Many of us take the ability to read this sentence for granted, but it’s a legitimate challenge for more than 36 million adults in the United States who struggle with basic reading, writing and math skills. Issues with literacy have both socioeconomic and psychological effects that can be detrimental to individuals across the lifespan.
As noted by the Literacy Foundation, illiteracy affects not only the daily life of the person experiencing it, but also society as a whole. For example, one result of literacy issues is difficulty finding adequate employment, which affects both the individual and their family. In many cases, literacy intervention can help alleviate this situation.
If you are passionate about helping others, a master’s degree in education with a focus on reading or literacy can build careers working with both children and adults who have reading and literacy challenges. A master’s degree can also help you develop or hone skills specific to your career of choice, and can increase your salary earning potential.
This article explores the many elements of reading and literacy and potential careers you can obtain with an advanced degree.
Reading and Literacy
Reading and literacy are both concerned with decoding and interpretation of text, although the term literacy is a bit more inclusive. Literacy refers to reading, writing, listening, talking, viewing, and representing visually. Reading, along with listening and viewing, is a receptive, comprehension, or intake ability.
Writing, talking, and composing are expressive, creative, or constructive products. Both literacy and reading involve learning and using the mechanics and meaning of symbols and text, including new literacies.
Master’s in Literacy
Each graduate program has its own unique focus in curriculum and experiential opportunities. For example, Pace University New York‘s master’s in literacy features coursework in digital literacy, assessment, literacy development, and accommodations for students with language and learning needs, and features experiential components like a capstone project.
As you complete coursework, look for how the curriculum aligns with your career goals. For example, reading or literacy specialists at public and private schools in your state work with students, teachers, and other learning specialists in varying ways such as taking roles of literacy resource teachers, district coaches, and curriculum advisors.
Careers with a Master’s in Literacy
Reading or Literacy Teacher
Reading and literacy teachers work in public and private school settings with students from kindergarten to 12th grade. These specialists assist classroom teachers and visit with students individually or in small groups outside of the classroom.
Reading teachers work with students on the following with traditional and digital text:
- Word identification, or graph phonics
- Phonological Awareness
According to Burning Glass, teachers who hold a master’s degree are in the top 18% of this field in terms of salary.
There are basic and specialized skills that are required to be a successful reading teacher, including communication, writing and lesson planning.
Basic Skills for Reading Teachers
Specialized Skills for Reading Teachers
- Lesson Planning
- Special Education
- Specialized Data
Reading or Literacy Teacher Requirements
One question that comes up often in regards to the requirements for reading and literacy specialists is if you need a graduate degree to be a literacy or reading teacher in a K-12 public school. The answer is, maybe.
Each state has its own requirements. In many states, it is necessary to first be a classroom teacher before you can specialize in literacy. For example, to teach at a public K-12 school as a literacy specialist in New York State, educators must have worked as a full-time classroom teacher for at least three years and must complete an NYS Registered Program in Literacy in addition to other requirements. It is important to find out the requirements in the state where you plan to teach before you enter a master’s program.
Community Reading or Literacy Specialist
Many reading specialists make an impact outside of the classroom and take on leadership roles within the community. These specialists work in places like libraries, tutoring centers, community colleges and resource centers. One way to prepare for these roles is to take advanced coursework that features classes in reading assessment, and literacies in culturally and linguistically diverse settings.
Libraries often feature adult literacy classes for community members. A literacy specialist at a library may teach in the literacy program. They might also coordinate the program, and bring in other specialists to assist in a volunteer capacity.
In community colleges, these specialists might take on the role of high school equivalency diploma teachers, helping adults with essential and basic skills, like speaking and reading English. Community college employment is often adjunct or part-time. In addition, tutors at literacy centers offer assessments of an individual’s current reading skills, and create a plan to help improve those skills.
Basic Skills for Adult Literacy Instructor
Specialized Skills for Adult Literacy Instructor
- Adult education
- Lesson planning
- Teaching English Language Learners
Administrators work in K-12 schools supervising education staff including teachers, librarians, and counselors. They also make sure that state, federal, and local educational standards are being upheld within the school.
Because part of an administrator’s role involves overseeing curricula, having an advanced degree in literacy and reading can be very beneficial for administrators. Those who understand what the most effective methods in reading and literacy can make the proper implementations into curricula, and better prepare teachers to handle students with literacy challenges.
Some of the skills, both specialized and basic, include the following:
Basic Skills for Administrators
- Physical abilities
Specialized Skills for Administrators
- Special education
- Staff management
According to Burning Glass, administrator roles are expected to have average growth over the next 10 years (as of June 2020). The median salary is $72,658. Over 40% of administrators have a master’s degree.