How Do I Become a Reading Specialist?

The number of students at all levels of education in need of additional instruction in reading and literacy is increasing for a number of reasons. School districts, research institutions, government agencies, and post-secondary institutions rely on reading specialists to assists students who are struggling with reading and literacy, to develop curriculum and instruction plans and programs, and to coach and lead instructors in general education programs.

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Getting Started in the Reading and Literacy Education Field

For the majority of reading specialist professionals, a minimum of a master’s degree will be desired or required by employers from educational to research institutions. In order to begin pursuing a graduate degree for a reading specialist career, the minimum requirement for prospective students is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Additional requirements to enroll in a degree program with reading and/or literacy specializations vary by institution. The majority of programs, however, do require a valid, up-to-date teaching certification.

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To obtain a teaching license, requirements vary by state and depend on age level from elementary to secondary education. At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree will be required. For additional information on state requirements for teaching certification, visit the National Education Association website.

Reading Specialist Master’s Degree

Once enrolled in a program, graduate students will take a variety of courses in both core and elective categories. Common core courses include diagnostic methods and evaluation for reading issues, advanced methods in the teaching of reading, and teaching struggling readers. Elective courses could include children’s literature, literature for adolescents, and assessment of literacy. Many programs also offer additional specialized courses for teaching reading to for English as a second language learners and diverse learning environments.

Certification for Reading Specialist

In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, prospective reading specialists also have the option to pursue a post-graduate certificate in reading and literacy. Many certification programs are designed for experienced educators who already hold a master’s degree in education without the specialization in reading or literacy.

Several of the courses in a certification program are similar to the offerings for a master’s degree. In addition to these courses, certificate programs include courses such as digital literacy, literacy research, literacy development, learning disabilities, and literacy strategies for adult learners.

Reading Specialist Careers

Reading specialists have opportunities to help students at all levels of education. Beginning with early childhood programs through the collegiate level, reading specialists work with students to develop the literacy skills that every individual needs in order to be successful in education and the work force. For additional information on teaching reading, visit the National Council of Teachers of English website at In addition to working directly with students, reading specialists also have opportunities in other areas such as research and curriculum development.

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Whether interested in teaching reading or developing and conducting research, prospective reading specialist professionals will need to begin by pursuing a bachelor’s degree program in education. Most positions will then require a master’s degree or post-graduate certificate and teaching certification. As the number of struggling readers and writers continues to increase, the role of reading specialists to supervise the assessment, instruction, and development of these students will also continue to grow.