hour of continuing education is one contact hour of at least 50 minutes in duration. Most continuing education providers give credit in hours; however, you may see credit given in continuing education units.

    One continuing education unit (CEU) equals 10 contact hours. Therefore, .1 CEU equals one contact hour, .2 CEUs equals two contact hours, .3 CEUs equals three contact hours, and so on.

    Individuals completing college-level course work in appropriate subjects at accredited colleges of optometry should note that one semester hour equals 15 contact hours.

    A residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education may be counted for up to 36 hours of continuing education for the registration period during which the residency is completed.

  2. If I complete more hours than required during the registration period, can I use them toward the hours required in my next registration period?

    Answer: No. Continuing education hours can not be carried over from one registration period to the next. The hours must be completed between the effective date and expiration date for the registration period for which they will be applied.

  3. Am I required to complete a certain number of hours per year?

    Answer: No. You may complete the hours any time during the three-year registration period as long as you have completed the required hours prior to the expiration date of your registration. However, we recommend that you complete courses each year so you are sure to have them completed before it is time to reregister.


Continuing Education Courses and Acceptable Subject Areas

  1. What courses can I take to meet my continuing education requirement?

    Answer: All courses taken to meet the continuing education requirement must be in appropriate subject areas offered by approved sponsors.

  2. What are appropriate subject areas?

    Answer: Appropriate subject areas include pharmacology and ocular disease. Courses in practice management, accounting, finance, statistics, and how to use the Internet are NOT ACCEPTABLE.

  3. I wanted to take a course relating to LASIK surgery, but it does not appear to be in the category of pharmacology or ocular disease. Would this course count toward my CE requirement?

    Answer: Yes, a course in ocular disease may include topics directly related to procedures with side-effects that may cause ocular disorders. This may include ocular surgery as well as contact lens fitting.

    If you are unsure whether a course you would like to take will meet the continuing education requirement, feel free to contact the Optometry Board by phone at 518-474-3817, ext. 591 or by e-mail at optombd@mail.nysed.gov.

  4. Am I required to physically attend courses to meet the continuing education requirement?

    Answer: Yes. Optometrists must complete at least three-quarters of their continuing education hours by physically attending courses at the location where the course is being presented (27 of the 36 contact hours required for a 3 year registration). Up to one-quarter of the required hours may be completed via live instruction in a formal course of study offered through an alternate medium, provided the student is able to communicate and interact with the course instructor (a maximum of 9 contact hours out of 36).

  5. What is "live instruction in a formal course of study offered through an alternate medium"?

    Answer: Live instruction in a formal course of study offered through an alternate medium are those courses in which you are not physically present at the location where the course is given, but you are able to interact with the instructor. For example: a telecourse or teleconference in which you and the instructor can speak directly with each other; a course in which you and other practitioners discuss a taped presentation with a facilitator's assistance; a computerized course in which you are able to interact directly with the instructor.

    Examples of activities not considered to be live coursework through alternate medium and therefore would not be acceptable include reading educational articles in journals, including those for which the licensee would complete and submit a test and televised lectures with no means of direct interaction, even if it is a live telecast.


Continuing Education Sponsors

  1. How do I know if a sponsor is approved?

    Answer: All sponsors of continuing education for New York State licensed optometrists must receive advanced approval from the New York State Education Department.

    To help facilitate the approval process, the Department has pre-approved the following sponsors of continuing education:

    • accredited colleges of optometry;
    • Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE) approved coursework;
    • The American Academy of Optometry;
    • The American Optometric Association;
    • state societies (but not chapters);and
    • continuing medical education (CME) approved by the American Medical Association.

    If you are considering a course not offered by one of the providers in the above listing, please notify the provider that they may request prior approval of their course by completing Form 1-SBO ( PDF 17 KB) and submitting it by mail to the New York State Board for Optometry, 89 Washington Avenue, Second Floor West, Albany, NY 12234-1000 or by fax 518-473-0567.

    If you are unsure whether a sponsor offering a continuing education program is approved, feel free to contact the Optometry Board by phone at 518-474-3817, ext. 591, by fax at 518-473-0567, or by e-mail at optombd@mail.nysed.gov.


Recordkeeping, Reporting and Auditing

  1. What records will I have to keep for the continuing education courses I attend?

    Answer: You are required to keep verification of attendance for each course you complete for at least 6 years from the date of completion. Verification should include the following items:

    • title of the course;
    • number of hours completed*;
    • the sponsor's name*;
    • the location the course was taken;
    • the date of the course; and
    • verification by the sponsor of your attendance.

    All of these items are likely to be provided on a certificate of completion from the sponsor.

    * For COPE approved courses, the COPE number may be used in lieu of the number of hours completed and sponsor's name.

  2. Do I have to send these continuing education records to the State Education Department's State Board for Optometry when I renew my registration?

    Answer: Not unless you are requested to do so by the Department. New York State Education Law requires that you submit evidence of completion at the time of your renewal. In most instances, such evidence will consist of your certification on the registration renewal document that you have completed the required continuing education. Each month, a number of licensees will be selected randomly for audit of compliance with the continuing education requirements. If you are selected for audit, you will be required to submit documentation of your continuing education.

  3. What if an audit reveals that I did not comply with the mandatory continuing education requirement?

    Answer: You may be subject to disciplinary proceedings for professional misconduct. According to Section 29.1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents, willful or grossly negligent failure to comply with substantial provisions of Federal, State or local laws, rules or regulations governing the practice of the profession is unprofessional conduct. Penalties may include censure and reprimand, a fine and/or suspension or revocation of your license to practice in New York State.


Other Relevant Information

  1. What if it is time for me to reregister and I have not completed the required number of continuing education hours?

    Answer: You may request that your certification to prescribe therapeutic pharmaceutical agents be suspended until you have met the requirement. If the reason for non-compliance is due to reasons of health, certified by a physician or extended active duty with the armed forces of the United States, please contact the Board office at the address below.


Contact for Further Information

  1. What if I have questions or need further information?

    Answer: Contact the State Board for Optometry, New York State Education Department, Office of the Professions, 89 Washington Avenue, Second Floor West, Albany, New York 12234-1000, telephone 518-474-3817 ext. 591, fax 518-473-0567, e-mail optombd@mail.nysed.

Please visit this Web site periodically for current information regarding issues related to the practice of your profession.

Last Updated: March 21, 2014