Become a Certified Reading Specialist in 5 Steps

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

What Does a Reading Specialist Do?

Reading specialists are teachers that focus on developing the reading skills of students. Since reading problems are prevalent in students at all level of education (even at the post secondary level), reading specialists may be found at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Reading specialist are trained to administer and assess reading assessments that are used to measure a student's reading skills. They also operate reading programs, designed to help students improve their reading skills and promote literacy. Various assessments may also be used to monitor students progress and the effectiveness of programs. Read through the table below to learn more about this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for teachers; master's degree required for most reading specialist positions
Education Field of Study Education, reading education, reading and language arts
Licensure/Certification Public school licensing is required in all states, and some may require specific reading specialist licensure; Certification required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)6% (for K-12 teachers)*
Median Salary (2016) $49,680**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Is a Reading Specialist?

Reading specialists are experienced teachers with specialized training in reading. As a reading specialist, you'll assess and assist students, many of whom may be English as a second language students or have learning disabilities, with their reading skills. You may also make recommendations to improve reading instruction in certain schools or school districts.

According to Reading Rockets, a nonprofit literacy organization, reading specialists are experts in print awareness, word decoding, language comprehension, reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing and the relationship between letters, letter patterns and corresponding sounds. As a reading specialist, you could help non-specialist teachers by showing them how to provide instruction that is consistent with research. This would include promoting explicit, systematic approaches to the teaching of reading and creating and modeling literacy-rich classrooms. You also might provide identification, assessment and monitoring of at-risk students.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The traditional path to becoming a teacher starts with a bachelor's degree in education. However, if you have a bachelor's degree in another area, you may still qualify to work as a teacher through your state's alternative licensing process. Bachelor's programs in education are often focused on the grade level at which you will teach, while also including courses in curriculum development, education principles and general education topics, such as math, science and English.

Step 2: Become Licensed

In all states, you must be licensed to teach at a public school. Private schools may not require licensing. Requirements for licensing may vary, but typically include holding a bachelor's degree, passing a criminal background check, having practical teaching experience and passing one or more exams. States may have specific licensing for reading specialists, which may require additional education and testing.

Step 3: Pursue a Teaching Job

Most jobs can be found through local school districts. You can typically apply with the district's board of education. Private schools may have different application procedures. You may also find employment with private education organizations.

Step 4: Get an Advanced Degree in Reading Teacher Education

For most reading specialist positions, you'll need a master's degree in reading teacher education. A program that awards a Master of Education in Reading Education or a Master of Education in Reading and Language Arts may cover topics such as literacy education, professional development, linguistics and multicultural studies. There are also a few master's degree programs available specifically for reading specialist training.

Step 5: Meet State Requirements for Reading Specialists

In some states, K-12 reading specialists must hold certification or an endorsement. This generally requires earning a master's degree in education with a concentration in reading, having two years experience as a licensed teacher and passing a state-sponsored reading specialist exam.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Since reading is a part of the language arts, many reading specialists start out as English language arts teachers. Though not specialized in reading instruction, English teachers are the primary source for reading instruction for most students. Special education teachers specialize in providing extra instruction and aid for students with learning disabilities. School counselors are often responsible for addressing students' needs and promoting programs that improve students' academic success. If you like working directly with students but don't have a teaching degree, there are jobs openings for teacher assistants. These paraprofessionals help teachers with students who need extra assistance and help supervise classrooms as well.

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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