Earn the CO-OP® Designation

Eligibility Requirements for CO-OP®

Written Examination:  An applicant must have passed the written certification exam within three years prior to the date of receipt of the application for certification. There are no training, educational, or work experience requirements needed to register for and sit for the certification exam. The certification application requires a copy of the certification exam results statement documenting the date of passing the examination. Passing the exam is only one piece of the process to become certified.

Education:  Certification requires a bachelor's degree or equivalent from an accredited institution of higher education. Those who do not hold a bachelor's degree may submit evidence of a comparable university degree. The Eligibility Committee may also consider relevant professional experience or academic work in place of a bachelor's degree. Applicants may submit proof of relevant professional experience to the Eligibility Committee for individual consideration.

Work Experience: Applicants must present evidence of experience working as an organizational ombuds for one-year full time or 2,000 hours, performing the full scope of ombuds duties and adhering to the IOA Code of Ethics (COE) and Standards of Practice (SOP), within four years prior to receipt of application. In order to demonstrate work experience, the candidate should submit copies of all of the following: 

  • an office charter and/or brochure
  • reference to an office website, job description, and standards of practice
  • verification of length of employment from the relevant employer(s) of record.

A representative of the Eligibility Committee may contact an applicant if additional information or clarification of submitted information is required.

An individual who has passed the examination, but who does not meet the other eligibility requirements for certification, may not claim to hold the CO-OP® designation. If an applicant meets all eligibility requirements with the exception of practicing fully to the IOA COE and SOP, they may be eligible for the Candidate for CO-OP® designation. Any individual who uses the CO-OP® designation before having been awarded certification by the Board of Certification may be ineligible for certification in the future.

*There are a number of different titles or names—ombudsman, ombudsperson, or ombuds being the most common—that are used by practitioners. While the use of one of these titles is preferred, an applicant will not be disqualified based solely on their title.

Application Process and Fees

All applicants for the CO-OP® designation must submit a complete application packet and pay the nonrefundable administrative application fee of $250 USD for IOA Members and $450 for Non-Members. The complete application packet consists of the online application form, proof of passing the certification exam, and any supporting documents. Any supplemental materials can be attached to the online application form or emailed to [email protected].

Complete Online CO-OP® Application Form

The Eligibility Committee may schedule an interview with the applicant and inform if any additional materials are required. The Eligibility Committee will endeavor to notify applicants of their final determination within six to eight weeks of receiving the complete application packet. Official notification of certification status will be sent to the applicant via email.

If approved, applicants will need to obtain 60 professional development hours (PDH) over the next four years for recertification. In order to assist in tracking PDH for recertification, we recommend downloading a copy of the PDH Tracking Sheet.

Certification Appeal Procedure

If an applicant for the CO-OP® designation is denied by the Eligibility Committee, the applicant may appeal the decision. The appeal must be submitted in writing to the Appeals Committee within 30 days of receipt of notification of denial. The appeal must contain a statement of why the individual believes that the denial was improper and must be accompanied by supporting documentation. Completed appeals should be emailed to [email protected], Attn: Appeals Committee.

The Appeals Committee will notify the appellant within seven business days of receipt and will endeavor to render a decision within a period of 30 days. The decision by the Appeals Committee will be final.

Download CO-OP® Appeal Form