Online Master’s Programs In Reading

This guide provides an overview of the best online master's in reading and literacy programs, including common course offerings and ways to finance school.

October 14, 2021

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
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Earn an Online Master's in Reading

Current educators who wish to advance their career in literacy education should consider earning an online master's in reading. Typically framed as a master of education or a master of science with an emphasis in reading or literacy, this degree prepares educators to teach reading in a K-12 classroom setting, tutor students who struggle with reading, create literacy curriculums, or teach English as a Second Language (ESL).

To meet the demands of rising school enrollment, the BLS projects kindergarten and elementary school teaching jobs will increase 7% from 2016-2026. Having an advanced degree will help teachers compete for these job openings. For educators who already hold a full-time job, earning a master's in reading and literacy online may serve as a flexible, affordable way to move into a higher-paying position.

This guide provides an overview of the best online master's in reading and literacy programs, including common course offerings and ways to finance school. It also delves into what students can expect after graduation, including career paths and annual earning potential.

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What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Reading Program?

Students who earn their master's in reading online learn how to teach reading to students of different ages, levels, backgrounds, and abilities. As part of this process, students learn how to improve students' reading habits, how to assess their learning abilities, and how to diagnose learning disabilities. Coupled with assessment and diagnosis, students also consider curriculum building and remedial instruction. Some programs may offer courses on teaching ESL learners or students with reading-specific disabilities like dyslexia. Students may also study related subjects like children's literature and linguistics.

Most literacy programs require 30-38 credit hours of coursework, meaning full-time students typically earn their degree in two years. This amount of time depends on incoming credits, course load, and program format. Accelerated courses, for instance, may allow students to complete course requirements in less time. Despite providing online courses, many online programs require an in-person practicum, project, or fieldwork experience that students can fulfill at a nearby location.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in reading program?

Although courses differ from program to program, many online master's in reading programs offer similar foundational courses critical to the discipline, such as the following:

What exams or projects should I expect?

Most online master's in reading programs require that students complete some kind of internship, project, or practicum experience at a local school, community center, or clinic. This experience typically requires that students spend at least one semester working with individual students or groups of students, either tutoring, implementing remedial instruction, or testing for learning difficulties. Students typically partner with area programs or schools, allowing them to gain experience working alongside other literacy professionals and educators. Some internship or practicum experiences may require a written component in which students document and synthesize their experience. Other programs may require that students complete a separate and additional thesis or final portfolio project.

What specializations are available in a master’s in reading program?

Programs that offer specializations allow students to focus on a specific area of study within the greater field of reading and literacy, which can help them stand out in a pool of job applicants. Although specializations differ from program to program, a sample appears below.

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Reading Degree?

Students who earn their master's in reading online can enter various career paths relating to education and literacy. In addition to teaching jobs at the kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school, and postsecondary levels, graduates can also enter positions relating to curriculum development and adult literacy. Although a graduate degree in literacy certainly makes applicants more competitive for jobs relating to reading education, it may not necessarily qualify applicants for all of the careers listed below. Some of these careers may require additional state certifications or licensures in addition to a master's degree.

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations allow recent graduates, educators, and veteran reading specialists to connect. In addition to networking opportunities like chat rooms, workshops, and conferences, members enjoy discounts on insurance, hotels, and travel. Most professional organizations also provide practical resources like job boards, awards, lesson plans, and publications.

Committed to helping those with dyslexia, IDA connects educators, parents, and researchers from across the world. The organization offers a teacher and professional membership tier. Professional members join a list of service providers and gain access to publications, conference discounts, and insurance. ILA connects more than 300,000 literacy professionals and advocates from around the globe. Members enjoy access to literacy publications, teaching tips, and lesson plans. They also receive discounts on insurance, hotels, and admission to ILA's annual conference. AAE boasts three types of membership: professional, student, and retired educator and supporter. Members enjoy benefits such as liability insurance, legal protection, newsletters, scholarships, and classroom grants. They also gain access to training resources and professional development opportunities. ALER connects and advocates for literacy students, teachers, and reading specialists of all levels and backgrounds. Members enjoy publications, discounts on conference registration, and networking opportunities to connect educators and researchers alike. NCTE members customize their involvement, joining as an elementary, middle, secondary, or college teacher. Educators at all levels connect with a community of their peers, sharing resources, advice, and research. Members receive publications, awards, and admission into NCTE's annual convention.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Reading?

The chart below illustrates the types of jobs that master's in literacy graduates typically pursue. Although a graduate degree in reading and literacy does not necessary qualify a student for these positions — individual states, schools, and organizations may require additional certifications and experiences — it can potentially lead to work in these areas. Whatever job they decide to pursue, students who hold a graduate degree often appear more competitive in job searches than their counterparts who only hold an undergraduate degree.

Career Salary Potential
Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Less than $34,840 $56,900 More than $83,920 +7%
Middle School TeachersLess than $38,540$57,720More than $91,670 +8%
High School TeachersLess than $39,080 $59,170 More than $95,380+8%
Instructional Coordinators Less than $35,550 $63,750 More than $101,500 +11%
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers Less than $31,310 $52,100 More than $87,160 -5%

Source: BLS

To accommodate an increase in student enrollment numbers, the BLS projects that from 2016-2026, elementary, middle, and high school teaching positions in the U.S. will grow 7-8%. This rate parallels the average rate of growth for all occupations in the country, which currently hovers around 7%. In coming years, a large number of teachers will reach retirement age, presumably creating new job vacancies in the field. However, some public school districts and schools may limit or expand their hiring pool depending on budgetary restrictions or allowances.

Educators in all subjects, including literacy, tend to earn different salaries depending on their degree. Generally, educators who boast a graduate degree earn more on average than their peers with bachelor's degrees. For example, from 2009-2013, elementary school educators who held a bachelor's degree earned a median annual salary of around $42,000 while those who held a graduate degree earned around $57,000. Similarly, early childhood educators who held a bachelor's degree earned an average of $39,000 annually while those who held a graduate degree earned an average of around $53,000.

Online Master’s in Reading Program Accreditation

When selecting an online master's in reading, students should make sure the school boasts regional accreditation. Accrediting agencies review programs to determine whether they meet certain standards of academic quality. Between the two types of institutional accreditation — regional and national — most consider regional accreditation more prestigious. Whereas some schools may not recognize credits earned at a nationally accredited schools, all schools, employers, and state certification programs recognize academic credits earned at a regionally accredited school.

Students should also consider whether their program boasts programmatic accreditation. Similar to institutional accreditation, programmatic accreditation means that an outside accrediting organization completed a review of a particular program and determined it met a standard of quality within that field of study. When it comes to online master's of reading programs, students should look to see if their program boasts accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

How to Pay for a Master’s in Reading Degree

Students pursuing their master's in reading online can finance their degree through financial aid, scholarships, fellowships, and loans. The kind of financial support a students receives depends on a few factors. Some schools, for instance, offer more scholarship money than others, and eligibility for federal financial aid depends on each student's level of need. Below, you can find a sample of various funding sources.

Online Master’s in Reading Programs 2021

  1. American College of Education

    Indianapolis, IN

    ACE's online master's in reading program prepares degree-seekers for careers working with preK-12 students. The 31-credit curriculum features coursework in investigating literacy fundamentals. Students also take classes in integrating literacy concepts, and linguistics and literature. Each course lasts five weeks. The program uses an asynchronous format, making ACE an optimal choice for learners who work full or part time.

    The college's Office of Academic Excellence provides job-hunting resources, tutoring, and disability support services. Learners can also seek assistance at the writing center to master formatting guidelines, avoid plagiarism, and improve their scholarly writing.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA and a state teaching license. Applicants without a license must have some teaching experience. All students pay the same tuition rates, regardless of state residency. Reading degree-seekers may qualify for a $750 institutional continuing education grant.

  2. Arkansas Tech University

    Russellville, AR

    Students earning ATU's master's in reading online receive hands-on instruction. Learners in the program create professional development courses, participate in field experiences, and develop lesson plans. Core courses explore structured language teaching, literacy curriculum design, and literature for children. Graduates often work as reading instructors and K-12 educators.

    University advisors deliver personalized, one-on-one help from university advisors. Students create a Handshake account to post their resumes and explore careers nationwide. Online learners can also access resume help and FOCUS2 self-assessments. Informative videos teach students how to develop a digital brand and attract employers' attention.

    Applicants need an active teaching license. New learners who receive conditional admission must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain enrolled. In-state students and those in neighboring states pay a reduced tuition rate.

  3. Baldwin Wallace University

    Berea, OH

    Located in Berea, BW offers an online master's in reading that attracts learners from throughout Ohio. The curriculum features a 12-credit core, which qualifies licensed educators to earn a reading endorsement.

    Core courses explore diagnostic and corrective reading methods and research in literacy education. To graduate, learners complete a literacy practicum. BW offers three optional minors, including school leadership and technology integration. Distance learners can network online with alumni in various career fields. Degree-seekers can also access an online career network and internship opportunities.

    Applicants submit undergraduate transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a copy of their teaching license. Prospective students also undergo a criminal background check. All learners pay a flat per-credit tuition rate. Financial aid advisors help eligible degree-seekers research and apply for federal and private loans.

  4. Belhaven University

    Jackson, MS

    Licensed educators can enroll in Belhaven's master's in reading program to learn how to diagnose and remedy students' reading problems. Belhaven's professors teach from a Christian viewpoint. Coursework includes research methods, early literacy instruction, and content area literacy. Degree-seekers complete a reading practicum and a capstone course.

    Students can access online job boards to search for career opportunities and network with employers. Learners can also take advantage of resume-building software, resume critiques, interview-preparation videos, and career fairs. Some services, such as Perfect Interview, require additional fees.

    Prospective students outside Mississippi should research whether the program's curriculum qualifies them for a reading endorsement in their state. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA to qualify for unconditional admission. Degree-seekers who work in special education receive a significant tuition discount.

  5. Black Hills State University

    Spearfish, SD

    BHSU's online master's in reading program features a 35-credit curriculum aligning with International Reading Association standards. Coursework includes action research in schools and assessment and correction of reading difficulties. Other classes cover educational collaboration and research methods. The program meets South Dakota and Wyoming requirements for a reading specialist endorsement.

    BHSU provides online learners with technological assistance and guides covering the Desire2Learn software. The university offers accommodations for students with disabilities. Degree-seekers can schedule a mock interview or request a resume critique.

    Applicants submit official undergraduate transcripts, one recommendation letter, and academic writing samples. BHSU prefers applicants with at least three years of teaching experience and a minimum 3.0 GPA. South Dakota residents pay discounted tuition rates. Financial aid advisors help graduate degree-seekers research and apply for federal grants and loans.

  6. Bowling Green State University-Main Campus

    Bowling Green, OH

    BGSU students can earn an online master's in reading and a preK-12 reading endorsement. The three-phase curriculum features coursework in clinical literacy assessment and statistics in education. It also offers advanced literacy and language arts coursework. Degree-seekers complete a practicum experience and supervised coaching.

    Online learners can access free virtual writing consultations and an extensive library database. Students can make online appointments with an academic advisor and tutors. The university employs advisors who work exclusively with active-duty service members and veterans.

    Applicants to BGSU's master's in reading program submit standardized test scores. They also submit undergraduate transcripts and an application fee. Out-of-state online students pay only slightly higher tuition rates than in-state learners. BGSU offers payment plans based on financial need. Learners may also qualify for federal grants and loans.

  7. Canisius College

    Buffalo, NY

    Based in Buffalo, New York, Canisius offers an online master's in reading program that is ideal for working teachers. Learners specialize in grades K-6 or 5-12 and complete practica at their job site. Coursework explores adolescent literacy, emergency literacy, and teaching reading in classrooms of diversity. More than 95% of graduates pass the New York state literacy certification exam on their first try.

    New online learners take a self-assessment to determine which services they need to succeed academically. Canisius also provides resume and cover letter guides and interest inventories.

    Canisius accepts new students in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants must submit standardized test scores. All learners pay the same tuition rates, regardless of state residency. Students may qualify for federal financial aid programs.

  8. Capella University

    Minneapolis, MN

    CU's online master's in reading program confers an MS in education and appeals to practicing K-12 educators. Core classes cover the sociocultural context of reading instruction and teaching comprehension strategies. The program meets Minnesota Board of Teaching standards.

    Students customize the program to their learning style by selecting GuidedPath or FlexPath. The GuidedPath option requires learners to meet set deadlines and collaborate with peers in online discussions. FlexPath degree-seekers follow a self-paced curriculum and may graduate sooner.

    Out-of-state learners should ensure the curriculum meets their state's requirements for a reading endorsement. Applicants need a minimum 2.3 undergraduate GPA and must have passed the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam. All learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of residency. Incoming degree-seekers with good grades may qualify for an institutional scholarship.

  9. Carson-Newman University

    Jefferson City, TN

    C-N's master's in reading program confers an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in preK-12 reading specialist. The program uses a cohort learning model, with online and hybrid options. Coursework explores educational research, foundations of leadership, and integrating research and learning. Most degree-seekers graduate in 20 months.

    The university offers in-depth guides covering the Canvas learning management system, technology requirements, and student policies. Online students complete an orientation before registering for courses.

    Applicants submit the cohort registration form, FAFSA results, and official transcripts. They also submit standardized test scores. Students must work as a K-12 teacher while earning the degree. The university waived its application fee in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial aid opportunities include the TEACH Grant and a tuition payment plan.

  10. Central Washington University

    Ellensburg, WA

    CWU delivers an online master's in reading program. Coursework includes teaching diverse learners and understanding research methods. Learners also study literacy coaching and leadership. Students hone program organization and teaching skills during practica. Enrollees complete either a master's thesis or an independent study project in their final semester.

    Resources for online degree-seekers include virtual advising sessions, Canvas troubleshooting guides, and library databases. Learners can sign up for a free tutoring session.

    Prospective students outside of Washington state should research their state's licensure reciprocity agreements before applying. Application requirements include an active teaching license. CWU prefers applicants with at least one year of teaching experience. In-state students pay significantly discounted tuition rates. The university offers more than 300 institutional scholarships.

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