What can you do with a master’s degree in reading and literacy, one of the 50 highest paying master’s degrees? It’s a common misconception that the only job role a master’s degree in reading and literacy prepares you to do is teach elementary school children. This specialized degree in education usually does lead to a teaching career, but literacy and reading specialists may teach high school students and even adults, as well as instructing elementary school students in the basics of reading and writing. There are even non-teaching jobs for reading and literacy graduates.
Teaching Literacy in Secondary School
Children first learn to read in elementary school, but they continue to cultivate their literacy skills throughout their education. Reading specialists and literacy teachers in high school and middle school settings fulfill different roles than those in elementary schools. Instead of teaching students the fundamentals of reading and writing, reading specialists at these upper grade levels help integrate literacy into the content area studies – such as science, math and history – that make up students’ curriculum. They collaborate with content area teachers to evaluate how literacy is integrated into these different content areas.
The aim, of course, is to enhance students’ experiences with literacy across content areas. Reading specialists in high school and middle school achieve these goals by developing instructional strategies for better incorporating literacy into content area coursework and acting as coaches content area teachers can turn to for help.
Teaching reading for middle school and high school students requires somewhat different methods of curriculum development and literacy instruction. If you know you want to work with older kids, look for a master’s in literacy that focuses on secondary school.
Teaching Literacy for Adults
Unfortunately, not every person receives the gift of literacy when they are young. There are plenty of adults who struggle with reading and writing, which can limit their career advancement opportunities and their overall quality of life.
Adults may have difficulty with reading and writing for several reasons, such as because they didn’t get the remedial help they needed during school, they chose to or were forced to drop out of school or they live or used to live in an area where literacy education was not as accessible. Whatever the reason why an adult struggles with literacy, adult literacy teachers can help adult learners improve their reading and writing abilities.
A master’s degree program in reading and literacy may be specialized enough to prepare you to work with adult learners. However, you can also find even more specialized programs that equip you with the skills to teach reading to adult students, including master’s degrees in adult learning with an adult literacy concentration. Coursework in a program that focuses specifically on adult literacy may include classes in adult development and learning fundamentals, the design and implementation of adult learning programs and issues in adult literacy.
More than a third of adult literacy teachers work in elementary and secondary schools, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Another 24 percent work at junior colleges, 9 percent at other schools and 5 percent at colleges and professional schools.
Opportunities for Reading and Literacy Graduates Outside of Traditional Teaching Roles
Most applicants to a master’s degree program in reading and literacy plan to teach, even if the student population they intend to work with can vary in age. However, literacy specialists can also find other employment opportunities besides traditional teaching functions. You might use your in-depth knowledge of literacy to dig into education research or writing, manage a writing center or tutoring service, work for private companies in the field of education or conduct employee training within a corporation.
These options can reassure prospective students who don’t want to limit their careers too much with their choice of graduate study, but they aren’t necessarily the most direct path to one of these careers. Before enrolling, students should carefully consider what they want to do with a literacy degree. There may be a degree that better fits their career intentions, especially if they don’t plan to pursue a traditional role as a reading and literacy teacher.
Although most literacy specialists work in schools and educational settings, others find work in community centers, hospitals and medical facilities, nonprofit organizations and other environments.