Online Master's Degree in Reading & Literacy

According to 2017 data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, more than 700 million adults, and 9% of individuals between ages 15 and 24, cannot read. In 2018, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund classified more than 100 million children worldwide as illiterate.

These numbers are much lower than statistics from previous generations, indicating that literacy initiatives have become a high global priority. Still, millions of people remain illiterate. An online master's in reading and literacy prepares graduates to empower students through reading education.

Although online reading master's programs vary in structure and focus, most entail similar curricular requirements. Students often take courses related to reading instruction and diagnosis, teacher and student behavior, curriculum creation, literacy research, and classroom management. Programs may require a practicum or thesis, and some encourage students to focus their studies on a particular age group, such as adult learners or elementary students.

Earning a master's in reading online may enable practicing teachers to expand their professional possibilities, while non-teachers may enroll to change career direction. Candidates intending to teach should research their state's licensure and certification requirements before selecting an online reading master's program.

Cost is one of the most important concerns when selecting an online master's program. Private colleges often charge more than public schools, so students seeking lower tuition should explore public options. In-state students often pay lower tuition than out-of-state students, but many schools charge in-state tuition to online learners, regardless of where they live.

Learners should also consider the length of an online literacy master's program. Some degrees require students to complete more credits than others, and course delivery methods vary. Cohort programs require groups of students to complete coursework on a rigid schedule. For students seeking more flexibility, an individually paced program may be a better fit.

Students seeking an online master's degree in reading and literacy should also keep in mind the difference between online and hybrid programs. Although fully online programs may necessitate in-person practicums or field experiences, they do not require students to attend classes on campus. Hybrid programs allow students to take some classes remotely but mandate on-campus coursework as well.

Some graduates become teachers after earning a master's in reading and literacy. Students with this career goal should consider their state's teaching requirements and take the necessary steps to qualify for licensure. These students should also choose a program with programmatic accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Students should consider specific program benefits when selecting a school. A degree seeker interested in adult literacy may choose a college or university which offers that emphasis. The availability of optional certifications in topics such as literacy coaching or literacy intervention may also impact school selection. These supplementary credentials may strengthen a graduate's understanding of a specific aspect of the literacy field.

Types of Reading and Literacy Degrees

Online master's degrees in reading and literacy typically require between 30 and 40 credits, or approximately two years of coursework.

While some online master's in reading programs prepare graduates to assist young and adolescent learners, others prepare them for adult literacy settings. Degree seekers generally complete coursework specific to the age group with which they plan to work.

Many programs train practicing teachers in reading education, while others cater to candidates without teaching experience. Some programs lead to licensure or certification, while others do not. Other components which differ between programs include practicum and thesis requirements.

Entry Requirements

Admission requirements differ among schools but frequently include an accredited bachelor's degree in any field, minimum GPA requirements, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Other common components include a candidate's resume, a statement of purpose, and standardized test scores. Programs may also request an academic writing sample.

Degrees structured for practicing teachers typically require applicants to hold licensure or certification. These programs may expect candidates to take national or state-specific teaching exams. Some schools also mandate proof of teaching experience.

Directory of Accredited Master's in Reading and Literacy Programs

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Because state licensure policies vary, students who wish to teach should select a program which fulfills their state's requirements. Common licensure requirements include passing a state-specific teaching exam, or a more general test such as the Praxis, and classroom experience. States may require candidates to pass a field-specific assessment for each subject they intend to teach.

Reciprocity agreements exist between states but do not guarantee licensure for educators who change location. These agreements allow licensed teachers to apply for licensure in their new state. State licensure boards may request that the applicant complete steps such as taking an exam or acquiring additional classroom experience. Only six states offer full reciprocity without additional experience: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada.

Many reading and literacy professionals pursue voluntary certifications which demonstrate specialized expertise. These credentials may broaden career options and increase earning potential. Educators may earn national board certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as a supplementary credential to state licensure. Learners may also obtain a reading specialist certification. The International Dyslexia Association and Center for Effective Reading Instruction also offer certifications.

Unlicensed aspiring teachers may become educators by alternative routes. Organizations such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project do not require applicants to hold licensure, but they may call for post-acceptance training. Students without teaching credentials may choose a graduate program which leads to certification or licensure.

Literacy professionals work in classroom and office settings. Career options for a master's in reading and literacy include teaching, assisting students within multiple schools, and coordinating curricula. Degree holders may help young, adolescent, or adult learners improve their reading skills.

How Much Money Does a Reading Specialist Make?

Reading Specialist

These specialists assist elementary and middle school teachers, and sometimes high school educators, by shaping curricula and providing coaching for effective teaching. Other responsibilities may include advocating early reading assistance for children, coordinating faculty training, and observing teachers' classroom management. A single specialist may work at several schools.

Median Salary: $50,464

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators work in education, but often outside the classroom, by providing input on teaching methods. These professionals monitor curriculum development, textbook choices, and classroom technology use. Other duties may involve overseeing workshops and conferences, evaluating exam results, observing classrooms, obtaining staff feedback on curricula, and training faculty in new teaching resources or methods.

Median Salary: $63,750

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher

These educators help learners who did not complete high school earn an equivalent diploma. These teachers must determine students' levels of understanding and implement appropriate teaching strategies. Additional responsibilities may include helping students develop study skills and access information about external resources, such as employment assistance organizations.

Median Salary: $52,100

Elementary School Teacher

Teachers of this age group may prepare lessons for all subjects, such as science, reading, and math. These educators also grade assignments, monitor academic performance, enforce classroom rules, and prepare learners for standardized tests. Other duties include discussing student progress and behavior with parents and determining and addressing children's classroom challenges.

Median Salary: $57,160

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-2016 tuition rates for nonprofit institutions ran as high as $40,670. Students may pay these costs out of pocket through school-specific payment plans. Payment schedules depend on school calendars, but learners may expect to make monthly payments. If degree seekers cannot manage such monthly expenses, they may seek financial assistance to cover education costs.

Scholarships for Online Master's in Reading and Literacy Degrees

International Literacy Association (ILA) Steven A. Stahl Research Grant $1,000

Who Can Apply: Must be an ILA member and graduate student with teaching experience and have an interest in reading and literacy instruction. View Scholarship

ILA Jeanne S. Chall Research Fellowship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Must be an ILA member and a graduate student specializing in a reading concept, such as reading struggles or early literacy. View Scholarship

TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Must attend an accredited university, show evidence of community involvement, and submit an essay. View Scholarship

The Booksource Scholarship $1,250

Who Can Apply: Students must submit an essay stating how they intend to use their learned knowledge to spark a passion for reading among students. This essay must be no more than 1,000 words. View Scholarship

American Library Association Bound to Stay Bound Books Scholarship $7,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to students planning to pursue an advanced degree and work in the library service helping children. This includes children up to age 14. View Scholarship
  • Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) RIF encourages children to read by offering programs such as Books for Ownership and Read for Success. The organization also provides an information hub and Literacy Central, which gives educators, parents, and volunteers details about upcoming activities and tips for improving reading skills.
  • Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy This organization improves literacy by involving families in the learning process. Programs include Teen Trendsetters, which allows teenagers to assist younger children who struggle with reading. The foundation also presents events under the Celebration of Reading title to promote specific literacy areas.
  • National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL) NCIL's primary focus is assisting those with reading challenges, such as dyslexia. This organization provides information about upcoming literacy events by organizations including the Council for Learning Disabilities and the International Dyslexia Association. NCIL also offers literacy improvement tips to parents, schools, and agencies.
  • ProLiteracy This group focuses specifically on adult literacy. Programs include Expanding Access to Adult Literacy, which encourages social service organizations to offer reading assistance, and the National Book Fund, which helps literacy organizations obtain books.
  • Reach Out and Read Children ages five and under are this group's main focus. Reach Out and Read provides free books to young children and encourages families to interact through reading. Resources include book selection tips and materials for starting a new Reach Out and Read program.
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