Earning a Master's in Reading and Literacy Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Reading and Literacy Online?

Through online reading master's programs, teachers acquire the skills they need to help students improve their reading comprehension and language skills. The ideal student for a master's in reading online program is a certified educator looking for career opportunities in literacy leadership and instruction. While requirements vary by state, most reading specialists need to obtain certification, which requires an advanced degree.

Reading specialists rank among the teacher shortage areas (TSA) in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 9% job growth for education-related occupations between 2016 and 2026. In addition to teaching at the K-12 level, a master's in reading online degree qualifies you to work for reading clinics and community colleges. What's more, most online reading master's programs accommodate flexible schedules, making them perfect for working professionals.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Reading and Literacy Graduates

Master's in Reading and Literacy Salary

Location and experience are the primary factors that determine a teacher's salary, as illustrated in the table below. California employs the most teachers, and it pays the second highest average salary after New York. When it comes to experience, late-career teachers earn 50% more than entry-level teachers — a difference of $22,000 per year.

Top Paying States for Adult Literacy and High School Diploma Equivalency Teachers

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
New York 4,680 $72,090
California 10,740 $70,760
Connecticut 540 $66,620
Illinois 2,140 $63,940
New Jersey 1,140 $63,550
United States 60,670 $56,800

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Adult Education Teachers

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):

Source: PayScale

Master's in Reading and Literacy Careers

After taking an online master's in reading program, you can pursue an education career in an elementary, secondary, or postsecondary school, helping students improve reading comprehension and literacy. Unlike universities, which typically require a doctorate, community colleges often accept candidates with a master's degree. Graduates from online reading master's programs can also find work as K-12 reading specialists or teach adults in general education diploma (GED) or English as a second language (ESL) programs.

Reading Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $50,655

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Reading specialists work with teachers to create lesson plans and literacy-training courses that support students in improving their reading skills. To qualify, you'll need a master's degree and, for some schools, special certification, which you can earn through an online master's in reading specialist program.

Instructional Coordinator

Annual Median Salary: $63,750

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Also known as a "curriculum developer," a school instructional coordinator oversees the development and implementation of school curricula. To qualify for employment, you'll need a master's degree in education and relevant work experience as a teacher or school administrator.

ESL Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $41,394

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

ESL teachers help non-native speakers learn English. Some employers require a master's degree for this position, but others require only a bachelor's degree. An accredited online master's in reading program prepares you for the field, though some states may require additional certifications.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $52,100

Projected Growth Rate: -5%

An adult literacy teacher helps adult students learn basic skills like reading, writing, and speaking English and prepares them to earn GEDs. To teach at this level, you will need at least a bachelor's degree, plus work experience in adult literacy or ESL teaching. Some colleges prefer candidates with a master's degree.

Special Education Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $58,980

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Special education teachers help ensure that students with disabilities get a quality education. Disabilities can be mental, emotional, physical, or learning-related, and special ed teachers must be able to adapt lesson plans to individual student needs.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Reading and Literacy Program?

Through a master's in reading online program, you can get the advanced training needed to help students develop their skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking. While curricula for online reading master's programs vary, you can expect to cover pedagogy, teaching methods, and curriculum design. A few sample courses are outlined below.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Reading and Literacy

Assessing Literacy Difficulty

In this master's course, students learn to analyze and administer learning assessments and develop strategies for instructional intervention based on assessment data.

Developing Fluent Readers

In this online master's in reading course, students examine the research-based skills and knowledge needed to help people master reading. Course content also addresses the unique needs of English language learners. Topics include phonics, linguistics, spelling instruction, and decodable text.

Teaching Reading Methods

This course, which focuses on early elementary education, examines the integration of reading, writing, instruction, and language arts. Learners study literacy objectives and assessment processes and learn how to correct a student's reading and writing.

Current Issues in Literacy

In this course, students survey current issues and trends influencing how reading and writing are taught. Concepts include thematic teaching, whole language, basal programs, and literature- and technology-based instruction.

Leadership in Literacy Education

This course is typically part of a leadership specialization in online reading master's programs. In it, students learn strategies for leading an educational organization. Topics include budgeting, curriculum planning, and personnel and resource management.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Reading and Literacy Prepares For

  • Reading Specialist Certification: This certification indicates that its holder is qualified to assess and address student issues with literacy. Requirements vary by state, but most reading specialist certifications are issued as specializations in master's degree programs, and they can often be completed online.

  • TESOL Core Certificate: Issued by TESOL International Association, this certificate program covers the theory and practice of teaching English to non-native speakers. To earn a TESOL certificate, you must enroll in TESOL's online certificate program. The course takes 6-11 months and features a practicum component.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Joining a professional organization as a student or recent graduate is a prudent step for future teachers. Benefits of membership include networking opportunities, certificate programs, and annual conferences where you can interact with fellow teachers, exchange ideas, and learn about developments in the field. For students and new teachers, professional organizations also offer career services and exclusive scholarships.

  • National Council of Teachers of English: Formed in 1911, the NCTE continues its mission to improve English literacy and language arts at all levels. Its membership includes more than 25,000 elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary teachers of English.

  • International Literacy Association: A global advocacy and membership organization, the ILA aims to make literacy available to all people. The organization promotes global literacy on behalf of 300,000 literacy educators, researchers, and experts.

  • National Association for Bilingual Education: Launched in 1976, NABE advocates for educational equity for bilingual and multilingual students. Members gain access to research, journals, and networking opportunities and are eligible to attend the annual conference.

  • College Reading and Learning Association: The CRLA brings together student-oriented professionals who are active in the fields of reading, learning assistance, tutoring, and developmental education. In this collaborative organization, members exchange ideas, methods, and information to facilitate student learning and professional growth.

  • TESOL International Association: TESOL works with its diverse membership to help educators who are teaching English as a second or foreign language. TESOL also offers professional development opportunities, promotes research, sets standards, and advocates for ESL teachers.

  • ALA Literacy Clearinghouse: Offered by the American Library Association, this site brings together resources to support literacy and lifelong learning. Focuses include child and family literacy, digital literacy, and literacy for English language learners.

  • ILA Literacy Resources: The International Literacy Association provides teachers with the tools and inspiration necessary to create lesson plans and help students with reading, writing, and critical thinking. It also offers a literacy glossary, which defines essential terms related to literacy and accepts new definitions submitted by members.

  • National Center for Family Literacy: Established in 1989, the NCFL aims to eradicate poverty through education. Operating in 140 communities across 38 states, the organization has helped more than two million families through its literacy programming and resources.

  • Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource: In our increasingly digital world, it is important for teachers of reading comprehension and writing to keep up with digital literacy news and issues. Cornell's digital literacy resource addresses internet safety concerns, academic integrity in online research, and popular trends in digital media.

  • We Are Teachers | Literacy: This site provides teachers with lesson plans, worksheets, printables, and classroom ideas for teaching reading, writing, and comprehension. Many of the ideas bring in other types of literacy, such as financial or digital literacy.

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