Becoming a Reading Specialist: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a reading specialist's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career in this field.
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Reading Specialist Careers: Pros and Cons

As a specifically trained type of teacher, reading specialists have the opportunity to improve students' reading comprehension and literacy levels. Employment opportunities are available at schools, adult learning centers and clinics. However, to enter this line of work, you usually must earn a master's degree, as well as certification or licensure. Read about the pros and cons of this job, so you can make an informed career decision.

Pros of a Reading Specialist Career
Can help reduce illiteracy among children and adults*
Can work at many locations (public and private schools, clinics, tutoring centers, prisons)*
May work with many different educational levels (elementary, middle and high school, as well as adult learning)*
Possibility of summers off**

Cons of a Reading Specialist Career
Must have at least a master's degree*
Might need prior teaching experience*
Certification or licensure is required in most states*
Patience is necessary when working with struggling students**

Sources: *International Reading Association, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Reading specialists are teachers who have advanced training in reading and writing education. You might work with lead teachers to assess students' abilities and create a reading curriculum. You also might provide specialized education to students who are struggling with reading or writing. You might work with children in elementary, middle and high school, or you might teach illiterate adults. April 2012 job postings indicated that you could work for an entire school district and visit many schools and classrooms.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

PayScale.com reported that most reading specialists earned from $30,000-$82,000 per year as of May 2012, but your level of experience could greatly affect your wage. The salary range for most reading specialists with 1-4 years of experience was about $24,000-$58,000, while the majority of professionals with 5-9 years of experience made $24,000-$67,000 per year. Most reading specialists with 10-19 years of experience earned approximately $42,000-$83,000 annually.

There's currently no job outlook information available specifically for reading specialists. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of adult literacy and GED teachers would increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020, which was about the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). This employment outlook was comparable to the 17% expected job growth of special education teachers, some of whom assist learning-disabled students with specific subjects like reading.

What Are the Requirements?

To become a reading specialist, you must have a master's degree in reading and literacy or a similar field. You must first earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in education. If you earned a degree in a non-education major, you might need to receive your teaching license before you begin the student teaching component of your graduate program. During a master's degree program in reading and literacy, you can learn to assess students' reading skills and explore different literacy methods.

Licensing or certification requirements vary by state. The International Reading Association (IRA) reported that most states require a valid teaching license, some teaching experience and a master's degree in reading and writing education from a program that contains practicum requirements (www.reading.org).

Useful Skills

Some skills that could help you in this field include the ability to communicate effectively. You should be comfortable working with large groups of students, but also be skilled in providing individual attention to students as needed. Teaching children requires a great deal of patience, and you might work with students who are trying to read when English isn't their first spoken language. A certain amount of understanding and cultural sensitivity is also vital to working as a reading specialist.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most job postings for reading specialists include information about the age of the students you'll work with and a request for your resume. However, some job ads mention specific licenses or certifications that you must have and include the particular reading programs that must be employed at the school. The following reading specialist job posts are from April 2012.

  • A special needs school in New Jersey was looking for a full-time reading specialist. The employer preferred someone who was familiar with the Orton-Gillingham and Wilson reading systems.
  • A school district in Wisconsin sought a reading specialist to provide assistance in reading and language for students in pre-kindergarten through high school. Job responsibilities included implementing a reading program for multiple school districts in the state. Applicants needed to be licensed as a reading specialist, and prior experience was preferred.
  • An Oregon school was looking for a part-time reading and math specialist who could work with a team of teachers instructing 3- to 5-year-olds in math, music and reading. The employer wanted someone who had at least one year of experience, good organization skills and a flexible schedule. Applicants didn't need a reading specialist license to apply, but the employer preferred that candidates hold a degree in early childhood education.

How Can I Stand Out?

Gain Experience

Most schools want a reading specialist who has a proven track record in helping students overcome illiteracy or develop strong reading skills. A way to gain experience, even while you're still in school, is by volunteering at a community center or similar organization to teach illiterate or challenged adults to read. This can allow you to acquire references and apply various methods for teaching literacy.

Take Classes

If you're still in college, you might consider taking some courses to make yourself a better job candidate. Foreign language classes might help you as a reading specialist since some of the individuals you work with could be English as a second language (ESL) students. Special needs courses could also be beneficial since they can give you insight into how to help students who are struggling with literacy due to dyslexia and other learning disorders.

Alternative Careers

Special Education Teacher

If becoming a reading specialist isn't for you, but you'd still like to teach, you might consider working in special education. Special education teachers work with students who have learning, physical, mental or emotional disabilities. As of May 2011, elementary school special education teachers made a median annual salary of about $53,000, according to the BLS. This job requires you to hold at least a bachelor's degree in special education and a teaching license, but a master's degree may be required in some states. Between 2010 and 2020, expected employment growth for elementary school special education teachers was 21%, which was above average, reported the BLS. Secondary school special education teaching jobs were only expected to increase seven percent during the same time.

Instructional Coordinator

If you like the idea of collaborating with teachers and schools to develop effective teaching curricula, a career as an instructional coordinator might be right for you. Generally, instructional coordinators work with teachers or school superintendents to improve teaching techniques, update educational resources and develop efficient teacher training methods. Instructional coordinators took in a median annual salary of approximately $59,000 as of May 2011. The BLS projected that employment in this field would increase by 20% between 2010 and 2020. For this career, you must have at least a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and you may need to earn a teaching or education administration license, according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    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
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    5. The George Washington University

    Program Options

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

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

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    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. - General Education
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      • M.Ed. - General Education
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    8. Penn Foster High School

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    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
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    9. Colorado Christian University

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    Bachelor's
      • Early Childhood Education, B.A. without Licensure
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    10. Trident University

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    Master's
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Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

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

Which subject are you interested in?

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?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
  • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Adolescent Literacy
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

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?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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