How Do I Become a Reading Specialist?

Research what it takes to become a reading specialist. Learn about the education requirements, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Literacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Reading Specialist?

Reading specialists are specially trained teachers who help children and adults with literacy issues. They must be educated in a number of different literacy instruction techniques in order to best assist a wide variety of learners and learning styles. Often times, they work in conjunction with classroom teachers and do both large and small group work. The following table provides detailed information for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree to become a teacher, master's degree to specialize; post-baccalaureate certificate may also lead to specialization
Licensure Requirements vary by state, but generally, all public schools require a teaching license; reading specialist endorsement is also required
Key Responsibilities Teach reading skills and strategies, assess student capabilities, develop learning programs
Projected Job Growth (2014-24) 6% (K-12 teachers)*
Median Salary (2016) $49,680**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Does a Reading Specialist Do?

As a reading specialist, you'll focus most of your time on teaching skills and strategies for good reading and comprehension. You'll typically work with children in a school setting, though you can find positions with organizations and community agencies in adult literacy programs. You'll assess the reading capabilities of students and develop special programs to help them learn better reading skills. You'll often collaborate with other school teachers to deliver literacy education.

How Do I Prepare For This Job?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many reading specialists are teachers with additional training in literacy (www.bls.gov). If you don't already have a bachelor's degree, programs in education sometimes offer a reading or literacy specialization as a foundation for further study. If you have a bachelor's degree in another field, you'll usually need to complete a post-baccalaureate certificate or master's degree program that specializes in reading or literacy to meet state licensure requirements. Additionally, several post-master's certificate programs exist in reading or literacy that qualify you to earn a reading specialist license or endorsement.

What Will I Learn?

Your main source of specialized training will come from your graduate program. Reading specialist master's degree and certificate programs usually prepare you to teach reading skills to all age groups. Some topics include assessing reading comprehension, literacy disabilities for children and adults and multicultural literature. Most programs also include assessment techniques and research studies. You'll usually need to participate in an internship or similar work experience.

What About Certification?

Teacher certification requirements vary among states, but usually involve at least one rigorous exam. Eligibility requirements also vary, but often include specific post-baccalaureate or graduate education and demonstrated experience. Some states include a reading specialist endorsement with an existing teaching license, while others regulate separate licensure for regular and specialized teachers.

Additionally, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers a voluntary certification program for elementary and middle school reading and language arts specialists. According to the organization, you could receive local, state or federal incentives as a certified teaching specialist through legislated assistance programs, such as the Education Jobs Bill or the Title I U.S. Elementary and Secondary Act.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're interested in teaching subjects related to reading or even multiple subjects, you may consider becoming a teacher at the elementary, middle or high school level. A bachelor's degree in education is the central requirement for teachers, and licensure is required for employment in public schools. If you're interested in non-teaching roles in education, you might look into becoming a librarian or a counselor. Librarians work with students to conduct research and locate books. They generally need a master's degree in addition to a license. School counselors work with students to address behavioral or emotional issues. This position also requires a master's degree, as well as counseling licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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