Master’s in Reading and Literacy Program Guide

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), literacy teachers earned an average of $55,140 per year, with employment numbering 58,810 as of 2016. These numbers indicate that the literacy field continues to grow, and that organizations dedicated to literacy development continue to boost the career options available to graduates hailing from literacy and reading master's degrees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, literacy teachers earned an average of $55,140 per year, with employment numbering 58,810 as of 2016. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Other factors add further appeal to this field, such as cultural integration. With different cultures meeting in classrooms, learning environments often become multilingual. As a result, students learn the additional skill of teaching reading to students who do not speak English as a first language. Furthermore, this concentration increases career opportunities by providing the degree seeker with a specialized skill. For example, students can focus on literacy for special needs children or for adults who need reading assistance. In total, students in reading master's programs can help people become better people by providing them an essential life skill.

What are the best Master's in reading and literacy programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

#1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
#2 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL
#3 University of Georgia Athens, GA
#4 Clemson University Clemson, SC
#5 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
#6 California State University-Fresno Fresno, CA
#7 Concordia University-Nebraska Seward, NE
#8 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
#9 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
#10 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ

Should I Get a Master's in Reading and Literacy?

Candidates for reading master's programs should enjoy helping others and possess a love of reading given these program's focus on literacy. Degree seekers explore modern research on literacy, ways to determine a student's reading abilities, and the best strategies to deliver literacy concepts. Degree candidates also learn how to create academic plans that impart literacy knowledge. To succeed, candidates need a longstanding interest in literary subjects.

In that vein, communication skills assist in obtaining literacy positions. Reading teachers and tutors must present concepts such as phonics and word construction in encouraging ways, and understanding the right communication strategy can ensure that students learn the intended message. Other jobs, such as reading coach, must communicate reading concepts to faculty members. To prepare for these careers, programs should improve students' communication skills. Learners willing to explore these concepts to build community literacy should consider enrolling in these programs.

Once candidates decides to enroll, they must choose whether to study online or on campus. Online programs allow students with family and work obligations to schedule their education accordingly. However, on-campus programs may establish stronger networking connections due to face-to-face interactions with faculty and fellow students. Given that networking connects learners with organizations and people, students enjoy easier access to internships, practicums, and student-teaching experiences.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Reading and Literacy?

Literacy graduates may assist children or adults in learning how to read in various environments. For instance, preschool teachers work with young children in classrooms, while adults may seek literacy assistance from private tutors and organizations such as ProLiteracy. Career options, then, can include standard teaching positions, but graduates may also work for companies that strive for higher literacy rates. Graduates can also consult organizations regarding how to teach different age groups to read. Regardless of the chosen occupation, candidates should aspire to help others and possess an appreciation of the written word.

Preschool Teachers

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These teachers educate classrooms of children under age five and must plan activities that relate to preschool topics like counting, identifying shapes, and building creativity. Given that preschool curriculum may begin the journey to literacy, graduating from reading master's programs can supply candidates with an employment advantage since they hold literacy qualifications that other applicants do not.

Median Annual Salary: $28,990*

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

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Elementary schools serve as common places for literacy learning and reading classes, so a master's in reading may help candidates find careers in these settings. However, states require specific qualifications for teaching licensure, so while this degree may allow career advancement, candidates should also prepare for Praxis exams.

Median Annual Salary: $56,900*

Instructional Coordinators

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These coordinators help in building curriculum, provide input for textbook choices, and deliver workshops and training for new educational concepts. They communicate with staff regarding curriculum needs and explore the effectiveness of new curriculum in classrooms. By completing reading master's programs, candidates gain advanced understanding of literacy concepts for guiding reading curriculum.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750*

Special Education Teachers

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These teachers work with special needs children and must alter curriculum to suit each child's need. Helpful skills include extensive knowledge of special needs disorders and an interest in multiple subjects since one teacher may cover several academic fields in a single classroom. A master's in reading indicates in-depth knowledge of literacy that could prove useful when teaching children with diverse learning needs.

Median Annual Salary: $59,980*

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

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This type of teacher may cover all basic subjects for adults pursuing high school equivalency diplomas. However, these educators may also assist nontraditional English as a second language (ESL) students and students in general who struggle with reading the language. Holding a master's in reading provides evidence that a candidate possesses the skills to deliver literacy concepts to these learners.

Median Annual Salary: $52,100*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Master's in Reading and Literacy Program

When choosing a reading master's program, students should consider degree specializations since these focuses prepare them for particular careers. For instance, a candidate intending to become a reading specialist may enroll in a reading specialist program; alternatively, a person hoping to teach preschool can choose a program that deals with young learners or curriculum. Since the coursework for each specialization prepares learners for distinct career paths, students should explore emphasis areas to find the best match for their professional goals.

Learners should also consider course requirements, including final projects, student teaching experiences, practicums, and thesis papers. Certain degree elements, such as a thesis, may require too much time for full-time workers, so candidates may choose programs with final projects instead. Additionally, programs with fieldwork build networking connections that prove useful to students entering the field from other areas.

Degree seekers must choose between online and on-campus degrees and should also consider program length. Many master's programs require approximately two years, but accelerated programs shorten this time frame. Candidates who need extra time to finish the degree, on the other hand, may study part time. However, schools may charge part-time learners a higher tuition.

Students should consider the school's location as well. Candidates intending to teach reading at schools, for instance, may choose schools near teacher shortage areas for a strong chance of employment after graduation. Cost also matters when choosing a master's in reading since learners may need to study on a budget, particularly if the student's cost of living is high. Degree seekers should also ensure that any chosen program or school holds adequate accreditation.

Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Reading and Literacy Programs

Accreditation means that a school holds the approval of an agency that boasts the authority to review institutions' academic merit. These agencies maintain standards for evaluating schools, so degree seekers can trust that all colleges and universities with the same accreditation compare academically. Students should only apply to schools that hold accreditation since many financial aid options only relate to learners at accredited institutions. Additionally, future schools and employers may not accept transfer coursework or degrees from unaccredited college or universities.

Schools may earn national or regional accreditation, and individual programs can boast programmatic accreditation. Each form of accreditation delivers benefits, but programmatic accreditation reveals agency support for particular degrees. Students in teaching licensure programs, even for a master's in reading, should explore options accredited by agencies such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Doing so ensures that the curriculum prepares learners for teaching careers. Another noteworthy accrediting agency for reading and literacy programs includes the International Dyslexia Association.

Master's in Reading and Literacy Program Admissions

Students should consider several factors when deciding on colleges to apply to, beginning with curriculum and coursework. For instance, candidates pursuing careers as reading specialists should search for institutions with a master's reading specialist degree. This process ensures that students learn relevant skills for their desired profession. Other school considerations include the cost of attendance, school location, and school size.

Learners should also decide between online and on-campus programs since each possibility comes with pros and cons. For instance, the admission process for online programs can prove more challenging than the on-campus process, and the course experience for on-campus programs involves more peer interaction.

Students should apply to several institutions with three categories in mind: safe schools, preferred schools, and hopeful options. Through this process, learners might earn admission into esteemed schools without the risking missing a semester given that their safety schools will likely admit them. Degree seekers should bear in mind that many schools charge application fees ranging between $50 and $100.


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    Bachelor's Degree:

    A bachelor's degree demonstrates that a candidate possesses the abilities to succeed in an academic program. Many master's programs require a bachelor's -- often in areas related to the master's field. For instance, reading master's programs may specify that applicants hold a bachelor's in education.
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    Professional Experience:

    Reading master's programs may call for prior licensure or certification in education. These credentials verify an applicant's skills in presenting academic information to learners. Many departments do not specify a time requirement for these credentials.
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    Minimum GPA:

    A minimum GPA verifies a student's academic success since the number represents the overall quality of course performance. Many reading master's programs require a 3.0 for admission.

Admission Materials

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    An application supplies an overview of a candidate's qualifications. The form itself may take an hour or less to complete.
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    These application materials allow schools to examine courses taken by students, grades earned in those courses, and years invested at each school. Students should request transcripts from all previous schools for new applications. Many institutions charge a fee for releasing these transcripts.
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    Letters of Recommendation:

    Candidates submit letters of recommendation as evidence of support from professionals and community leaders. Students should only submit these documents if the school requests them, allowing their references at least two weeks to write letters.
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    Test Scores:

    Schools require exams for admission, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This step allows institutions to compare learners from different locations since the assessments use standard formats. Many schools do not list a specific score for admission, though certain colleges and universities only accept recent scores.
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    Application Fee:

    These fees compensate schools for reviewing application materials. Typically, learners pay less than $100 for this expense; for reading master's programs, the fee may cost between $35-$55. Candidates should consult their schools about possible fee waivers.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Reading and Literacy Program?

Literacy programs offer concentrations that prepare learners for specific careers. A candidate who wants a reading specialist certification should choose a program that offers that path. Each concentration includes related curricula and coursework, so in choosing the right focus, learners need to ensure that they explore concepts connected to career goals.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Reading and Literacy
Concentration Description Careers
Early Literacy Candidates in this concentration explore topics related to children and their needs while learning to read. Possible courses include family literacy, child development, and children's literature -- all of which provide skills for guiding children toward literacy. This focus prepares learners to teach reading in elementary and preschool classrooms.
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Students in this concentration may need a prior teaching license before enrolling. However, this degree provides insights into cultural and multilingual concepts to help candidates lead TESOL learners to literacy. Graduates may work in classrooms or online as TESOL educators; they may also provide consultation for organizations concerning how to teach literacy to non-native speakers.
Adult Literacy This concentration delivers information relevant to adult learners, such as their typical behavior and the best techniques for providing them with literacy information. The concentration can lead to careers as adult reading tutors or teachers who prepare students for high school equivalency diplomas.
Classroom/Clinical Students in this focus explore concepts for teaching literacy to kindergarten and elementary school students. Possible courses include reading assessment and language arts. Additionally, students may need to complete a practicum that includes evaluating a group's reading skills and helping them to become literate. Graduates can pursue careers as elementary school teachers or become master's reading specialists.
Reading Specialist Current educators can choose this concentration to further their skills for teaching literacy. Topics covered include diagnosis, literature, and psychological concepts related to literacy. Candidates can learn to share literacy ideas with either children or adults, depending on the program curriculum. This concentration prepares students to become reading specialists at schools or other organizations.

Courses in a Master's in Reading and Literacy Program

Given the diversity of concentrations for reading master's programs, curricula for each degree varies. Candidates in early literacy programs, for instance, encounter coursework tailored to children, and candidates in adult literacy encounter coursework tailored to adults. Likewise, TESOL candidates would experience different coursework than students in reading specialist programs. However, certain course topics appear in most reading master's programs.

Literacy Development

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These courses often focus on children. Candidates use modern research to explore childhood literacy and consider how concepts such as writing and speaking play parts in children learning to read. Possible courses involve comprehension when reading, family reading, and phonics. The skills from this class can apply to any career related to teaching children to read, such as elementary reading teachers or reading specialists.


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Students in these courses can explore methods of diagnosing reading issues, such as screening. Additionally, the course teaches learners how to apply diagnoses in classrooms by changing teaching strategies to align with student needs. This class proves particularly useful for learners intending to become special education teachers.

Curriculum Development/Design

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During this course, candidates learn about the core concerns of building curriculum, including government policies and course goals. Students evaluate theories and foundations for literacy and may encounter specific concerns within the educational system, such as special needs curriculum. The course prepares learners for careers as educators and instructional coordinators.

Children's Literature

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Books within multiple genres surface in these courses as learners explore children's stories. For instance, students can examine morals that appear within children's literature and study the impact of stories on young learners. The material covered in this course gives students an understanding of literature that they may apply to careers as reading teachers or librarians.

Literacy Coaching

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These courses assist learners in literacy coaching positions. Candidates become familiar with literacy research and techniques so that they can offer reading teachers and literacy organizations advice. Due to this consulting quality, learners should expect information focused on the student-teacher dynamic and on how school setting impacts literacy.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Reading and Literacy?

Most master's degrees require approximately two years to complete, with course requirements ranging between 30-36 credits. This format amounts to 15-18 credits per year. However, certain program factors alter this time frame. For instance, a program may require 42 credits, and in order to finish this degree in two years, degree seekers need to complete 21 credits per year. Otherwise, degree completion time extends into extra semesters.

Departments may deliver programs in cohort format, which means students progress through courses as one group. This quality prevents learners from personalizing their pace in any way. For other programs, however, candidates explore coursework at an accelerated pace. To choose a program that fits their scheduling needs, learners should consider the impact of these delivery methods.

Learners can also enroll as part-time students for flexibility, though some schools may charge higher part-time tuition. To graduate quickly, students can take extra classes every semester, but if the college or university labels this decision as course overload, tuition costs can increase.

How Much Is a Master's in Reading and Literacy?

Without ensuring that an education fits within a budget, learners could deal with the burden of student loans for decades. For this reason, degree seekers should consider tuition rates when choosing a school, and certain guidelines exist to help candidates sort through college and university prices.

Public schools often charge lower tuition rates than private institutions, and in-state students frequently experience lower tuition than out-of-state learners. In fact, choosing in-state schools can save students hundreds of dollars each semester. Additionally, some schools charge different tuition rates for certain credit amounts. For instance, tuition for part-time students may cost more than tuition for full-time candidates, and enrolling in course overloads may lead to higher tuition.

For reading master's programs, tuition rates typically fall between $400-$600 per credit, which leads to $1,200-$1,800 per three-credit course. For total educational expenses, students must also consider fees required by the school, such as housing fees, technology fees, and parking permits. Furthermore, learners should think about funding for textbooks. The average cost of one textbook reached $79 in 2016, which provides an idea of how expensive these course materials can become. Students should look into financial aid options to assist in paying for these college expenses.

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

Reading Specialist Certification

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Reading specialists assist students who struggle with reading and may provide advice for curriculum changes. Often, these specialists boast years of experience as teachers. Although certain states require a reading specialist certification for this position, this master's degree delivers foundational information to help in earning that credential.

Literacy Design Collaborative Coach Certification

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This certification verifies skills in literacy coaching and takes one year to complete. Earning this credential involves virtual classes, performance assessment, and a peer-review experience. The certification includes earning badges that help the school measure student success.

Structured Literacy Teacher Certification

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This certification from the Center for Effective Reading Instruction provides evidence of a candidate's abilities to present literacy knowledge to students. Candidates may earn this credential after passing the related examination. Since only a bachelor's degree is required for certification, a master's in reading can lead to this accomplishment.

Dyslexia Practitioner Certification

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The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) presents this certification to candidates who can educate dyslexic students in literacy. Requirements include a bachelor's degree and at least 25 weeks of supervised fieldwork. Additionally, candidates must earn at least 45 credits in classes that reflect IDA standards. This credential increases the chances of earning reading-related careers since it verifies specific expertise.

Family Literacy Certificate

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To earn the certificate, candidates must take a series of courses related to family literacy that include interactive literacy and parent involvement, introduction to family literacy, and adult literacy. Since this certification involves information about child and adult literacy, the skills learned assist recipients in teaching various ages in classrooms or tutoring sessions.

Resources for Reading and Literacy Graduate Students

Reading Rockets

This organization provides learners with resources dedicated to teaching techniques, dyslexia, and family involvement in literacy. Site viewers can also find book lists to help with choosing reading materials by theme.


Candidates can explore the site for book ideas based on grade level and may also read blog posts on literacy. Scholastic also offers lesson plans that students can explore while student teaching or while building course plans for class assignments.

Reading Is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental provides resources through Literacy Central for parents, educators, and volunteers. Candidates can find activities and information on topics such as spelling and book details.

Reading Horizons

This group links site viewers to articles on literacy techniques and childhood reading. Additionally, Reading Horizons provides reading workshops, training sessions, and webinars related to literacy.

Open Books

Students can gain valuable fieldwork experience by volunteering with this group as a reading coach. The organization offers programs like Reading Buddies and Storytime to build literacy, providing books for libraries, clinics, and individual students.

Professional Organizations in Reading and Literacy

Interacting with professional organizations comes with benefits, including the ability to network with field professionals. By doing so, candidates build relationships that may lead to recommendation letters and gaining field insight. Organizations may also supply jobs boards and career guidance to further help with employment. Other benefits include opportunities to complete continuing education hours for certifications and licenses.

Children's Literature Association

This group provides a yearly conference, as well as information on research grants and fellowship opportunities. The association maintains a page for current job listings and a resource page with links to book awards, journals, and reading material.

International Literacy Association

Members of this group gain access to several journals, including The Reading Teacher and Reading Research Quarterly. The association also delivers a downloadable report on current issues in literacy, hosts conferences, and supplies tips for reading choices.

Reach Out And Read

This organization supplies teachers, parents, and medical professionals with tips for literacy concepts, such as book selection. The organization's blog provides information on literacy research, fictional categories that deliver morals, and details for projects connected to reading.

Keys to Literacy

Teachers can explore literacy-related events through this website, including Letterland Phonics Program Training and Keys to Comprehension for Students with Learning Disabilities. Additional resources from the group include articles, webinars, and a blog.

Literacy Connection

This organization presents programs concerning adult, family, and ESL literacy. Teachers can expand their resumes by volunteering with this organization as tutors and browse the group's resources, such as the Staying Healthy curriculum. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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