How to become a certified pool operator (CPO)

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From its beginning in 1972, the Certified Pool Operator program has produced more than 282,000 qualified professionals across 64 countries as of 2011. This training program instills pool operators – including health care employees, property owners, retailers and service professionals – with an encompassing knowledge of pool and spa maintenance, operation, legalities and safety. If you work closely with pools at your job, you may be required to have CPO certification.

Check the National Swimming Pool Foundation's website for upcoming CPO courses in your area. Though some third-party organizations also offer CPO courses, all courses are taught by NSPF-certified instructors.

Schedule an appointment to take your CPO courses. You can take the standard route, which is a 14- to 16-hour classroom course over two nonconsecutive days. Alternatively, you can choose the “Fusion” course, which combines the online Pool Operator Primer course with a one-day classroom course.

Pay the necessary instructor fees. The two-day course costs between $300 and $350 as of 2011. The “Fusion” course has a slightly higher price tag, with the one-day course coming in at about $200 and the online primer at around $150. Both options include the cost of a handbook.

Await your confirmation documents. If you receive them via email, print out a hard copy.

Complete the online primer if you choose this route. The primer educates you in pool and spa management, including topics of contamination, disinfection, chemistry and filtration.

Attend the one or two-day CPO course at the scheduled time. Bring a valid, government-issued photo ID, paper, a writing utensil, a calculator and your confirmation documents each day. The instructor will lecture on issues as diverse as chemistry and filtration, automatic feeding equipment, risk and liability and government requirements.

Study the Certified Pool-Spa Operator Handbook, issued either when you enrolled or on the first day of class. Take notes in class and study them at home. To further your studies, you can also purchase pool math handbooks and supplementary CPO handbooks from pool supply stores, but this is optional.

Take and pass the three-hour written exam at the end of the course. This comprehensive test will quiz you on the topics covered during the lecture, all of which are covered in the handbook. You need to score a 75 percent or higher to pass.

Receive your certification from the NSPF by mail. This certification is good for five years.