What You Need to Know About the Certified Pool Operator (CPO) Course

Published on Jun 30, 2024

Scott Trafton

Managing and servicing commercial pools is a serious enough job that, within the US, 25 states, the District of Columbia, and 26 smaller jurisdictions currently require that pool operators take the Certified Pool Operator® (CPO®) course in order to manage water quality and pool chemistry, among other responsibilities. Within these areas, your health inspector will ask to see your CPO certification card when they pay you a visit.

CPO Course


After all, your job is to manage your pools well enough that guests are able to relax, have fun, and enjoy themselves, while you ensure their health and safety is taken care of–not to mention, the business’s liability and risk is mitigated. Oftentimes, of course, it’s not your only job–you’re likely also maintaining an entire facility, club, resort, or group of pools. 

So while you’re being pulled in a million different directions, with multiple fires to put out, you can lean on your CPO training in order to carry out your pool operator duties efficiently, safely, and with expertise.

The Career Benefits of Becoming a CPO


Of course, there are other benefits to becoming a CPO as well, even if you work in a state where it’s not yet required.. Not only are you better able to ensure the health and wellbeing of your pool guests, and better manage the risks and liabilities of the business, but it can also put you on a solid upward career path. 

  1. Supervisory Roles: Many CPOs move into supervisory positions, overseeing multiple pools or aquatic facilities. They manage staff, budgets, and operations.

  2. Aquatics Management: CPOs can become aquatics managers or directors. These roles involve strategic planning, policy development, and overall facility management.

  3. Health and Safety Inspectors: Some CPOs transition to health and safety inspection roles. They ensure compliance with regulations and conduct inspections at public pools.

  4. Consulting and Training: Experienced CPOs can offer consulting services to other pool operators. They may also become trainers, teaching CPO courses.

  5. Facility Ownership: CPOs with entrepreneurial aspirations may consider owning or managing their own pool facilities.

  6. Specialization: CPOs can also specialize in areas like water chemistry, energy efficiency, or aquatic programming, which could lead you in a new, unique career direction.

What’s Covered in the Certified Pool Operator (CPO) Course

Provided through the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), the CPO course is offered as either an in-person classroom course or a blended training, with half of the course taught in-person and the other person conducted virtually. All options are taught live by certified instructors, whether in-person or through online video meeting platforms. No matter which option you choose, the course lasts for a total of 16 hours.  

→ You can now also find 100% virtual, live courses taught by PHTA instructors and partners, if you prefer to complete your course completely online from home or work.

By the end of your 16 hours, you’ll know the ins and outs of pool maintenance for both residential and commercial pools, including:

  • How to reduce risks in and around the water

  • How to prevent drowning, suction entrapment, diving accidents, electrocutions, slip and fall accidents, chemical hazards, evisceration, and recreational water illness

  • How to manage pool water quality and chemistry: Balancing pool chemicals can be complex. CPOs need to maintain proper chlorine levels, pH balance, and other chemical parameters to ensure safe and clean water.  Plus, achieving and maintaining optimal water quality involves constant monitoring and adjustments. Factors like weather, bather load, and water temperature affect water clarity and sanitation. Through the CPO course, you’ll learn:
    • How to maintain water balance and disinfection
    • How to manage water issues
    • How to perform troubleshooting, chemical testing, and record keeping 
    • How to manage chemical feed

  • How to use automation and technology on the job

  • How to adhere to and manage regulations: Regulatory compliance is a crucial part of your job as a CPO.  It’s critical to stay up-to-date with local, state, and federal regulations related to pool operations, safety standards, water quality, and chemical handling. Through the CPO course, you’ll learn how to stay up-to-date with the most recent compliance standards, how to prepare for audits, keep records, and more.

You’ll also learn how to adapt your operations for seasonal variability and low or high demand, how to educate pool users about safety rules, hygiene, and behavior, how to handle difficult or non-compliant patrons, and how to prepare and respond to emergencies, including effective communication in an emergency.

The CPO Certification Exam and Certification Renewal

Once you complete the course, you’ll take the CPO exam and–after passing–receive your certification. There are a few other key things to know about your new certification:

  • CPO certification is good for 5 years before renewal is required.
  • You’ll receive a digital and a hard copy of your certification
  • If you’re interested in pursuing more PHTA service and maintenance certifications, the CPO is the first step in that path

CPO Resources to Use on the Job

One of the most difficult parts of your job as a CPO is the complex math equations you’ll need to perform daily to calculate pool chemistry. Depending on your state, county, and health department, you may need to do these calculations once/day, or you may have to perform them once an hour or once every two hours. 

These calculations are absolutely crucial to ensure proper water balance. Improper water chemistry levels can make unsuspecting swimmers really sick, causing illness, infection, irritations like swimmer’s eye, and even serious chemical burns. 

It can also get really expensive if you’re consistently using more chemicals than needed in your pools!

Then, your records need to be immaculate to help protect against health department penalties, as well as legal risks. It’s not easy to think about, but should something happen to a pool guest, those pool records are the only evidence the business has that the pool was properly maintained and the water was safe.

This is why so much of the CPO training is spent on the required math calculations. You can expect to spend up to 4 hours of your training learning these with your instructor. They’ll also leave you with the Pool Math Workbook™, which includes the important conversions and calculations.

While the PHTA has tried to make these calculations as simple as possible, they’re fundamentally not simple calculations. They take time, care, and math skills, even after your training. 

This is one of the key reasons we developed PoolShark H2O. From the mobile PoolShark H2O app, our system does all of that math for you in minutes–simplifying the process and your job, saving you time, and minimizing crucial pool chemistry errors. 

Once you’ve tested the water, made your adjustments, and saved everything in the app, PoolShark H20 locks your logbook so it’s no longer editable, ensuring better compliance with your Health Department. Since it’s digital, it can’t get lost, wet, or physically damaged. 

PoolShark H2O also has built-in reminders, with automated notifications to alert you if a pool hasn’t been tested within 26 hours.

Getting CPO certified is your first step to maintaining consistent, sparkling clean pools with more open days, fewer days spent recovering out-of-control chemical levels, and happier, safer guests. But that doesn’t mean it makes pool calculations or record-keeping easier on the job. PoolShark H2O helps you bridge that gap, so water testing and calculations are performed for you accurately and consistently in minutes, and your digital records are health code compliant. It includes everything you’ve learned in CPO class, plus an automated alert system. 

Digital Pool Tester Guide

The benefits of implementing Pool Shark include:

  • Substantial ROI
  • Better Water Conditions
  • Improved Guest & Customer Satisfaction
  • Plug and Play Ease of Use
  • Stronger Risk Management & Reduced Liability
  • Guides and Practices
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