Best Online Master's in Reading and Literacy Programs

Oct 20, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Reading and Literacy Degree?

Online master's degrees in reading and literacy are designed to equip teachers with the skills to develop strong reading and writing skills in children and teens. This program is designed for teachers who are already licensed but want to add an endorsement to focus on literacy in the classroom or move into a role as a specialist. Depending on the university, students may graduate with a Master of Education (MEd), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science in Education (MSE or MSEd), or Master of Arts in Education (MAE). Some programs may be called Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in reading and literacy.

The Best Online Masters Degree Programs in Reading and Literacy

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Central Washington University $11537 85% 58% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
2 Regent University $16952 86% 57% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
3 Northeastern State University $5101 100% 33% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
4 Arkansas State University $6422 80% 53% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
5 Old Dominion University $13128 89% 53% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
6 SUNY Oneonta $12497 56% 76% 85% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
7 University of North Dakota $12058 81% 61% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
8 Austin Peay State University $9683 95% 43% 99% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
9 Sam Houston State University $8016 83% 54% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
10 University of Alabama at Birmingham $8100 74% 63% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
11 Ohio University $9720 82% 65% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
12 University of Cincinnati $14468 77% 71% 75% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
13 Black Hills State University $8384 84% 38% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
14 University of South Florida $10428 48% 75% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
15 University of Florida $12737 37% 88% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
16 Saint Leo University $7296 72% 49% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
17 East Carolina University $7535 79% 66% 79% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
18 Missouri State University-Springfield $6250 88% 56% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
19 Liberty University $8400 51% 47% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
20 University of West Georgia $6362 59% 45% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
21 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley $7128 80% 46% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
22 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania $12659 71% 68% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
23 Virginia Commonwealth University $15086 87% 67% 81% Yes Yes AP Credits
24 University of Arkansas at Little Rock $7594 66% 43% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
25 University of Maine $9347 90% 57% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits
26 Bowling Green State University $9831 72% 61% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits
27 Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi $6820 80% 37% 71% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
28 Western Kentucky University $12140 97% 48% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
29 Central Michigan University $17150 70% 61% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
30 The University of West Florida $9062 31% 46% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
31 Jackson State University $8445 68% 38% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
32 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania $12246 83% 44% 92% No Yes AP / ACE Credits
33 Park University $6012 No Available Data (2019-2020) 62% 93% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
34 University of South Carolina-Columbia $14137 69% 77% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits
35 Oakland University $18546 83% 57% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
36 Wright State University $14298 95% 45% 90% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
37 Canisius College $15480 83% 73% 97% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
38 University of Northern Colorado $12894 91% 52% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
39 West Virginia University $10134 84% 61% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
40 University of Northern Iowa $10432 79% 67% 83% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
41 Minnesota State University-Mankato $8474 63% 50% 88% Yes Yes AP Credits
42 Western Illinois University $11803 57% 51% 88% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
43 Mercy College $16806 82% 44% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
44 East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania $11852 85% 52% 89% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
45 University of Central Arkansas $6539 90% 43% 98% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
46 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse $10019 73% 69% 78% Yes Yes AP Credits
47 Northern Michigan University $9839 66% 48% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
48 University of Massachusetts-Lowell $15160 73% 66% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
49 University of North Carolina at Charlotte $7430 65% 64% 74% Yes Yes AP Credits
50 Georgia Southern University $7069 54% 50% 91% Yes Yes AP Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit's ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Why Should I Get an Online Reading and Literacy Master's Degree?

If you are looking for a teaching job that involves reading and writing, a master's in reading and literacy might be the right choice to find the perfect career fit. This master's is also appropriate for K-12 teachers hoping to enter into a new role as a reading specialist. Master's degrees may also increase earning potential for existing teachers. For education professionals working alongside their studies, a 100% online master's in reading and literacy provides a highly flexible mode of learning. Classes can be completed during downtime, evenings, or weekends, with most class lectures and materials available asynchronously.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Reading and Literacy?

Typical online master's degrees in reading and literacy can be completed in about 2 years. Some accelerated options may be available for as few as 10 months full-time. Programs consist of between 30-36 credit hours, depending on the university. Classes can be completed entirely online and may be offered in terms as short as 7 weeks, as opposed to the traditional 15 or 16 weeks. Completion time includes core courses, electives, and final research paper or thesis. Most programs offer classes pre-recorded, which can be viewed at any time during the time allotted for the unit.

Choosing an Online Reading and Literacy Master's Program

There are many online master's in reading and literacy programs available to students, so choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. Students may want to consider several factors to help them decide on the best fit for them. Above all, it is important to choose a program that is accredited. Attending an accredited university ensures students can access federal financial aid. Generally, state boards of education require degree programs to be completed at an accredited institution. The accreditation process means degree programs are held to a high standard and provide quality education based on the latest research and best practices.

Students should also consider which electives or specializations are available. Not all areas of specialization or topics within reading and literacy are offered at every university. If students have a certain area of interest already in mind before choosing a university, this may help aid in reaching a final decision. Some other points to think about include:

  • Synchronous vs. asynchronous classes
  • Faculty research and teaching experience
  • Cost
  • Scholarships or grants available
  • Application requirements (GPA, letters of recommendation)
  • Length

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Reading and Literacy

Curricula for online master's degree programs in reading and literacy focus on developing the skills needed to deliver effective lessons and classroom interventions. Foundational courses tend to be completed first to set the stage for more in-depth study of issues in reading and literacy. Teachers will then learn how to evaluate, assess, and administer tailored instruction to address areas of student need. Programs may give their graduate students the option to complete a thesis or non-thesis track.

Reading and Literacy Foundational Courses

Foundational courses focus on topics required by the program and generally give an overview to the discipline, introduce graduate-level research skills, and tie learning together through a final piece of original work. Knowledge gained from foundational courses is designed to aid the students as they take on higher-level study.

  • Foundations of curriculum and instruction
  • Research methodology
  • Reading and literacy assessment
  • Thesis/capstone/research project

Most master's programs in reading and literacy will culminate in a final paper or project. This may be a portfolio of work demonstrating completion of competencies, a thesis, or a research project. Credits for this work count toward those needed to fulfill overall degree requirements.

Reading and Literacy Specialist and Elective Courses

Elective courses within online reading and literacy master's degree programs allow students to focus on a particular area of interest in the field. Electives and specialisms vary by university and may be unique to a particular program. Students should research universities that offer electives that best fit their interests and career aspirations. Some more common topics offered by programs include:

  • Children's literature
  • Multiculturalism
  • Literacy and technology

Some programs may offer specializations or electives more geared toward certain grade levels while others will be more general.

Licensure and Certification in Reading and Literacy

Licensed teaching wishing to work in a specialized role related to reading and literacy must obtain additional certification as a reading specialist in their state. Interested candidates first need to complete a master's in reading and literacy from an accredited online or on-campus university program. After graduation, prospective reading specialists will need to consult with their state board of education to ascertain the requirements for certification. Generally, candidates must pass an exam that is either state-specific or the Praxis II: Reading Specialist. Some states have requirements for teaching experience prior to becoming certified. For example, in Maryland, any teacher wishing to become a reading specialist must have three years of classroom experience prior to completion of the master's.

Admissions Requirements for Online Reading and Literacy Master's Programs

Applicants to online master's in reading and literacy programs will need to provide proof of a current teaching license. These programs generally do not provide a path to initial licensure for non-teachers. In addition to documentation verifying licensure, most universities will require official academic transcripts from prior undergraduate and graduate study. Some universities may accept an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.75, though many look for at least a 3.0.

The following may also be requested as part of the application process:

  • Application fee
  • GRE scores
  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators scores
  • State of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • 1-3 letters of recommendation
  • Documented teaching experience

What Can I Do with a Reading and Literacy Master's Degree?

Reading and literacy master's programs are designed to prepare graduates to enter specialist roles within the K-12 setting. Teachers may wish to pursue employment in public or private school settings. These professionals may work with students one-on-one, in small groups, or as entire classes. Many will conduct reading assessments and identify problem areas for students. Some may wish to use their skills in their existing role as a main or subject teacher. Titles held by graduates can include:

Students interested in teaching adult literacy education may find they have transferable skills from the master's in reading and literacy that can be adapted to help their adult learners.

Job Outlook for a Master's in Reading and Literacy

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of elementary, middle, and high school teachers is expected to grow between 2019-2029. Each level is projected to grow by 4%, which means the number of jobs available to prospective teachers will increase. The estimated jobs added to the market are as follows:

  • Elementary school teachers: 56,100
  • Middle school teachers: 22,500
  • High school teachers: 40,200

While it's difficult to estimate how many of these positions will be specifically for reading and literacy specialist roles, it is clear that a career in teaching will be stable.

How to Become a Reading Specialist

Reading specialists work in K-12 settings to help children master reading and writing skills. They may assess individual children to develop tailored interventions or work with entire classes to promote good reading habits. Specialists may also work in school libraries or resource centers to provide support to classroom teachers.

Students wishing to become a reading specialist must first earn a bachelor's in education or a master's in teaching in order to become licensed in the state they plan to work. While some master's in reading and literacy programs require teachers to have some classroom experience, others will accept new teachers. After completing the master's degree, graduates must become state certified as a reading specialist. Requirements for certification vary by state but usually include an exam.

According to, reading specialists made an annual income of $53,261 as of January 2021. This number will vary by location in the US and by years of experience.

How to Become an Literacy Consultant

Literacy consultants are experienced reading specialists who use their knowledge and expertise to consult with curriculum designers and publishers. They help inform reading program materials and may also train teachers in specific areas relating to reading, writing, and literacy. They may be self-employed or work within educational consulting firms.

To become a literacy consultant, students must become certified teachers before completing a master's in reading and literacy. Students may wish to focus on curriculum design and research to understand applications and trends in literacy. Post-master's, graduates should get certified in their state as a reading specialist and begin working. These professionals tend to be experienced in classroom instruction and intervention before moving into a consultant role. reports that in January 2021, educational consultants made an annual salary of $62,693. Experienced professionals can make over $70,000 a year.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Reading and Literacy

Master's degrees in reading and literacy are designed for practicing, licensed teachers. Because of this, the majority of applicants will have a bachelor's in education. Bachelor's in education degrees can be in either elementary education or secondary education, as most master's degrees in reading and literacy provide an endorsement for K-12. For career changers with a bachelor's in an unrelated subject, an initial licensure Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and teaching license will be acceptable as well.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Reading and Literacy

After completing a master's in reading and literacy, graduates may go on to further doctoral study. Doctorates in reading and literacy are awarded as two separate degrees depending on the direction chosen by the student: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). PhD programs prepare students for university teaching or research. Ed.D. programs tend to focus on educational practice whether in schools, universities, or consulting roles. Both degrees generally take around 4-6 years to complete.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants for Online Master's in Reading and Literacy Programs

Students accepted to an accredited online master's program in reading and literacy are eligible for federal financial aid to help pay for their education. Student loans can be used for tuition, fees, materials, and other costs associated with university attendance. To qualify, students must first complete an online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and provide personal and financial information. Loans must be repaid after graduation, but a six-month grace period is extended to graduates to help those seeking work.

Grants are need-based awards that are only for students experiencing substantial financial difficulties. Scholarships, however, are for all students regardless of income provided that they meet the minimum application requirements. Teachers can avail themselves of many scholarship opportunities from public or private sources. Novelist James Patterson awards scholarships annually to students pursuing teacher education at 14 universities across the US. Awards vary and are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Neither scholarships nor grants need to be repaid.

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