Certification as Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) with a Master of Education

The Vision Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh began preparing Teachers of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI), Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialists, and doctoral leadership personnel in 1963, making it one of the longest-running programs in personnel preparation in the United States. Throughout that time, we have prepared thousands of highly specialized teachers to serve the education needs of children and adults who are blind or visually impaired nationwide.

Presently, there is a substantial demand for certified teachers of students to serve the needs of this population locally, regionally, and nationally. Positions far exceed the number of qualified personnel available. Our graduates habe become expert instructors and leaders in the field of blindness and visual impairment and have made a significant impact upon improving the lives of individuals around Pennsylvania—and the world. 

Quick Facts

  • Program Duration: 1-2 years, depending on whether the prospective student is already a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). Applicants already certified as a TVI may be eligible for our FastTrack O&M program, which takes a calendar year plus a required internship.  
  • Time Commitment: Part time, generally one or two classes per semester. 
  • Term of Enrollment: Fall; FastTrack students may start in spring semester. 
  • Application Deadline: Early admission ends June 1; applications considered until August 1 of each year. 
  • Course Requirements: 44 credits; FastTrack students 36 credits 
  • Admissions Requirements: No GRE exam required

Program Details

The program is primarily online with some required face-to-face sessions 

Option 1, FastTrack for students who already possess TVI certification (36 credits):

Certificate Curriculum 

  1. Foundations of O&M (3 credits) 
  2. Techniques of O&M 1 (3 credits) 
  3. Techniques of O&M 2 (3 credits) 
  4. Program Development in O&M (3 credits) 
  5. O&M for Diverse Populations (3 credits) 
  6. Level 3 Internship Practicum in O&M (6 credits) 

Master of Education Curriculum

  1. Psychology of Learning and Development for Educators (3 credits)
  2. Introduction to Research Methodology (3 credits)
  3. Education and Society (3 credits)
  4. Research Seminar (3 credits)

Option 2 for those without TVI certification (44 credits): 

The 10 courses listed above, PLUS 

  1. Introduction to the Eye and Low Vision (3 credits) 
  2. Education of Children with Visual Impairments, Part 1 (3 credits) 
  3. Early Intervention for Children with Visual Impairments (3 credits) 
  4. Level 1 Observation Practicum (2 credits) 

Degree Requirements

  • Courses primarily online but O&M hands-on techniques courses require a face-to-face obligation for 7 weeks during one summer 
  • O&M program requires an internship of 350 hrs (12-14 weeks) leading to certification through the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) 
  • University of Pittsburgh certificate of completion of the O&M program 
  • Passage of a comprehensive exam

Certifications

Graduates are eligible for national certification as an O&M Specialist by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP). With this certification, the graduate is qualified to provide educational and rehabilitation O&M services needed by children and adults who are blind or visually impaired in public schools, rehabilitation agencies, and Veteran’s Administration hospitals.

Prerequisites

  • Prerequisite courses may be taken at the graduate or undergraduate level; students may also take these courses as co-requisites with TVI courses. 
  • Foundations of Special Education (3 credits) 

Career Pathways

The Vision Studies program addresses a critical shortage area in education. Research indicates a current need for approximately 28,000 professionals who can work with children who are blind or visually impaired. Professionals in the field may work: 

  • in early intervention programs assisting families of young children who have visual disabilities;  
  • in public or private schools as COMS teaching children to be independent and successful; 
  • as itinerant COMS employed by school systems or intermediate units to travel between schools to provide instruction to children who are visually impaired; 
  • as independent contractors providing services to school systems; 
  • in center-based programs at specialized schools. 
  • at rehabilitation agencies for adults who are blind; 
  • as a COMS with the Veterans Administration or with Older Blind programs.