Getting started with FOA Certification
FOA Approved Training Programs
FOA's "Work to Cert" Direct Certification Program
Online Study Guides and References
Study Guides for FOA Certifications
FOA Online Reference Textbook particularly the section Understanding Fiber Optics, the Basics
FOA Installation Tech Bulletin
It's now CFOT® The FOA CFOT® (Certified Fiber Optic Technician) is now a registered trademark. With over 48,000 fiber optic techs holding CFOTs (February, 2014) and the CFOT being recognized worldwide as the foremost certification in fiber optics, the FOA realized the value of the CFOT required trademark protection. Now it's official!
Understanding FOA Certifications
The FOA offers two levels of fiber optic certification:
First Level Certifications:
CFOS/C : Specialist in fiber optic connectors, covering all types of adhesive/polish and prepolished/splice terminations for multimode and singlemode fiber.
CFOS/T : Specialist in fiber optic testing, including visual inspection, visual tracing and fault location, insertion loss testing, OTDR testing, return loss/reflectance, chromatic dispersion, polarization mode dispersion and spectral attenuation.
CFOS/D : Fiber optic network design covering how to design the route of a network, choose components, plan the installation, set up a test plan, and all other aspects of overseeing a fiber optic project.
CFOS/L - OLAN or optical LAN technology including centralized fiber optic structured cabling, passive optical LANs and fiber to the office using FTTH technology.
If you have a entry level FOA certification, which advanced FOA certifications are right for you? A contractor, interested in designing and managing construction projects, would probably be best served by the Design, OLAN and/or FTTH specialties. Installers, more interested in developing skills appropriate to the building of networks are probably more interested in the OSP, Connectors, Splicing, Testing and specialties but may find all the applications-based certifications applicable to their work. Note that the CPCT may require additional preparation in fiber optics for the CFOS certifications.
How Does the FOA Program Relate to Other Associations?
FOA Reference Materials For Certification Exams
FOA certifications are all based on FOA published reference books shown below, the FOA Online Reference Guide , YouTube Videos, and the FOA's web-based training site Fiber U.
(Available Printed or eBooks and the fiber book is available in Spanish)
Click on any of the books to learn more.
Students in training classes for FOA Certification will be trained in basic hands-on skills appropriate for the certification and the instructor will evaluate the student's abilities to learn these skills.
Those applying with field experience will submit documentation of their experience and other training plus references which will be evaluated by the FOA staff.
Studying For FOA Certification Exams
If you are preparing for a FOA exam, either taking a course from an FOA-approved school or directly from the FOA, you can study for the exam using the FOA "Fiber U" self study programs. These self-study programs use online references from the FOA websites to guide you through reading material and watching videos, then taking quizzes which should prepare you for the FOA exams.
Getting Certified By The FOA
If you want to become FOA-Certified in fiber optics, there are several paths available. First you should understand how FOA Certifications work. Everyone who is FOA-Certified must begin with a CFOT and can then work toward higher level certifications. To get your CFOT, you must show extensive knowledge of fiber optics and skills in the practices common to the field. How you do this depends on whether you are currently working in the field or are just getting started.
Getting Started With Training
If you are just getting started in fiber optics and have no practical experience, you should get training and become certified through one of the FOA-Approved Schools. They offer courses that provide classroom training which will provide the knowledge you need for the CFOT exam and the instruction will include labs to develop the basic skills in fiber optic cable preparation, termination, splicing and testing required by the CFOT.
Before taking the class, we recommend you study the CFOT-level material on the FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide. There is a special CFOT Study Guide available for preparation for newcomers to fiber optics that is recommended before you begin your course, which will help you get more out of the course itself.
Each school will administer the FOA CFOT exam at the end of the course.
Once you are FOA certified, you can work toward higher level certifications. FOA offers CFOS Specialist Certifications in Connectors, Splices, Testing, Design, Premises Cabling and Fiber To The Home. To qualify for higher level certifications, you can have field experience documented in a FOA Logbook or take a specialist course from one of the FOA-Approved Schools. You should keep a record of your experience in a FOA Logbook which you can download here. When you are ready, you can apply for the basic CFOS exam and/or any of the specialties.
Guidelines For Direct FOA Certification
FOA’s “Work To Cert” Program
FOA was founded in 1995 by a group of people representing manufacturers, contractors, users, military/government and others, all active in training those who became instrumental in creating the fiber optic industry. As trainers, we were particularly concerned by the quality of training newcomers to the industry were getting, so we developed standards for the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) expected of professionals in the business. Those KSAs became the basis of the FOA CFOT® certification.
Since that time, about 40,000 students have been trained and certified by FOA-approved schools. In addition, thousands of industry professionals have applied to the FOA directly for certification without the need for classroom training, based on their skills developed working the field. Included in that group are most of the current FOA certified instructors teaching in FOA approved schools.
With the increasing acceptance of FOA certifications, many experienced field technicians find themselves being required to have a CFOT® certification for employment, bidding on and/or working on a project. These are generally not people who would need to take a traditional CFOT course.
Obviously, FOA has always had a policy of allowing experienced people to join the FOA directly and become certified, starting with the founders and including almost all of our current instructors. The requirements for direct certification have been clear, they are simply an extension of our KSAs for students trained at our schools. We require experience in the field and passing our CFOT or CFOS/I exam.
FOA’s “Work To Cert” Program makes it easier for experienced fiber techs to qualify for the FOA certification. Qualifying experience in the industry of at least two years minimum is required.
The application process is as follows:
Submit an application form with a resume and references. Download it here (PDF) (DOC). FOA will review your application and request additional information if needed.
Once your application is approved, you need to prepare for the FOA CFOT exam. The FOA exams are based on the two FOA references, our printed textbooks or our Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide. Study guides are available for both references and are highly recommended before taking the exams as the exam is comprehensive. You may also take a course from one of the FOA-Approved schools which will also provide skills training.
Self-study using the Fiber U Basics program. This is a self-paced program that leads you through the online material from the FOA Guide which is one of the references for the CFOT exam and provides exercises to let you test your knowledge. We may require some applicants to take a quiz before taking the CFOS/I exam.
Attend a CFOT review course at a FOA approved school. These review courses last 1-2 days including the exam. FOA schools can provide these courses onsite for companies with several employees needing to take the exam.
"Work to Cert" FAQs
Q: What experience is acceptable?
A: Defining “experience” is not as easy as it sounds. We have accepted a number of different types of experience as qualifying for CFOT certification, including installation techs, network designers, supervisors, IT managers, and more. The requirement is to have been involved with fiber optics for a period of time, not in a particular task.
From the beginning, FOA has prided itself on the diversity of our members who are involved in the fiber optic industry. We recognize the experience of those who design, install, test, maintain and repair fiber optic networks. Some are installation techs, but they may be cable pullers, splicers or test techs from telco outside plant work, premises cabling techs who make field terminations, or FTTH techs who mainly install prefab cabling systems. We also have techs and engineers working in companies manufacturing fiber optic components. About the only job functions we do not recognize and certify are general management, marketing or sales.
Q: Does the FOA accept certifications from other organizations?
A: While we do not accept the certifications from manufacturers or other certifying organizations in lieu of FOA requirements, we do consider that certification training as part of the experience counted toward FOA certification.
Q: How long does the process take?
A: There are two parts of process: first reviewing the applicant’s experience and judging whether it is sufficient and secondly assisting the applicant to prepare for the exam and administering it. For the first, it is necessary to use some judgment in evaluating any candidate so there may be some discussion with them which can take one or two weeks. We may require some applicants to take a quiz relevant to their experience before taking the CFOS/I exam. For the second, it is providing the applicant with assistance in preparing for the knowledge part of the requirement in a way that is appropriate for them which depends on the applicant themselves, but is likely to take another week or more.
Q: How do I take the exam?
A: The CFOT exam may be taken at a FOA approved school, usually at the end of a review course if that is the preparation method. For candidates without a convenient school, the exam may be taken online with an assigned proctor overseeing the exam.
FOA Renewal Policy And Certification Renewal Procedures
Why is it important to renew your certification?
In today's high tech world, certification is considered proof of professional status and is often required for jobs. Employers often contact the FOA to confirm the status of a job applicant. Certification requires actively working in the field (you will be required to indicate your work status on the renewal form). If the person’s membership is not current, we confirm when they got their CFOT, when it expired, and that if expired, we consider them inactive.
How to renew:
Your expiration date is on your membership card. If you have misplaced the card, you can contact the FOA – we can check your status and provide you with a new card.
If you are not yet expired, you can renew online:
or print a renewal form and send/fax it in:
Be sure to give the FOA your latest address, including e-mail, since we only send renewal notices by email.
How do I reestablish my FOA certifications if my membership has expired?
If you are actively working in fiber optics and your FOA membership has expired ___
1. Within the last 2 years, you may renew.
2. More than 2 years but less than 3 years, you must submit a resume and references to renew.
3. More than 3 years, you must submit a resume and references and may require taking a training course before being allowed to retake the CFOT exam.
If you have not been actively working in fiber optics and your FOA membership has expired ___
1. Within the last 2 years, you may renew.
2. More than 2 years but less than 3 years, you must submit a resume and references to renew and may require taking a “refresher” course before being allowed to retake the CFOT exam.
3. More than 3 years, you must submit a resume and references to renew and will required taking a training course before being allowed to retake the CFOT exam.
If you have not been actively working in fiber optics and continue to renew your membership___
1. Continue to renew for the 1st three years.
2. If you have gone four years from the start of your membership without working in the field, you will have to take a training course and retake the CFOT exam to continue your membership.
What is the FOA Review/Retraining process?
To reinstate your certifications, submit an application and we will contact you to review your status.
1. If a retest is required as outlined above, we will review with you the details of taking the exam including the requirement to submit the name of a Proctor. The Proctor is someone who signs a document that you took the exam without help at one sitting.
2. If a “refresher” course is required, the FOA will present training options that are available depending on your status or we will refer you to an FOA Approved School for a review program that meets your needs.
3. If a full retraining course is required, we will refer you to an FOA Approved School.
These are the regular membership renewal fees:
$50 -1 year membership renewal
$80 – 2 year membership renewal
$100 – 3 year membership renewal
(All prices are in US Dollars, subject to change)
Additional fees if your membership has expired:
1. If no retesting is required (see chart above), you pay the regular renewal fee going forward.
2. If retesting is required, the fee would be $95, which includes one year of membership after you pass the exam (you have 3 chances to pass). At the end of this first year, when you have reestablished your FOA membership, you would renew at the regular fees and have the option of renewing for 1, 2 or 3 years.
3. If needed, the refresher program for you would be worked out when you submit your application. Any course that is required would be at additional cost above the $95 fee.
FOA Certifications Are Recognized By The US Department of Labor
FOA Certifications have been recognized by the US Department of Labor. The DoL reviews certifications and how they relate to job opportunities and training. The DoL Career OneStop website helps individuals explore career opportunities to make informed employment and education choices. The Web site features user-friendly occupation and industry information, salary data, career videos, education resources, self-assessment tools, career exploration assistance, and other resources that support talent development in today's fast-paced global marketplace.
FOA Certifications Listed By US Department of Labor - Career OneStop
See also The DoL Occupational Outlook Handbook which has a page covering fiber optic technicians under "Line Installers and Repairers" and links to FOA certifications.
FOA is listed in the section "How to Become a Line Installer or Repairer."
This website lists all sorts of interesting information, including what these workers do in their jobs, how they get trained and certified (where the FOA is referenced) and something everybody is interested in - sections on "Pay" and "Job Outlook" - see the red arrow above.
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