Individuals drawn to working as literacy specialists in K-12 school settings possess a passion for helping children overcome reading obstacles and the knowledge needed to ensure they succeed. Some may work as classroom teachers, while others may focus on coordinating instructional materials and setting teaching standards. Roles for these professionals are projected to grow by 11% in the coming years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These positions offer annual median salaries of $63,750 — as compared to $56,900 for kindergarten and elementary teachers — and require master’s degrees. Because many individuals pursue these degrees while working, most offer maximum distance learning flexibility so students can find balance. If you’re interested in learning more about online master’s degree programs in reading and literacy, review the schools below to get a sense of what this degree can provide in terms of job stability, professional growth, and salary potential.
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The 25 Best Online Reading Specialist Degrees Ranking Methodology
For this ranking, we looked for public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer master’s in reading and literacy education degrees online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $20,000/year or less.
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
We also only considered education programs that are currently accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer online master’s degrees in reading and meet the above criteria, we then collected data in four categories:
- Program Popularity: How many students choose to earn their master’s degree in reading over other education-related options (that is, how much interest/demand is there in the school’s literacy degree compared to its other teaching programs)? To find out, we looked at both the number of master’s students who earned their reading degree in the most recent school year as well as the percentage of all master’s program graduates that that number represents.
- Overall Strength of Online Teacher Education Programs: How much emphasis does the school place on providing accessible teacher education training? For this metric, we looked at the total number of online graduate programs the school offers in teaching as well as the percentage of all graduate students who are enrolled in one of these programs.
- Accreditation:In addition to being a CAEP-accredited provider, has the school also earned national recognition from CAEP for its reading education program? Colleges and universities can only obtain such recognition by meeting strict curricular standards related to reading and literacy.
- Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?
After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area. Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.
Read more about the best cheap online master’s degrees in literacy programs below!
Cheap Online Master’s in Literacy Programs Ranked
Olivet Nazarene University
Olivet Nazarene University, a Christian liberal arts institution in Illinois, educates approximately 5,000 students annual through both campus-based and online degree offerings. The M.A.E. reading specialist program exists for individuals already working in classrooms who want to specialize their knowledge in reading and literacy. Learners spend 12 months working toward endorsement and an additional six months to complete master's degree requirements. All told, the program comprises 32 credits. Examples of coursework include content-area reading, assessment/diagnosis of reading problems, and a creative project or practicum during the final semester. Students enter the program as a cohort and can choose from five start dates throughout the year.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Operating as a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Edinboro University offers a master's in reading and literacy online for individuals who want to help students with reading disabilities and implement effective interventions. After finishing the program, graduates qualify to take the PRAXIS exam and receive certification as reading specialists. Students complete 30 credits, including studies in language arts instruction, research design in reading, literacy instruction for the content area professional, and literacy difficulties assessment and intervention. Edinboro does not require GRE scores, but applicants should possess a minimum 3.0 GPA to be competitive.
River Forest, IL
Although Concordia University operates as a comprehensive institution providing a wide spectrum of degrees, the school started as a teacher preparation college and still maintains a deep dedication to educators. The College of Graduate Studies offers an online master's program in reading and literacy for certified teachers that leads to a reading specialist certification (K-12) after graduation. Courses last eight weeks and students can finish the program in two years while still enjoying summer and holiday breaks. 30 credits must be taken in areas of remediation of reading problems, studies in elementary school reading, and content reading in middle/secondary schools. Degree seekers also complete two practicums in reading instruction and remedial reading before completing a capstone experience.
University of the Cumberlands
Founded in 1889 as a private institution with ties to the Southern Baptist Convention, the University of the Cumberlands serves 7,000 learners annually with undergraduate and graduate degrees. The institution provides an online M.A.E. with a concentration in literacy specialist (P-12). The program requires 30 credits total and offers hands-on learning experiences that teach students how to coach fellow teachers, implement cutting-edge techniques, and create transformational lesson plans. Although UC charges higher tuition as a private institution, the financial aid office provides a number of scholarships to help lower these costs.
Northeastern State University
Oklahoma's Northeastern State University offers a fully online master's program in reading and literacy for individuals already working as classroom teachers. The M.E. in reading requires a minimum of 33 credits, including 20 credits devoted exclusively to reading topics. Students also delve into studies related to educational research, effectiveness measurements, and early childhood education. NSU designed the program to mirror the International Reading Association's competencies. Applicants should hold at least a 2.5 GPA on undergraduate coursework. They must also take the MAT or GRE within the first 16 credits of coursework and score in the 25th percentile or above.
Operating as one of only 28 Jesuit institutions in the U.S., Canisius College serves nearly 3,500 students each year. The School of Education & Human Services offers a master's in literacy for existing classroom teachers to specialize their knowledge. Once enrolled, students decide if they want certification in birth-6th or 5th-12th. Coursework required in this program includes adolescent literacy, teaching reading in classrooms of diversity, and role of the literacy specialist. Degree seekers also complete two practicums and work with the school's Literacy Center during a two-week summer intensive at the school to develop skills along the way. The department enjoys a 95% pass rate on the literacy certification exam.
Missouri State University-Springfield
The M.S.E. in literacy at Missouri State University in Springfield exists for certified teachers looking to increase their employability and educate more children in specialized areas. The program consists of 39 credits, including three to six hours of research - either towards a thesis or an extensive paper. Coursework covers topics literacy curriculum design, educational research methodologies, and the relationship of language to literacy and intellectual development. To graduate, learners must pass a comprehensive exam. Missouri residents pay $214 per credit while those outside the state pay $477. The department provides no scholarships, but students may qualify for a merit- or need-based scholarship offered by the institution.
Distance learners seeking an intimate educational experience often feel drawn to Concordia University Nebraska due to its small student body of 2,300 learners. The institution provides an M.Ed. in literacy with reading specialist emphasis. Designed for teachers in elementary or secondary classrooms, private or public, the plan of study requires 36 credits and offers multiple start dates throughout the year. Each class lasts just eight weeks, making it possible for students to accelerate their learning. Studies include decoding, comprehension, and fluency; teaching writing in grades PK-12; and literacy assessment and intervention. The degree concludes with a three-hour case study developed after documenting student interactions in a classroom. Regardless of residency, all learners pay $425 per credit.
Jefferson City, TN
Located in the Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee, Carson-Newman University provides Christian-focused educations to approximately 2,500 campus-based and online students. The M.E. reading specialist program exists to help existing teachers with at least three years of classroom experience gain licensure as PreK-12 reading specialists in Tennessee after passing the corresponding PRAXIS examination. Degree seekers must complete a minimum of 33 credits, although they have the option to add a three hour research option if they want to write a thesis. In addition to core education topics, learners also enroll in classes on emergent literacy, diagnosis and correction of reading problems, and using books with children and adolescents.
University of Central Arkansas
Historically established as a teacher's college in 1907, the University of Central Arkansas provides many other degrees these days but still prioritizes preparing the next generation of educators. The Department of Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education offers an M.S.E. in Reading with a dyslexia endorsement. The program, designed with standards created by the International Literacy Association and the International Society for Technology in Education, consists of 30 credits and leads to teaching license eligibility for Arkansas Reading Specialist K-12 and Arkansas Dyslexia Endorsement K-12. Applicants must already hold a valid Arkansas teaching license to receive consideration for admission.
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University provides an online master of education in reading that also includes an Ohio Reading Endorsement for PreK-12. Upon graduation, alumni go on to positions as reading specialists and literacy coaches in public and private settings. An accelerated degree, full-time learners begin in June and graduate the following May. The program is divided into three phases: completing endorsement requirements (15 credits), developing tools for engagement (12 credits) and engaging as a reading specialist through a supervised practicum in a school. Applicants must provide PRAXIS, Ohio Assessment for Educators, or GRE scores.
Sam Houston State University
Located just over an hour north of Houston, Sam Houston State University provides a distance education M.Ed. in reading/language arts with the option of adding a reading specialist certification. This master's in reading and literacy online exists for classroom teachers who want to strengthen their skills in this area and for those who want to earn a Texas Reading Specialist Certification. Within the required 36 hours, learners take classes in the politics of literacy, second language literacy, and digital literacies. It also includes 190 hours of field experience. Learners can start in July, November, or May. Applicants with 3.0 GPAs can bypass GRE requirements.
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
As one of the top online master's degree programs in reading and literacy, Nova Southeastern University in Florida caters to students at the brick-and-mortar campus and online. The program exists for current reading/language arts teachers who want a graduate degree and individuals with bachelor's degrees in generic education topics who want to specialize. The curriculum requires 36 credits and includes a practicum in individual remediation. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 to receive consideration and enrolled students must keep a cumulative GPA of 3.0 throughout the program. NSU learners pay $995 per credit but the school offers a significant number of scholarships.
Salt Lake City, UT
Westminster College in Pennsylvania is a Presbyterian-affiliated, small private school that maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 12-1. Students seeking a unique program can enroll in the M.Ed in special education with a reading specialist PreK-8 certification. Delivered in a cohort format, learners move through 36 credits together in topics such as preschool/elementary language and literacy, behavior management, and leadership in school literacy programs. Students also develop a practitioner research report about a specific aspect of the field. At the end of the program, students with GPAs of 3.0 or higher graduate and qualify to sit for the PRAXIS reading specialist exam.
Located in Mississippi's capital city, Jackson State University is a historically black university serving nearly 8,000 students. The online master of science in reading education provides an accelerated path that allows learners to finish the 30 required credits in just 12 months. By offering eight-week classes, degree seekers can focus on topics more intently without sacrificing quality. Standout courses include using literature to teach literacy, the psychology of literacy, and current issues in literacy instruction. Two supervised practicums are also included. Applicants must hold a 2.5 undergraduate GPA, proof of passing PRAXIS scores, and a Class A educator's license.
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
Slippery Rock, PA
Slippery Rock University operates as a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and offers an online M.E. in elementary education with a K-12 reading specialist add-on. The program is designed to serve both classroom teachers and instructional coaches by providing actionable knowledge and skills throughout the curriculum. The degree requires 30 credits, 21 of which relate to reading and literacy core courses. The final nine focus on educational foundations and research topics. Individuals looking for certification only (not a master's degree) only take the core courses. Applicants must hold a current teaching license to be admitted.
Northern Michigan University
Available exclusively through the Northern Michigan University Global Campus, this M.A.E. in reading (K-8) prepares existing certified teachers to move into roles as reading specialists. Upon graduation, learners are prepared to sit for the Michigan teaching certificate examination. The program requires 34 credits in educational foundations, research topics, the concentration area, and electives. Core topics include trends in teaching language arts and foundations of reading instruction. Students only seeing the reading endorsement complete 18 credits. Regardless of residence, all online students pay $542 per credit and are eligible to compete for some institutional scholarships.
Ohio University maintains the distinction of being the first college chartered by Congress and first opened its doors in 1787. Today the school educates students at both the Athens campus and online. The M.Ed. in reading exists as a 31-credit distance learning program that full-time learners complete in three semesters. Degree seekers can start the program in the summer or fall. After completing nine credits in core topics, students move into reading subjects. Some of these include phonics and the structure of language, coaching classroom teachers in reading/literacy, and diagnosing issues in reading/language arts.
Black Hills State University
Though South Dakota does not possess a dense population, Black Hills State University in Spearfish maintains an enrollment of nearly 4,500 learners thanks to significant distance learning options. The online M.Ed. in reading focuses on preparing K-12 reading specialists by offering a curriculum aligned to International Reading Association standards. The degree requires 34 credits in areas of action research, 7-12 reading and content literacy, and teaching English as a second language. It meets requirements for both South Dakota and Wyoming certification standards. During their first semester of enrollment, students apply to move into candidacy status. To do this, they need to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.
Minnesota State University-Mankato
Located approximately 1.5 hours from the Twin cities, Minnesota State University in Mankato is the second largest school in the state. As part of online offerings, the school provides a online master's program in reading and literacy for current classroom teachers who want to gain a K-12 reading specialist certification. Learners can start the program in summer, fall, or spring; those enrolled on a full-time basis finish the 30 required credits in one year. Because so many enrollees continue teaching while in the program, all classes exist asynchronously and allow students to work at their own pace within the semester-based structure.
Grand Valley State University
The College of Education at Michigan's Grand Valley State University offers a fully online M.Ed. in literary studies with an emphasis in reading/language arts. Designed for existing elementary/secondary classroom teachers looking to build their literacy skills, the program exists in full- and part-time learning formats and takes 33 credits total. Upon graduation and passing of the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification for Reading, graduates can work with K-5 students. Aside from completing practicum hours, learners must also complete a project or thesis. The project requires them to apply theories to a literacy problem they identify and offer actionable plans based on what they learned in the program.
Known nationally as a school focused on service learning, experiential education, and social justice, Hamline University in Minnesota provides one of the best online master's degree programs in reading and literacy in the nation. The curriculum is based off the belief that when children can read well, many doors open for them the rest of their lives. Students can start at three different times per academic year and spent approximately 24 months moving through requirements of the 34 credits. All learners pay $480 per credit but the School of Education offers several merit- and need-based scholarships.
Operating as part of the large State University of New York System, the University at Albany campus serves nearly 20,000 learners annually from its three campus locations and online. The M.S. in reading is unique in that it caters to individuals already working in literacy initiatives rather than current classroom teachers. The program focuses on helping literacy professionals gain the certification needed to enter a B-12 classroom. Learners take 15 credits of required courses in areas of classroom literacy instruction and children's literature before taking 15 credits of electives in areas of media literacy and language acquisition They finish the program by submitting a final culminating project.
East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina makes available a fully online M.A.E. in reading education for educators looking to earn a K-12 reading specialist certification. The program requires 39 credits and exists in part- and full-time formats. Learners can devote up to nine hours to mini-concentrations in areas of digital literacy, ESL, library science, or gifted education. ECU's College of Education provides four different start dates each year. The school sets no GPA requirements but does mandate GRE or MAT scores from all applicants. Once enrolled, North Carolinians pay $232.79 while those outside state lines pay $877.35.
Located in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley University focuses on providing educations in areas of writing, counseling, arts, education, and therapy. The M.Ed. in language and literacy exists fully online and helps graduates build literacy skills across the lifespan. 33 credits are taught in accelerated terms lasting eight weeks each, meaning part-time students typically need six semesters to graduate. Accepted students can begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer, so long as they can provide evidence of a teaching license or education-related experience. Lesley charges $22,225 in tuition and fees per academic year but several institutional scholarships exist to which online learners can apply.
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 25 top cheap master’s in reading and literacy education degrees online!
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