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

You can expect coursework in your online master’s in reading and literacy that helps you develop strong communication skills and the knowledge to help improve your students’ reading comprehension and language skills. You will also find that it helps expand your ability to educate students of various ages from different economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds.

Because many reading and literacy graduate students are already teachers, earning your degree online offers the flexibility you need to continue working while enhancing your teaching skills and improving your career advancement. To find the right online master’s degree program for your personal and professional goals, compare admission requirements, curriculum, concentrations, and delivery format.

Available concentrations

You have a wide range of concentration options within most master’s in reading and literacy programs. Choosing an area to specialize in can help you narrow down your potential job options when you graduate. Here are some common concentrations that you may find in your online master’s program:

  • Literacy coaching: A concentration in literacy coaching teaches you to assess students and provide targeted literacy instruction and is ideal for advancing into a leadership role. This concentration equips you for jobs as a literacy coach, reading specialist, or adult literacy specialist.
  • Elementary education: Concentrations in elementary education delve into reading development in early childhood education and how literacy develops among elementary students. Graduates may take on jobs such as reading and literacy specialists in primary schools, primary school teachers, reading teachers, or remedial reading educators.
  • Secondary education: This concentration focuses on adolescent literacy and developing a curriculum to increase reading skills among middle and high school students. This concentration prepares graduates for jobs such as a reading specialist in secondary education, ESL teacher in secondary education, secondary school teacher, reading teacher, or remedial reading educator.
  • Literacy and technology: Literacy and technology concentrations focus on the skills and strategies for integrating digital tools and media literacies into the classroom. This focus prepares graduates for jobs such as reading and literacy specialists in elementary or secondary school or reading teachers.
  • English as a Second Language: ESL concentrations prepare you to create and modify lesson plans to teach English literacy to students of varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds. With this area of focus, you may find a job as an ESL teacher in elementary and secondary education, an adult ESL teacher, a reading specialist, or a special education and remedial reading teacher.
  • Literacy leadership: A concentration in literacy leadership focuses on the leadership skills needed to excel as a reading specialist and successfully lead literacy programs. Graduates may take on jobs such as literacy program manager.

Common degree curriculum

Many online reading and literacy master’s degree programs feature courses that focus on research and curriculum development. The exact curriculum will vary depending on the school’s course requirements, your concentration, and elective choices. No matter the program, the curriculum should incorporate the latest methodologies in literacy education. Your program might include some of the following courses:

  • Literacy Development and Instruction in Early Childhood: Literacy development for preschool through third-grade students, including instructional approaches and techniques.
  • Research Methods in Language Education: Research methodologies for teaching language at all education levels.
  • Remediation of Reading Courses: Provides in-depth study of reading comprehension with an emphasis on cognition and learning and comprehension of text in the reading process.
  • Issues in Vocabulary and Word Study: Covers theory and research of reading and writing vocabulary instruction and causes of literacy disabilities.
  • Teacher Research Methods in Reading: Developmental levels in reading comprehension at the elementary and secondary school levels and how cultural and linguistic varieties affect reading literacy.

Certification and license preparation

There are several optional certifications for graduates of programs in reading and literacy. In some areas and for some teaching positions, certification may be mandatory. Here are some certifications that may be important to pursue:

  • Reading Specialist Certification: Earning your online master’s degree in reading education, teaching certificate, and previous teaching experience may qualify you for Reading Specialist Certification. However, exact requirements vary by state.
  • English Language Learner License: Only a bachelor’s degree is required to apply for an ELL license, but a master’s degree may better prepare you to pass the ELL instructor exam. Requirements for this license vary by state, but many require you to participate in a practicum and pass the exam.
  • Literacy Coaching Certification: An advanced education helps qualify you for Literacy Coaching Certification, which your reading and literacy program may offer. Certification typically requires you to complete additional courses above your master’s degree coursework and obtain field experience.
  • National Board-Certified Teacher: Earning your online master’s in reading and literacy helps prepare you to earn your National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading–Language Arts for early and middle childhood teachers from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Program accreditation

While you’re researching online master’s programs in curriculum and instruction, it’s important to find programs that are accredited. Accreditation ensures that individual schools and programs have met minimum educational standards for quality and sets you up for success in education. Many public and private schools require job applicants to have graduated from accredited programs.

Colleges and universities receive regional or national accreditation through agencies recognized by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Programmatic accreditation in the field of education, especially for online reading specialist certification, should be connected to the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Program completion timeframe

To be eligible for admission into some online master’s in reading and literacy programs, you must have a teaching certification or licensure or a set amount of professional teaching experience. Many programs also require a capstone assignment to qualify for graduation, which could be a project or a comprehensive exam. The amount of time it takes to complete all requirements varies based on whether you’re taking classes full- or part-time. Classes offered asynchronously are self-paced and may allow you to finish quicker than classes delivered synchronously, which means you take classes at a set time with other students. Accelerated programs can be completed at an even faster pace.

The total credit hours in your program also affect completion time. On average, a 30-credit hour program can be completed in two to three semesters when pursued full-time and four to five semesters studying part-time. Many online master’s in reading and literacy programs require 32 to 36 credits and take two years to complete.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Reading and Literacy Graduates

While most states only require a bachelor’s degree to apply for teacher certification and begin teaching, some states require you to earn a master’s degree after receiving certification and obtaining a job. Most reading and literacy degrees only exist at the graduate level.

Teachers with a master’s degree are regarded as experts in their field, making them more competitive candidates for various jobs. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, it can also increase their salary. Teachers in general education with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $46,000, while those with a master’s degree earn $60,000. Teachers in special needs education with a bachelor’s degree earn $45,000, while those with a master’s degree earn $61,000.

Depending on your concentration, your master’s in reading and literacy prepares you to teach reading, remedial reading, literacy, and English as a second language at various educational levels, from kindergarten to adult learners. Your expected salary varies depending on the career you pursue, but below are some salary ranges for several popular career choices.

Where a reading and literacy specialist works can also greatly impact salary. For example, adult, secondary education, and literacy teachers make significantly more in New York than they do in New Mexico.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and ESL Teachers Adult literacy teachers instruct adults and out-of-school youths in remedial education, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They may also help students earn their high school equivalency diploma or help prepare immigrants to take the citizenship exam. $58,590 per year -13%
Special Education Teachers Special education teachers adapt general education lessons to teach subjects like reading, writing, and math to students with mild to moderate learning and mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They may also teach literacy and communication techniques to students with severe disabilities. $62,950 per year 0%
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct younger students in basic subjects, such as math and reading. All states require public school teachers to be licensed or certified in the grade level they’ll be teaching. Private schools typically don’t require a license. $61,620 per year 1%

Professional organizations

Professional organizations provide the support new and established teachers in reading and literacy education need to succeed. These organizations offer networking and educational opportunities, mentoring, job leads, professional publications, and other members-only benefits. Some notable organizations for reading and literacy teachers include:

  • National Council of Teachers of English: This organization provides valuable professional resources throughout your teaching career. It offers instructional sessions to keep you current on industry trends, unlimited access to practical instructional ideas, a quarterly magazine and digital journal archive, conferences and networking opportunities, and numerous other teacher-centered resources.
  • International Literacy Association: This global advocacy and membership organization offers a member magazine with the latest trends in literacy, easy-to-implement classroom strategies, practical teaching tips, annual and regional conferences, educator awards and grants, numerous ways to collaborate and make valuable connections in the teaching field and other professional resources to help empower educators.
  • National Education Association: A national organization committed to advancing the cause of public education with members working at every level of education, the NEA offers exclusive news, information, and resources, including print and digital publications, to keep educators current in the education sector. It also provides lesson plans, teaching strategies, advice and support, conferences, and training seminars.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy Degree

Online programs typically cost less than on-campus programs, but students often still need financial assistance. Students should start their search for financial assistance by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if they qualify for need-based loans, grants, work-study, and more. They can also receive grants and scholarships from the state government, their college, or private or nonprofit organizations.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

You are likely to have questions once you dive into the world of financial aid options. Explore the resources below for more information on financing your online education.

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