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An online master’s in reading and literacy prepares students to provide instruction to people of all ages who need to improve their language, reading, and writing skills. Career paths with a master’s in reading and literacy include elementary, middle, or high school teachers, who earn an average annual salary of $61,585. They can also pursue positions as instructional coordinators, who earn a median annual salary of $63,470, or training and development managers, who make $120,130.

The best online master’s in reading and literacy programs vary in cost. An in-state public university averages $12,394 for tuition, and private universities average $26,621. Most programs take two years to complete if you attend school full-time.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy Program

Choose your area of study

Students with a master’s degree in reading and literacy will choose a more specific study area, such as English as a second language, literacy and technology, teaching, coaching, curriculum development, and leadership.

The concentrations may vary depending on the master-level programs. They can opt for any of the following:

  • Master of Education in Reading Education
  • Master of Science in Literacy Education
  • Master of Arts in Reading Education

Once a student is clear on the concentration and type of degree they want to pursue, they can start seeking programs that meet their needs.

Research schools and programs

Start researching by visiting the social media pages and websites of a school. Students can learn much by reading the available content, including staff and student reviews. While online, check to see if the school is accredited and in good standing. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited institutions, while students can verify programmatic accreditation by checking the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education databases.

An online master’s in reading and literacy program should provide the following, at a minimum, to graduate students:

  • Credentialed faculty
  • Student support services
  • Networking opportunities
  • Learning experiences outside of the classroom
  • Flexibility

Prepare for tests and applications

Each online master’s in reading and literacy program has its own application requirements. Some involve taking entrance exams, like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), while others accept years of experience in the field as a substitute for the GRE.

Generally, master’s degree programs require potential students to submit a copy of undergraduate transcripts showing completion and overall GPA. Transcripts must be sent directly from the university, so it’s crucial to make the request promptly. Other items to submit may include a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a resume.

Creating a spreadsheet and checklist can help students stay organized and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Select your program

Some students submit multiple applications to online master’s programs, thinking this increases their acceptance odds. Others focus on one specific university. One way is not better than the other, except when considering the costs associated with each application.

Students who prefer to submit multiple applications should contact each school’s admissions department to inquire about application fee waivers.

Students who struggle with narrowing their list of programs can create a list of standards and eliminate the ones that don’t meet them. Examples of standards include offering accelerated programs or being able to access faculty.

Determine how you will pay for the program

It is a myth that students can’t pay for college. Today, students can find ways to pay for all or part of their tuition by participating in the following:

  • Fellowships
  • Assistantships
  • Work-study
  • Local, state, and federal scholarships
  • Local, state, and federal grants
  • Employer tuition assistance

In addition, students can apply for numerous types of loans they must repay after graduation. Working with a financial aid counselor, students can learn how to start their search for financial assistance, typically with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Some students save enough money to pay tuition and fees at the beginning of each semester.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy Programs

Best Online Master's in Reading and Literacy Degree Programs

Ohio University

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Liberty University

University of Georgia

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

UMass Lowell

Hamline University

University of North Dakota

Georgia State University

University of Nevada at Reno

University of Maine

UNC Charlotte School of Professional Studies

University of South Florida

TAMU School of Education and Human Development

Cameron University

The University of Texas at Tyler

Minnesota State University at Mankato

Concordia University, Nebraska

Northeastern State University

Appalachian State University

Missouri State University

Morningside University

University of Missouri

University of West Georgia

University of Northern Iowa

University of the Cumberlands

Jackson State University

Spring Arbor University

Evangel University

University of Kansas

Louisiana State University

University of West Florida

University of Dayton

NSU Florida College of Education & School of Criminal Justice

University at Albany

Old Dominion University

University of Memphis

Black Hills State University

University of Northern Colorado

PennWest Edinboro

Concordia University Wisconsin

University at Buffalo

ECU College of Education

Sam Houston State University

California State University San Marcos

University of Cincinnati

Olivet Nazarene University

California State University at Fresno

Slippery Rock University

Concordia University Chicago

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How We Rank Schools

This list focuses on master’s programs in reading and literacy. The most common graduate degrees in this subject are a Master of Education (M.Ed), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Science (MS).

We specifically sought programs that are delivered entirely or primarily online, ensuring accessibility for the greatest number of students, regardless of location or schedule.

To guarantee that programs meet the highest standards of quality, we only included schools that have regional accreditation. Additionally, many programs are also accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educational Programs (CAEP), which is a specialized agency overseeing postsecondary education programs.

Once we found the programs that met our criteria, we evaluated each of them on the basis of faculty, flexibility, reputation, cost, and outcomes. Using this information, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy Program?

For full-time students, completing an online master’s in reading and literacy program can take two years. For part-time students, it may take three or more years. During this time, all students will complete between 30 and 40 credits of core curricula and electives related to reading and literacy. Students understand the connection between human development and literacy, teaching literacy, research in literacy, and multicultural literacies.

Depending on a student’s study area, they may have to take courses above the master level or pass certification exams to obtain a specific job. For example, a language arts teacher must pass the National Board Certification exam and meet other requirements. Literacy coaches and reading specialists must also obtain certification, with requirements varying by state.

Most master-level programs require students to complete a practicum or internship working in a community setting under the direct supervision of a licensed professional. According to industry statistics, the education field has the highest percentage of practicum students at 47%.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in reading and literacy degree program

  • Elementary Reading and Writing. Students learn how to teach reading and writing to elementary students. Areas of focus include word recognition, vocabulary, understanding content, and assisting students with learning delays. Students work with visual learning aids, audiobooks for instruction, and the benefits of partner reading.
  • Media and Technology. Students learn to integrate computers, videos, robotics, and other media into instruction to aid reading and literacy. The course reviews online learning technologies and methods to improve their teaching skills.
  • Instruction Assessment. Students examine various assessment tools to measure reading, writing, comprehension, and language abilities and progress. Students learn what to do with assessment results, including professional reporting.
  • Young Adult Literature. Students learn how to pick young adult literature for their classroom or school. The class explores all genres of young adult literature, including fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, magazines, and more. Students usually complete a portfolio project on a young adult literature topic.
  • Literacy for Diverse Learners. Future teachers learn to assess the cultural differences among students and the diverse learning styles and competencies. Students then learn to incorporate lesson plans that highlight diversity and help students explore cultures other than their own to increase empathy and tolerance.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy?

Career outlook

The pursuit of an online master’s in reading and literacy positions individuals at the forefront of the education sector, responding to the growing demand for skilled professionals in literacy instruction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for instructional coordinators, a role often aligned with literacy specialists, is projected to grow around two percent by 2032. The median annual salary for instructional coordinators is $66,490, emphasizing the value placed on qualified individuals dedicated to enhancing literacy education.

Career paths

Obtaining a master’s degree in reading and literacy equips individuals with a profound understanding of effective literacy instruction. This advanced degree opens doors to diverse and impactful career opportunities, allowing graduates to play a pivotal role in fostering literacy skills across various educational settings.

Here are a few job possibilities that may be available for those with this advanced degree:

  • Program coordinator — oversees and implements literacy programs in educational institutions or nonprofits.
  • Content developer — creates educational materials and content focused on enhancing literacy skills.
  • School administrator — assumes leadership roles that may advocate for effective literacy practices in schools.
  • Online learning specialist — designs and implements online literacy programs and resources.
  • Adult literacy instructor — teaches literacy skills to adult learners in community or workplace settings.

Reading Specialist

Earning Potential: $49,546-$64,487 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in reading and literacy or a related field

A reading specialist is a highly skilled educator dedicated to diagnosing and addressing literacy challenges. They collaborate with teachers, design tailored interventions, and assess students to enhance their reading skills. These specialists play a pivotal role in shaping effective literacy programs. Whether working one-on-one with students or providing professional development to educators, reading specialists are passionate advocates for literacy, ensuring that individuals of all ages develop the essential skills to comprehend and engage with written material, fostering a lifelong love for reading.

Literacy Coach

Earning Potential: $69,055-$82,927 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in reading and literacy or a related field

A literacy coach is an educational leader focused on advancing effective literacy instruction. They collaborate with teachers to enhance classroom practices, providing ongoing support, feedback, and professional development. Literacy coaches model best teaching strategies, analyze student data, and tailor interventions to improve overall literacy outcomes. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, these specialists empower educators to implement evidence-based literacy practices, ensuring that students develop strong reading and comprehension skills.

Curriculum Specialist

Earning Potential: $58,272-$74,187 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in reading and literacy or a related field

A curriculum specialist is an education professional dedicated to developing and refining literacy-focused curricula. They align instructional materials with educational standards, assess program effectiveness, and guide educators in adopting literacy practices. Curriculum specialists conduct ongoing research to stay abreast of emerging trends in literacy education, ensuring that curricula remain dynamic and effective. Collaborating with teachers, administrators, and education stakeholders, these specialists play a key role in shaping the educational experiences of students by designing comprehensive literacy programs that foster a love for reading and empower learners to succeed in their academic journey.

Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master's in reading and literacy degree program?

Admissions counselors at each university can answer all questions related to the application process. The best online master’s in reading and literacy programs typically request that students complete an application online and pay a fee, which is non-refundable.

Students can typically upload their resume, letters of recommendation, and personal statement. However, documents like transcripts and test scores must be sent directly from the school or organization in order to be considered official. Be sure to request these documents early to ensure they arrive by application deadlines.

How much does an online master's in reading and literacy degree cost?

The average tuition shown in reports is usually a base fee, not the final cost. Universities attach extra fees to cover instructional, technology, learning assistance, and student activity fees. In-state public universities cost much less than other programs.

Being an online student versus an on-campus student has its advantages regarding cost savings. Online students save on the following:

  • Transportation
  • Meal plans
  • Housing
  • Parking

If a student can save money in other ways, like no longer needing childcare, that becomes another cost advantage.

How long does it take to earn an online master's in reading and literacy degree?

The time it takes someone to complete a master’s degree program is subjective and depends on many personal factors. One student may attend full-time in an accelerated program and finish in one year. Another person with more work and family obligations may only be able to attend part-time, taking them three years to complete.

An online master’s in reading and literacy program that requires more than 40 hours of credits will take longer than a program requiring only 30 credit hours. A significant difference in completion time is due to the structure and timeline of a program. On-campus programs span four semesters. Online master’s programs are often more flexible about when students can start a course.

Is an online master’s in reading and literacy worth it?

Earning an online master’s in reading and literacy is highly valuable for educators seeking to specialize in literacy instruction. The program equips graduates with advanced knowledge and practical skills to address the diverse needs of learners and significantly impact literacy outcomes.

The earning potential for individuals with an online master’s in reading and literacy is competitive. Salaries can range from $55,000 to $85,000 or more annually, depending on factors such as experience, specialization, and the specific career path chosen. Literacy specialists and coaches are in demand, making this degree a valuable investment in an educator’s professional growth.

One of the key advantages of earning an online master’s in reading and literacy is the flexibility it offers. Online programs allow educators to balance their education with work commitments, providing access to quality instruction no matter where the student lives. This flexibility enhances opportunities for career growth and advancement within the field of literacy education.

An online master’s in reading and literacy not only enhances educators’ expertise but also equips them with the tools to make a lasting impact on students’ lives. Graduates are prepared to address the evolving challenges in literacy education, advocate for effective instructional practices, and contribute significantly to the advancement of literacy skills across diverse learning environments.

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