Becoming a Literacy Specialist: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a literacy specialist career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to decide if becoming a literacy specialist is right for you.
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A Literacy Specialist Career: Pros and Cons

A literacy or reading specialist generally works in a classroom setting with K-12 students in a public or private school. They're responsible for guiding, leading and assessing how to help students improve their reading skills to reach their educational goals. Here's a list of the pros and cons of a career as a literacy specialist.

Pros of Being a Literacy Specialist
Median salary of around $51,000 in 2014*
Employment in this field could grow 9% from 2012-2022*
Comfortable, controlled work environment*
Self-employment is possible*

Cons of Being a Literacy Specialist
A bachelor's or master's degree is required*
A state teaching license and certification may be required*
May work with emotionally disturbed students*
Working with students from different backgrounds can be challenging*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Duties For a Reading Specialist

Using teaching methods and techniques, you will assess school curriculum to ensure that it meets the learning needs of students in kindergarten through 12th grade. You may have to work with students one on one to help them improve their reading skills, and you may work with your class as a whole by using reading activities and materials. If curriculum needs tweaked or improved, you can determine what is working and how you can improve to help your students meet their goals.

Working with other teachers and school administrators, you can make recommendations on the reading curriculum for your school, including designing and improving assignments and reading material. By assessing learning materials and students, you can pinpoint each student's needs, strengths and weaknesses. Other teachers and students will look to you to provide leadership and serve as a mentor. Other teaching duties may be expected of you, including organizing, planning and implementing classroom activities and projects. Older students may seek your guidance with completing GED and other adult education requirements. You may also work with tutors, classroom aides, librarians and literacy volunteers.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors in 2014 was $49,590. The BLS notes that in 2014, approximately 65,000 people held this career title (www.onetonline.org). From 2012-2022, the projected employment growth in this field could increase 9%, which is fast as average compared to other occupations. In the same time period, you may expect to see 6,700 possible job openings become available.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education

To become a teacher, each state requires you to have a license or certification to teach in that state. Private school teachers typically do not have to be licensed. To obtain a state teaching license, you at least need a bachelor's degree. Some employers require literacy specialists to hold a master's degree with a specialization in reading or literacy. There are many master's degree programs that offer such a specialization.

In your master's program, you may take seminars that cover the principals and techniques you will eventually apply in your own classroom. This includes literacy learning and assessment, teacher development, instruction, curriculum development and research.

Useful Abilities and Skills

Because you will be leading classroom lessons, assessing student learning levels and providing guidance, communication skills are essential. You want to demonstrate you are a good leader, listen to your students and convey, in a manner they can understand and relate to, the learning material. Writing skills are also necessary, because you will write curriculum, research papers and other documents for your school. Knowing how to speak effectively in a manner conducive to being an effective instructor is also important.

Job Postings From Real Employers

In recent job postings from real employers seeking reading specialists, the most common element that schools look for is someone who has a teaching certificate in reading, along with state certification. Experience requirements, however, seemed to vary. Below is a list of real job postings from April-May 2012:

  • A college in California is seeking a development specialist for a reading research program. The specialist will design and develop teaching guides that will be used in elementary and secondary classrooms. Candidates need a master's or doctoral degree in reading/literacy, with ten years of experience in teaching, research and curriculum development. Required skills include leadership ability and experience working on projects with school administrations.
  • An elementary school in Virginia seeks a reading specialist with a master's degree and experience teaching reading to elementary school children. Candidates should be eligible to obtain a teaching license in the state, along with a reading specialist endorsement.
  • A private school in Pennsylvania seeks a reading specialist with a reading specialist certificate. A year of experience, a special education certificate and experience working with special education students is a plus.
  • A school in Michigan seeks a reading specialist who has a bachelor's degree in education or a related field. Other requirements include a teaching certificate, status as a highly qualified teacher and experience working with standardized tests.

Standing Out

The most important aspect of attaining a job as a reading specialist is to have a state certification and licensing. If you are passionate about wanting to be a teacher with this particular specialization, it might be worth your while to get a degree beyond a bachelor's degree. Many employers are also going to seek someone with proven teaching and leadership abilities, both things you could obtain from a master's program.

Alternative Careers

Teacher Assistant

If you want to get your feet wet in the teaching world, but you don't have a bachelor's degree, working as a teacher assistant can give you a good idea of what to expect as an actual teacher. You need a high school diploma or an associate's degree to work as a teacher assistant. Serving as an aide in the classroom to a teacher, you will have the opportunity to work directly with students, helping deliver lesson plans, organize activities and assist the teacher with anything else they need. The median salary for teacher assistants in 2011 was $24,000 a year, per the BLS.

Dietitian

If working in a classroom isn't your forte, you could consider a career as a dietitian. Similar to teaching in the sense that you work with people to educate them on healthy eating, you can plan meals and promote healthy relationships with food. Generally, a bachelor's degree in a related field is necessary, but as with a teaching career, your state may require that certain licensing/certification requirements be met. According to the BLS, the median salary for dietitians in 2011 was $54,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - General Education
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Secondary Education
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education
      • M.A. in English with an Emphasis in Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
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    8. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
      • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
    Master's
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Adolescent Literacy
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Mathematics
  • Washington, DC

    Howard University

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

Which subject are you interested in?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - General Education
  • M.Ed. - General Education
  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

Are you a US citizen?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Secondary Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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