Master's in reading literacy programs provide teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to help improve students' reading comprehension and language acquisition abilities. Many online reading master's programs feature courses that focus on research and curriculum development, but specific program details vary depending on the school and program a learner chooses.

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

Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
3 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
4 University of Georgia Athens, GA
5 California State University, Fullerton Fullerton, CA
6 University of Wisconsin La Crosse La Crosse, WI
7 Clemson University Clemson, SC
8 University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY
9 University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
10 University of San Diego San Diego, CA

A master's in reading and literacy provides teachers with the skills needed to help improve students' reading comprehension and language acquisition abilities. Read more here..


Many students who enter this program are current teachers. Graduates are prepared to work in education at the elementary and secondary levels as teachers, reading specialists, literacy coaches, and TESOL teachers. Read more here..


According to PayScale, in 2017, reading specialist earned between $34,592 and $73,641. Read more here..


Students earning their master's in reading and literacy who want to become reading specialists should enter a program that focuses on reading specialist work or make sure that their school offers a concentration in this area. Read more here..


Reading interventionists are reading specialists who provide intensive instruction to struggling students inside or outside of the classroom. Read more here..

Affordable Online Reading & Literacy Degrees

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 90%

The University of Florida ranked second in U.S. World News & Report's 2020 ranking of the best online graduate programs in education. Approximately 5,000 online students enroll each year, pursuing degrees in more than a dozen areas within the field, including program evaluation, educational leadership, and educational technology.

UF's online master's degree in reading and literacy education provides students with the knowledge, skills, and strategies needed to support literacy and language growth in the pre-K-12 classroom. The 36-credit master of arts curriculum culminates in a thesis or research project. Students graduate in 4-6 semesters.

General admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.


University of South Florida

Tampa, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

The University of South Florida is a state research university located in the heart of Tampa. Three campuses serve more than 50,000 students. Nine master's degrees offer fully online completion, including the 36-credit master of arts in reading.

This program explores global literacy as an essential tool for communication and aids educators in the development of literacy coaching skills and instructional practices. Two curriculum plans are available to accomodate students both with and without a teaching license. Courses use asynchronous and synchronous elements.

Admission requirements vary by plan selection. All applicants should hold a bachelor's degree; a minimum 3.0 GPA in upper-division coursework; and provide a resume, statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.


Texas A&M University

College Station, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

The department of teaching, learning and culture at Texas A&M University enrolls approximately 1,200 undergraduate and 400 graduate students. The department strives to advance teaching, research, and service through programs in urban education, multicultural education, and reading and literacy.

Available online, through a combination of asynchronous and synchronous classes, the master of education in curriculum and instruction requires 36 credits. The reading and literacy emphasis requires coursework in developmental reading, reading instruction, and organization and supervision of reading programs. No thesis is required.

For admission consideration, prospective students must provide official transcripts, two essays, and three letters of recommendation. Texas A&M recommends a minimum 2.75 GPA.


University of Georgia

Athens, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 86%

Upon its founding in 1785, the University of Georgia became the first state-supported university in the nation. Today, UGA provides rigorous academic opportunities to more than 37,000 students, both on campus and online, including a 36-credit master's in reading and literacy.

Reading education cohorts progress through two core courses, six electives, and four specialization courses in new and digital literacies. UGA requires successful completion of both an electronic assessment capstone and a final examination. Graduates are prepared to help students advance as readers in print and digital environments.

Applicants must supply a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, a resume/CV, and official transcripts. Two years of teaching experience and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA are recommended.


California State University, Fullerton

Fullerton, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 68%

California State University, Fullerton serves approximately 40,000 students each year. The college of education houses the Reading Educators' Guild — the oldest alumni support group on the CSUF campus — which includes graduates of the master's in reading and literacy education program.

Students can complete the 30-credit degree entirely online or through a hybrid format. Learners progress through the curriculum in a cohort, taking classes in linguistics and literacy education, literacy curriculum, and literacy in the academic disciplines. A capstone project or thesis serves as the program's culminating experience.

Admission requirements include a completed bachelor's degree in an approved major and a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework.


University of Wisconsin La Crosse

La Crosse, WI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 71%

The University of Wisconsin La Crosse began as a normal school, founded in 1909. Today, UW-La Crosse's school of education continues this long tradition of teacher preparation through 23 diverse programs, including an online master's degree in reading and literacy.

The 30-credit, non-certification program serves teachers interested in professional development in reading education. Required courses include research methods in literacy, critical issues in reading difficulties, and children's literature. Students must complete a thesis and a minimum of 50 practicum hours in a pre-K-12 setting.

Admission requires a minimum 2.85 cumulative undergraduate GPA or a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Applicants must hold a teaching license or show proof of eligibility for teacher licensure.


Clemson University

Clemson, SC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

Clemson University is a selective public research university with more than 25,000 students. The school ranked number one in U.S. News & World Report's 2020 rankings of the best online graduate programs in education. Furthermore, graduates of the school of education report a 98% satisfaction rate with their professional preparation.

Among Clemson's online education options is a master's in reading and literacy, which offers three tracks: literacy coaching, literacy secondary, and literacy ESOL. Each track requires 36 credits and results in varying endorsements and certifications. On average, students take 1-2 courses per semester and complete the program in 2-3 years.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA; a current teaching license; and submit a resume, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


University at Buffalo

Buffalo, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 76%

The University at Buffalo is a premier, research-intensive university and one of the top public institutions in New York. The school offers an extensive catalog of more than 125 undergraduate, 205 master's, and 90 doctoral programs. Approximately 32,000 students attend each year.

Those enrolled in UB's master of education in literacy education studies complete 30 credits. Required courses include literacy and technology, classroom literacy assessment/instruction, and childhood literary materials. Available on campus and online, this non-certification degree prepares graduates for careers as adult literacy coaches and private school educators.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. UB requires submission of unofficial transcripts, a statement of education and career goals, and contact information for two references.


University of West Florida

Pensacola, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

The University of West Florida is a public institution based in Pensacola, with an annual enrollment of approximately 12,500. Twenty-nine percent of UWF students enroll exclusively online, pursuing six undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Among these flexible degrees is a master's in reading education.

Based on the standards of the International Reading Association, the 36-credit curriculum ties science-based reading research to practical classroom applications. Required courses include classroom reading assessments, differentiating instruction, and research and trends in reading. Students design and complete a scholarly project as their capstone.

Program applicants must hold or be currently seeking teaching licensure, earn a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and submit GRE or MAT scores, unless eligible for a waiver. ESOL proficiency is also required.


University of San Diego

San Diego, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

The University of San Diego is a private, Roman Catholic institution with more than 9,000 students from 85 countries and all 50 states. The university offers 43 bachelor's degrees, 34 master's degrees, and four doctoral degrees. A selection of online programs are also available, designed to serve working professionals.

USD's master of education in literacy and digital learning supports the development of evidence-based best practices while responding to Common Core State Standards. Students can complete the 30-credit curriculum in five semesters, with coursework in teaching digital writers, education research methodology, and social justice and educational equity.

USD considers applications on a rolling basis. Prospective students should have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Two years of prior teaching experience, a personal phone interview, and supplemental materials are required.

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


Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Elementary education Students who select a concentration in elementary education within their reading specialist online program of choice take a closer look at the foundations of reading development in early childhood education. Courses also delve into theories of learning and development to provide graduate students with a deeper understanding of how literacy develops among elementary schoolers. Elementary education reading and literacy specialist, primary school teacher
Secondary education A reading specialist online program with a concentration in secondary education gives students the chance to focus on adolescent literacy and how strategic curriculum development can positively impact reading growth among students. Those who specialize in secondary education within their reading literacy master's degree often pursue careers working as reading specialists in middle and high schools. Reading specialist and ELL teacher (primary or secondary education)
English Language Learners (ELL) Online reading master's programs that offer an ELL concentration prepare students to teach English literacy to a range of students from varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Specializing in ELL gives students the resources to understand cultural issues and create and modify lesson plans to meet students' needs. Reading specialist and ELL teacher (primary or secondary education)
Literacy coach Programs that offer a concentration in literacy coaching provide graduate students with the knowledge needed to assess students and to provide targeted literacy instruction. This master's in reading online degree specialization is ideal for students looking to advance into a leadership role supporting educators in improving students' literacy. Literacy coach (school or district-wide), Reading and literacy specialist (primary or secondary education), and Adult literacy coach


While each school's online reading master's program features curriculum dependent upon different course requirements and offered concentrations, most programs consistently cover a similar spread of content relevant to reading literacy careers. Below is a list of some of the types of courses that programs tend to offer.

  • Foundations of Reading: This course aims to provide students with the background knowledge necessary to understand developmental levels and theory as it relates to reading comprehension at the elementary and secondary levels. Content in this course is geared toward K-12 reading specialists and teachers, and may examine how cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity affect reading literacy and growth.
  • Research in Education: Skills used to analyze education research papers are typically utilized in this course. In discussing research methodologies, students who hope to pursue careers in education leadership will develop their ability to comprehend and critically analyze research articles as they pertain to reading literacy at all levels of education.
  • Literacy for English Language Learners: This course focuses on how to effectively teach English Language Learners (ELL) and how to create a supportive learning environment for students of different linguistic backgrounds. Topics within this course often cover the process of first and second language acquisition, reading and writing development for ELL students, and optimal instructional approaches.
  • Literacy Coaching: Participants enrolled in this class learn the ins and outs of being a literacy coach. The curriculum often covers theories around language development as well as coach and teacher collaboration. Students enrolled in a literacy coaching course or concentration should be prepared to study coaching practices and observe a literacy coach in a school.
  • Professional Learning and Literacy Leadership: This course teaches students key leadership skills that they can use to excel as a reading specialist or literacy coach. Coursework and discussions provide students with examples of how to collaboratively create and lead literacy programs at the individual, classroom, school, and district-wide level.


Online reading master's program take varied amounts of time to complete depending the school and program requirements. Length of completion time depends on whether or not an online degree can be taken at an accelerated pace, if students take courses synchronously or asynchronously, if certain concentrations within the degree require more credits than others, and how many total credits are needed to graduate.

In some cases, students are assigned classes with a cohort so that all participants who start the program at the same time will take classes and graduate together. Other online master's in reading literacy programs, however, let students go at their own individual pace, providing them the flexibility to complete classwork whenever it works best for their schedule. In these cases, students often take classes on a part-time schedule so they can continue working. On average, it takes about 36 credits, or two years, to graduate from a reading specialist degree online program.


  • Reading Specialist Certification: This certification, which confirms that a teacher has training in reading literacy, varies in requirements from state to state. In general, reading specialists must hold a valid teaching certificate, previous teaching experience, a master's degree with a concentration in reading and writing education, and substantial field experience.
  • English Language Learner License: This license enables licensed teachers with bachelor's degrees to focus their teaching on ELL instruction. Like the Reading Specialist Certification, the ELL License varies in requirements from state to state, but the vast majority of states require students to engage in a practicum and pass a ELL instructor exam.
  • Literacy Coaching Certification: This certification, which is often offered through online master's in reading literacy programs, prepares licensed teachers to grow in literacy leadership roles at the individual, school, or district level. Those who earn this certificate must often complete additional courses and gain field experience on top of the standard online master's in reading degree requirements.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Reading Literacy Degrees

In considering online reading master's programs, be sure to verify that a school is accredited. Institutions with accreditation demonstrate that they meet education standards set by a board, organization, or government. It is most common to see schools accredited regionally by organizations such as the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, among others. These regional accrediting agencies are held to specific standards by the U.S. Department of Education.

Within the field of education — and more specifically for reading specialist certification online programs — reliable online learning programs will be connected to the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation. This organization creates standards to ensure educator preparation institutions are providing adequate knowledge and skills to support future teachers. It is a sign of good education standards for Master's of Education programs to be connected to this council.

To confirm if a school is accredited by a legitimate organization, U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs — a reliable way to check if certain online learning programs are sources of quality education. Reputable online universities can be found through this database, including schools that offer online reading master's programs.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is another trustworthy source to confirm if a school meets educational standards. The council is composed of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. Their work is vital to upholding and ensuring quality education standards. You can find a list of all accredited schools through the U.S. Department of Education or CHEA.