Top 25 Online Master's in Reading & Literacy Programs for 2019

Earning a master’s in reading online prepares graduates to ensure students’ academic achievement through the development of curricula in reading and literacy strategies. Online master’s in reading and literacy programs equip graduates to assess the effectiveness of instructional strategies and to integrate research and theory into their teaching practice.

Graduates of online reading master’s programs work as kindergarten and elementary school teachers and with adult learners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow 6% by 2024. A rise in student enrollment will drive the demand for reading and literacy professionals, making now the perfect time to earn an online master’s in reading.

What Are The Best Online Master’s in Reading and Literacy Programs?


University of Florida Gainesville, FL

The University of Florida offers both a master of education in reading (M.Ed.) and a master of art in reading education (M.A.E.). The M.Ed. program is aimed at Florida teachers who want to earn a reading specialization, while the M.A.E. is open to international and out-of-state applicants. Students can complete either program in two to three years and each emphasizes the importance of effective classroom practices, teaching strategies, diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties, and language and literature.

Applicants to the online master’s in reading program must have a 3.0 GPA in upper-division undergraduate coursework and an acceptable GRE score. The M.Ed. requires the completion of 36-credit hours and the M.A.E requires the completion of 30-credit hours with a six-credit thesis option. Both master’s programs are available in an online, on-campus, or hybrid format, and students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.


Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL

NSU’s master’s of science in education with a specialization in reading education focuses on language arts and literacy through a series of courses in reading assessment, curriculum design, and educational measurement. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this 36-credit online master’s in reading aligns with the teaching requirements of the Florida Department of Education and is available online for both Florida residents and distance learners.

On top of regular coursework, candidates participate in applied professional experiences where they plan and use reading materials in a K-12 classroom, write reflective journals, and create a portfolio with student work to meet state certification standards. Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Students must also maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the course of the program and are eligible for state certification upon graduation.


East Carolina University Greenville, NC

Located in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU offers a 39-credit master of arts in education with a focus on reading education that can be completed part- or full-time. Through courses taken either synchronously or asynchronously, students learn how to research and evaluate learning practices; identify reading difficulties and disabilities; and organize and lead reading programs. The master’s in reading online degree can be finished in two to three years for full-time students.

Applicants need a valid teaching license and must have completed prerequisite courses in reading methods. Applicants must also score at or above the 30th percentile on the GRE or MAT. Upon completion of the program, candidates are eligible for an advanced reading specialist license for K-12 teaching in North Carolina.


University of South Florida Tampa, FL

The online master’s in reading program at the USF’s main campus is structured into three blocks of sequenced courses: student and teacher literacies; classroom connections and interventions in literacy; and school, district, and state literacies. The core curriculum focuses on research-based methodologies, literacy learning, leadership, and instruction. The program also emphasizes the development of coaching skills and the use of digital-age conceptions of literacy.

The USF online reading master’s program is taught synchronously to maximize student and instructor interactions. Most students complete the program within two years. Admission requires a 3.0 GPA from upper-division undergraduate coursework and valid teaching credentials, with possible exceptions based on professional experience and National Board Certifications.


Concordia University Seward, NE

Concordia’s online master of literacy degree is a reading specialist program that emphasizes English as a Second Language (ESL). The 51-credit degree at this Lutheran university features an ESL practicum and a field-based student-interaction case study. The master’s in reading online program also investigates language as a system and the processes through which different languages interact. Students must complete coursework on research, instruction, and leadership for both native-speaking and ESL students.

The degree can be completed online or in a hybrid format at Concordia’s graduate school campus in Lincoln, Nebraska. Degree completion requires the submission of a final portfolio that includes ESL fieldwork and case study documentation. Applicants must supply undergraduate transcripts, a resume, and a statement of intent.


Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais, IL

Located in Bourbonnais, Olivet Nazarene offers an accelerated reading specialist degree through its master of arts in education. The degree can be completed entirely online or on campus with courses held one evening a week. The reading specialist program is a 32-credit, 18-month degree. Coursework includes foundations of reading; assessment and diagnoses of disabilities and difficulties; and developmental and remedial instruction and resources.

Master’s in reading online students are required to complete research methods coursework, a creative project or practicum, along with the K-12 Reading Specialist 176 exam. Applicants should have valid teaching credentials, documentation from a school administrator, certification of employment, and undergraduate transcripts. Prospective students must also meet Illinois teacher qualifications with a minimum composite score of 22 on the ACT or a passing TAP score.


University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL

The online master of arts in reading education at the University of Alabama’s Birmingham campus is a 33- to 36-credit program covering methods of instruction and assessment with an emphasis on reading problems from preschool through grade 12. Required courses include readings in teaching and learning, coaching for instruction, and dyslexia education and advocacy. Students must also complete an internship in remedial reading.

Requirements for the master’s in reading online program include a valid Alabama educator certificate (Class B, K-12, or K-6), documentation of two full years of classroom teaching, and transcripts reflecting reading coursework. Students with Class A certification can apply for the reading specialist certification only during the final semester and must have a minimum 3.25 GPA on all coursework. Out-of-state students must receive a Class B license before applying for Class A certification.


University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND

The University of North Dakota’s online master’s degree in reading education is a 32-credit program available as a master of education or a master of science degree. The master of science degree does not require teacher certification. The core courses for the online reading master’s programs are identical and emphasize reading and cognition. The program also includes a supervised reading clinic practicum, with additional coursework in areas such as language arts, assessment, and writing.

Both degrees are designed to be completed in two years and include a culminating project. Coursework meets North Dakota Teaching and Learning Standards, and candidates may be eligible for ND State Reading Specialist Certification. Applicants must submit a personal statement and have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 with 20 credit hours worth of coursework in the study of education.


University of Georgia Athens, GA

The 36-credit online master of education in reading education at the University of Georgia is a program for educators who want to hone their skills as reading instructors in the digital age. A sequence of 12 courses instruct students in areas such as pre-K-12 reading literacy, popular culture of literacy, and digital and new literacies. The capstone requirement for the degree teaches students how to conduct electronic assessments in literacy classrooms.

For admission, the master’s in reading online program requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, strong GRE or MAT scores, and regular computer access. After completion of all coursework, a multi-modal final exam is administered through an electronic platform. Students who wish to receive a Georgia Reading Endorsement can structure their coursework to meet Georgia State requirements.


Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre, PA

Located in Wilkes-Barre, Wilke University’s online master of science in education with a major in early childhood literacy focuses on the acquisition, practice, and assessment of literacy for pre-K-4 aged students. The program is offered in partnership with the National Institute for Professional Practice Graduate Education. Core classes for the 33-credit degree include early literacy, vocabulary development, and connecting reading and writing. Additional credit hours cover topics such as teacher leadership and results-driven classrooms.

Students seeking admission to the online master’s in reading program must have an average or above-average undergraduate GPA. The program does not accept transfer credits. As each course is oriented around classroom applications, prospective students must have access to a pre-K-4 classroom in order to apply the strategies and techniques learned in the program.


Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA

The online master of arts in reading instruction at Loyola Marymount is a 36-credit program designed to allow teachers to continue working full-time. Core classes in the program cover the methodology of reading, technology and reading, and linguistics. Students at this Jesuit institution usually complete the course offerings asynchronously. The degree, along with the optional reading and language arts specialist credential, can be completed in two years.

The master’s in reading online degree can be used to supplement an existing California teaching license. In order to graduate, students must pass a final comprehensive exam, complete relevant fieldwork, and take two diagnosis and intervention practicums. Contact the School of Education directly for specific admission requirements.


Canisius College Buffalo, NY

Canisius College in Buffalo, New York offers a hybrid master of science in education literacy degree with concentrations in either pre-K through sixth grade literacy or fifth grade through 12th grade literacy. Each 33-credit program includes a series of core courses along with practicum requirements. Courses in both tracks cover topics such as adolescent literacy, foundations of literacy, and literacy in diverse populations. Students are expected to work closely with a literary specialist for the duration of the program.

Applicants to the online master’s in reading program must submit teaching certifications, undergraduate transcripts, and GRE, ALST, or MAT scores. Undergraduate GPAs below 3.0 are subject to review. The program meets New York State’s literacy specialist requirements and is recognized by the International Literacy Association for meeting the highest standard of education.


Rowan University Glassboro, NJ

Based in Glassboro, New Jersey, Rowan University’s master of arts in reading education is a 33-credit accelerated hybrid program. The first three courses are face-to-face classes and are followed by seven online courses, all of which can be completed in six consecutive semesters. The curriculum includes coursework on the supervision of reading programs, research methods, instruction across grade levels, and diagnosis of reading problems.

For completion of the online master’s reading specialist degree, students must pass a comprehensive exam and complete a thesis. A New Jersey teaching license is required for admission, as is an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or higher, proof of employment with specific dates, and a timed writing sample to be completed during an admissions interview.


Hamline University Saint Paul, MN

Located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Hamline offers an on-campus and online master of arts in literacy education. Out of the total 34 credit hours in the program, 24 are required courses on literary essentials, 21st century literacy, cross-curriculum literacy, and educational policy. Elective courses cover areas such as gifted education, counseling, urban teaching, and K-12 reading licensure. A capstone project or thesis must be completed in order to graduate.

The online master’s in reading program begins during the spring term and takes about 24 months to complete. The K-12 reading licensure program requires 15 total credit hours included in the total credit hours needed to graduate. Applicants to the master’s program need to have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, although lower GPAs will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Spring Arbor University Spring Arbor, MI

The online master of arts in reading program at SAU can be completed within 24 months and does not require a GRE or a GMAT to apply. A Christian institution in Spring Arbor, Michigan, SAU’s 38-credit online program includes 12 courses on reading research, methods, and instruction. The final two courses ask students to conduct their own independent research and complete a literary research thesis.

Application requirements for the master’s in reading online program include a writing sample, undergraduate transcripts, teacher certification information, and a minimum 3.0 GPA from the last two years of undergraduate coursework. Certified teachers who complete the program and pass the Michigan Test of Teacher Certification in Reading earn a reading specialist endorsement.


Ohio University Athens, OH

Ohio University’s online reading education master’s degree is a 35-credit program that can be completed in three semesters. Core classes include advanced studies of children and adolescents, nature and the needs of children, and a research project. Students also take classes in the foundations of reading, language, and literature, while instructors coach students in appropriate methods of research and assessment. A culminating project requires students to conduct original research and submit a completed thesis.

As an advanced online master’s in reading program aimed at licensed teachers, the program’s courses are only offered during specific semesters, and no transfer credits or substitutions are allowed for degree completion. Applicants must submit GRE scores, a writing sample, and undergraduate transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA.


Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA

Old Dominion University offers an online master of science in reading education degree to licensed teachers. The 30-credit program consists of eight required courses, one elective, and a practicum. Required courses prepare students to develop reading curricula and evaluate the reading skills of elementary and secondary school students. The practicum can be completed at a local school or the school of current employment.

While the online master’s in reading degree is intended for teachers in Virginia, it is open to online students in other states with the exception of Washington State. Coursework can also be combined with a Literacy Coaching Certificate to supplement the degree. Virginia students pay $496 per credit hour while out-of-state students pay $538 per credit hour.


University of West Florida Pensacola, FL

Based in Pensacola, UWF offers a 36-credit online reading education master’s degree that prepares Florida educators for the Florida State Reading Specialist Endorsement and Certification. By incorporating the standards of both Florida and the International Reading Association, the degree ties research to hands-on classroom applications. Because of the practice-based nature of the program, applicants must already hold or have applied for a teaching certification.

Out-of-state students should check that master’s in reading online degree meets their state’s licensing requirements before enrolling. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit GRE or MAT scores. Additionally, applicants are required to demonstrate ESOL and Florida Core Curriculum proficiency by the fifth week of the first semester to receive full admission.


Belhaven University Jackson, MS

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Belhaven’s master of education in literacy program prepares students to diagnose, assess, and improve students’ reading skills. The 33-credit program at this Christian university is open only to certified teachers. On top of a core curriculum, the school has three emphasis areas the require students to complete a practicum in reading along with two courses in literature and middle grade literacy. A culminating capstone course focuses on instructional leadership skills in the classroom.

The online master’s in reading degree can be completed in two years and can lead to positions in school or district-level leadership. Regular admission requires a 2.75 overall undergraduate GPA as well as a 3.0 GPA for any previous graduate work, although provisional admission may be granted with the condition that the student earn a 3.0 in the first nine credit hours taken.


University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH

The online master’s degree in literacy and second language studies at the University of Cincinnati’s main campus encourages professional educators to broaden their understanding of literacy to include students learning a second language. Core classes of the online master’s in reading degree cover areas such as the effective design and implementation of reading and writing curricula; assessment and evaluation of reading and writing difficulties; and strategies for critically analyzing literacy research.

The 30-credit online master’s in reading program has four concentration options: pre-K-16 literacy and learning instruction; postsecondary literacy instruction; pre-K-12 teaching English as a second language; and adult/international teaching as a second language. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA in relevant coursework.


Gannon University Erie, PA

Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, Gannon’s online master of reading education prepares students in the implementation of research-based instruction and assessment practices. The program consists of 24 credits of core courses, six credits of electives, and 18 credits of certification requirements. In addition to covering areas such as literacy foundations and teaching methods, the coursework provides students with leadership tools to engage the broader community in literacy efforts.

The master’s in reading online program includes a one-day on-campus orientation as part of the reading clinic assessment course, and additional supervised clinical hours are conducted at an arranged site. At the completion of the program, candidates are eligible to apply for a Reading Specialist Certification in the state of Pennsylvania and take the Reading Specialist PRAXIS exam. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree and have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.


University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, IA

The online master of arts in education in literacy education at UNI is designed for practicing teachers and can be completed in three years. The cohort-based, sequential program includes 30 hours of required courses, with additional research and practicum hours awarded based on the final research paper or thesis. Courses address methods and materials in literacy, ideological aspects of children’s literature, and language development and variability.

Additional elective courses are offered for three categories of the Iowa Reading Endorsement, although not all classes are available online for these endorsements. Scholarships are available for master’s students enrolled in the Literacy Education program. Most courses are offered through interactive video conferencing, although some courses are delivered through Blackboard.


University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC

UNC-Charlotte offers a 33-credit online master of education in reading education for credentialed, experienced teachers of any field and any grade level. The program aims to improve reading instruction, assessment, and evaluation in the classroom. Courses are divided into three phases: the first phase focuses on literacy and technology; the second on appropriate instruction and assessment; and the third on pedagogy and content. All phases must be completed prior to the final course on reflective leadership.

Applicants to the master’s in reading online program must have a bachelor’s degree, a current teaching certification, and must submit GRE or MAT scores. North Carolina residents pay less than $250 per credit hour, while out-of-state students pay almost $900 per credit hour.


University of Wisconsin La Crosse, WI

The online master of science in education program at UW-La Crosse is designed for teachers seeking a Wisconsin reading teacher or reading specialist certification. The 37-credit curriculum includes classes in research methods, critical issues in reading difficulties, and children’s and adolescent literature. The program also requires more hands-on experience through a literacy practicum and supervised teaching.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and provide proof of valid teaching credentials or evidence of completed student teaching. Reading teacher and reading specialist certifications require two years of teaching experience and are contingent on successful completion of the reading program coursework along with a passing score on the Foundations of Reading Test.


Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL

Florida’s Saint Leo University offers a fully online master of education degree, with a concentration in reading. The 36 credit program prepares graduates to provide the best possible literacy instruction to their students. The curriculum includes courses in development, instruction and assessment strategies, educational research, reading theory, and applied linguistics.

All courses in the program are taught asynchronously -- with no set meeting times -- to accommodate the busy schedules of practicing teachers. All students pay the same tuition regardless of the their state residency status. Graduates serve as literacy coaches, reading specialists, assessment coordinators, GED instructors, program directors, and college-level instructors.

Saint Leo University, founded in 1889, is located in central Florida, about halfway between Orlando and Tampa. The Catholic liberal arts school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

How to Choose an Online Master's in Reading & Literacy Program

When evaluating master’s in reading online programs, consider tuition costs relative to your budget. Also ensure that the online reading master’s program offers the specialization you are interested in. Determine how many years you will need to complete the program, especially if you plan to work full-time while earning your degree. Some online programs have on-campus requirements; decide whether you can commit to in-person elements, particularly if the school is out of state.

Careers for Graduates of Master's in Reading & Literacy Programs

After earning a master’s in reading online, graduates pursue careers that allow them to make a difference in others’ lives. Degree holders use their expertise and knowledge in education to prepare students for academic achievement. Along with personal and professional satisfaction, careers in reading and literacy offer competitive salaries.

Elementary School Teacher

These teachers educate students in grades one through six on fundamentals and educational foundations. In addition to reading comprehension, they help students develop skills in writing, mathematics, history, and science. They provide parents with feedback about their child’s progress and educational needs. Most states require certification.

Median Salary: $43,591

Reading Specialist

Reading specialists help elementary and middle school—and sometimes high school—students strengthen their reading skills. They collaborate with teachers to develop lesson plans that incorporate reading skills, and they evaluate students’ reading competency.

Median Salary: $50,587

Adult Education Teacher

These teachers instruct adult learners, to prepare them for exams like the GED or to improve their English language skills. Adult education teachers develop lesson plans, monitor students’ performance, and modifying curricula and instructional methods to ensure students’ success.

Median Salary: $38,144

Curriculum Specialist

Curriculum specialists examine, modify, and design class frameworks to improve teaching and learning. They choose textbooks for instruction, help teachers develop best practices in pedagogy, and suggest strategies to improve content delivery. They also review test scores, grades, and student feedback to determine the effectiveness of curricula.

Median Salary: $54,908

Education Administrator

Education administrators include principals and vice principals. They oversee teaching staff and enforce the student code of conduct, which requires interacting with students and parents. Education administrators maintain a safe school environment and monitor all aspects of school operations.

Median Salary: $67,202

Job Outlook and Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of kindergarten and elementary teachers, including those specializing in reading and literacy, will grow 6% by 2024. The number of students enrolled in kindergarten and elementary school will increase over the next decade, which means schools will need more teachers. Salaries for those with a master’s degree in reading and literacy vary by career, experience, and geographic location.

Projected Employment for Management Careers
Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024
1,517,400 1,605,200

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


The salaries of educators who specialize in reading and literacy increase with experience. Entry-level elementary school teachers earn a median salary of $40,000 per year, while those with at least two decades of experience earn 45% more, nearly $57,000 per year. The specific career also impacts earnings; curriculum specialists generally earn higher salaries than reading specialists. Other variables that influence salary include geographic location and the type of institution. The table below details average salary growth over the course of a career.


Professional organizations give members opportunities to network with other education professionals. These organizations provide resources and engagement opportunities to keep members apprised of innovations in the field and to help them develop professionally. Organizations also offer careers services and job boards to help members with master’s in reading and literacy advance their careers. Below are a few prominent professional organizations in special education.

National Council of Teachers of English
This organization promotes literacy development and furthers the teaching and learning of English and language arts at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
American Federation of Teachers
This union organization represents 1.6 million teachers in more than 3,000 local affiliates across the U.S. Its members advocate for high-quality public education and for fairness, democracy, and economic opportunities for teachers.
National Education Association
As the largest professional organization in the country, with three million members, this organization is committed to advancing U.S. public education at every level.

To determine the best online master's in reading & literacy programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 25 best master's in reading & literacy programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.