Reading Specialist Career Guide (2023)

A reading specialist works mainly with younger children who are having reading difficulties to help advance their reading skills and lay the foundation for success in high school, college, and adult life. Reading specialists are trained in the methods of teaching reading for comprehension as well as for enjoyment. This guide provides further information on what reading specialists do, how to become one, and the salary and job outlook for reading specialists.

Reading Specialist Job Description

A reading specialist’s primary duty is to work one-on-one or in small group settings with students who are having difficulty reading at their grade level. Reading specialists are frequently found working in grades K-6 but may also work with older students and adults. In some school districts, reading specialists also coach teachers on methods of teaching reading and on assessing and improving reading curricula. Reading specialists share responsibility with teachers for assessing students’ reading abilities, identifying deficiencies, and creating reading intervention plans and strategies for students selected for additional reading instruction. Reading intervention is what happens after students who are identified as at-risk of failing to read and the approach a school uses to help these students is called “response to intervention” or RTI.1

Reading Specialist Requirements and Common Tasks

To become a reading specialist, some school districts may require a bachelor’s degree in reading and literacy, but most positions in the field require a graduate degree. Reading specialist degrees may be master’s degrees (M.Ed. or EdM); Educational Specialist (EdS) degrees; Doctor of Education (EdD) degrees; or PhDs in Education. Student teaching work and a teaching license are also necessary to teach in public K-12 schools; teachers in private schools and private tutors may not need to be certified teachers.

Reading instruction may be done during or after school hours; as such, reading specialists must be prepared to have a flexible schedule. Whether the reading specialist’s primary focus is instruction or assessment, he or she must work closely with other teachers to ensure that the reading interventions that students receive are aligned with the curriculum taught in class. Reading specialists also work closely with parents to track student progress, set goals, and provide updates on student achievement. A reading specialist must be personable, patient, and good with kids. Strong communication skills with students, parents, and other education professionals are a must for these professionals.

Reading Specialist Career Guide (1)

(Video) A Day in the Life of a Reading Specialist

How to Become a Reading Specialist

Reading specialists must have a thorough knowledge of teaching methods, especially as applied to struggling learners. As reading specialists must also have the knowledge and tools to work with students with differing needs, graduate education is typically preferred to pursue this career, although in some states and school districts a bachelor’s degree can qualify a prospective reading specialist for certification. In most cases, at least in public schools, the qualifying degree completed must include a program approved by the state board of education for the preparation of licensed reading specialists. The common pathway to becoming a reading specialist in a public K-12 school is:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in education, reading, literacy, or a related subject, along with a teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship.
  3. Take your state’s tests for prospective teachers.
  4. Apply for a teaching license.
  5. Work as a classroom teacher while pursuing a postgraduate certificate or advanced degree in reading or literacy.
  6. Take your state’s test for the reading specialist endorsement.
  7. After adding the reading specialist endorsement to your license, start applying to open positions.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in education, reading education, or literacy through a teacher preparation program is traditionally the first step to becoming a reading specialist. In most teacher preparation programs, students spend the first two years of their college career taking general education and introductory teaching courses. During the third and fourth years, the focus shifts to courses relating to reading literacy and teaching. Students typically complete at least one classroom practicum experience, preferably at the age level which the prospective specialist desires to teach. Some reading education programs recommend that students complete more than one practicum at different grade levels to gain a better understanding of reading education and literacy across the continuum of interventions for struggling learners. Following graduation, students will be eligible to pursue teaching certification in their state, which typically includes taking an exam to earn the reading specialist endorsement.

Teachers in states that require a graduate degree for reading specialist certification or who wish to strengthen their knowledge and competitiveness may earn a master’s degree, EdS, EdD, or PhD in reading education. Graduate reading education programs place heavy emphasis on theories of reading literacy along with applications in the learning setting. Further instruction may also be provided on methods of assessing student ability and evaluating reading curricula. Graduate degrees prepare students for reading specialist certification and positions the graduate to become a highly qualified teacher.

(Video) Why I decided to become a literacy specialist

Reading Specialist Salary and Job Outlook

Reading specialists who work with students who have physical, learning, or other disabilities can expect a similar salary to special education teachers, who earned a median annual salary of $59,780 in 2018.1 Job growth for special education teachers is expected at 3% between 2018 and 2028.1 Reading specialists with a focus on curriculum development may make a similar salary to instructional coordinators, who earned a median annual salary of $64,450 in 2018 and have job growth prospects of 6% between 2018 and 2028.2 Reading specialists working with adult and out-of-school secondary students earn a median of $53,630 per year and have projected job growth of -2% from 2018 to 2028.3

Helpful Skills and Experience

Reading specialists commonly earn a few years of experience teaching following college before moving into reading intervention roles. Prospective reading specialists in public schools must also have the skills and knowledge to earn a reading specialist endorsement on their teaching license in states that recognize this specialty. A passion for reading and literacy is important for prospective reading specialists, as this passion will help professionals transfer the desire to learn and grow to their students.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Literacy Coach
  • Reading Coach
  • Reading Intervention Teacher/Specialist
  • Reading Instructor/Teacher
  • Reading Specialist

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I need certification to become a reading specialist?

(Video) Top 20 Reading Specialist Interview Questions and Answers for 2022

Answer: Yes, if you want to teach in the public K-12 school system. At a minimum, prospective reading specialists in public schools must have a teaching license. In states where it is offered, a reading specialist must also have a reading specialist endorsement on their license unless an exception has been granted. You can find out more about specific requirements in your state through your state board of education or your school’s teaching preparation program.

Question: What work environments can a reading specialist expect?

Answer: Reading specialists generally work in a school setting, though private tutoring may occur in a home, library, or other location. In schools, reading specialists may either work with students in the same classroom as other students or pull them out of the classroom to learn in another location in the school. Reading specialists can find job opportunities in public and private schools, community centers, tutoring centers, and clinics. Reading specialists with advanced certifications and experience may also become curriculum advisors for schools and literacy programs.

Question: Can I earn a reading specialist degree online?

Answer: Yes! Many schools offer reading specialist degree programs online at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Online students typically receive support from their schools in arranging local practicum and internship experiences for certification.

(Video) Praxis | Reading Specialist | Teaching Reading | Fab 5 of Reading | Kathleen Jasper

Question: What does a reading specialist do?

Answer: Reading specialists are specially-trained in literacy and work with students who need additional help with reading.

Question: Can a regular teacher be a reading specialist?

Answer: Some teachers are trained in Early Intervention in Reading (EIR), a program that seeks to identify and provide additional instruction to students from kindergarten to fourth grade who are at risk of failing to read. Teachers who are trained in EIR attend workshops and web-based professional development program classes for a period of nine months.

Question: How does response to intervention (RTI) work?

(Video) Reading expert Linda Farrell: What's it like to be a reading intervention specialist?

Answer: RTI typically has three tiers, with the students in the general classroom being in Tier 1 and not needing intervention; with students showing signs of struggling moving to Tier 2, which means they receive small group interventions in addition to regular lessons; and with students who need the most help (and are the most at-risk of failing at reading) being in Tier 3, where they receive the most intensive RTI, either in small groups or individually.1 These Tier 3 students are closely monitored by the school and usually spend a lot of their time in these small group or individual intervention settings until they begin catching up and can move up to higher tiers.1

1. National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP): Early Childhood Education, Response to Intervention in Primary Grade Reading:
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Special Education Teachers:
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Instructional Coordinators:
3. O*NET OnLine, Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors:


How do you interview a reading specialist? ›

Reading Specialist:

Please tell us about your background in teaching reading. Which online programs have you used with students in the classroom or for remote learning? Describe a specific student's case in reading and how you achieved success with the student. Discuss the role of phonics in the teaching of reading.

What is the difference between a reading teacher and a reading specialist? ›

The specialist tends to be a resource for teachers, working on reading curricula, ordering necessary materials, and creating new activities for teachers. They also take students out of class, work directly with them, and provide lessons in a different environment. Qualifications for each position are similar.

What specialized knowledge and skills should a reading specialist have? ›

The reading specialist has specialized knowledge of assessment and diagnosis that is vital for developing, implementing, and evaluating the literacy program in general, and in designing instruction for individual students.

How do I prepare for a specialist interview? ›

Here are some general questions you can expect during a training specialist job interview:
  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. How did you learn about this job?
  3. What do you know about this company?
  4. What are your biggest strengths?
  5. What are some of your weaknesses?
  6. Where do you want to be in five years?

Why do you want to be a reading specialist? ›

In your answer, try to show that you have a passion for learning about new developments in reading education. Explain how you stay informed of new research and ideas. Example: “I am passionate about my work as a reading specialist because I love seeing students learn and grow through their literacy development.

Are reading specialists in demand? ›

For this reason, reading specialists are in demand in the job market overall.

What is it like being a reading specialist? ›

Reading specialists support the literacy infrastructure in a school. They do this is by contributing to regular classroom teachers' efforts to improve students' reading skills. They don't replace classroom teachers; rather, they support, supplement and extend instruction.

How much does a reading specialist make in Texas? ›

How much does a Reading Specialist make in Texas? The average Reading Specialist salary in Texas is $54,227 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $47,590 and $61,923.

What is the difference between a literacy coach and a reading specialist? ›

Is there a difference? According to the IRA, Literacy Coach and Reading Specialists have the same role and job description. This specialist may have primary responsibility for supporting teacher learning.

Why does my child need a reading specialist? ›

Reading specialists can help strengthen these skills, including foundational skills such as phonological awareness (the sounds and patterns underlying our language system) and phonetics (how sounds are represented by letters and these letters arranged in words) and higher-level skills such as vocabulary and language ...

How much does a reading specialist make in California? ›

How much does a Reading Specialist make in California? The average Reading Specialist salary in California is $61,683 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $54,134 and $70,438.

Is Orton-Gillingham training worth it? ›

No one teaching method is considered the best intervention for dyslexia, although Orton-Gillingham is extremely well-regarded in the field of dyslexia. Orton-Gillingham has been well researched and can be beneficial for students with dyslexia because of the emphasis it places on individualized, structured learning.

What are the 6 types of literacy? ›

  • Types of literacies.
  • What is Literacy.
  • Media literacy.
  • Cultural literacy.
  • Financial literacy.
  • Scientific literacy.
  • Information literacy.
  • Critical literacy.

What is the difference between Wilson reading and Orton-Gillingham? ›

The Wilson Program is a younger reading program that operates with elements of OG but has a tiered system of approach. The program is direct and systematic in its approach and is a structured literacy program. Though it is research-based it has not been scientifically proven.

Why should we hire you answer best? ›

Show that you have skills and experience to do the job and deliver great results. You never know what other candidates offer to the company. But you know you: emphasize your key skills, strengths, talents, work experience, and professional achievements that are fundamental to getting great things done on this position.

How do you pass an interview? ›

How to Pass a Job Interview Successfully
  1. STEP 1: Start by researching the company and your interviewers. ...
  2. STEP 2: Practice your answers to common interview questions. ...
  3. STEP 3: Reread the job description. ...
  4. STEP 4: Be prepared with examples of your work. ...
  5. STEP 5: Plan your route. ...
  6. STEP 6: Dress for interview success.

What are the duties of a reading specialist? ›

Reading/learning specialists plan, teach, and evaluate instruction for students having difficulty with reading or writing. They work with students in small groups and in classroom settings from elementary through the secondary level.

Is being an interventionist hard? ›

Being an interventionist is hard. Harder than many people think. From the outside, an interventionist “has it easy.” You probably have an office instead of a classroom. You work with small groups of students instead of classes of 20 – 30.

Do reading specialists work in the summer? ›

Reading specialists have the intrinsic reward of helping struggling readers improve their language skills. This teaching job also comes with summer and holiday breaks.

What is the job outlook for reading specialists? ›

See employment outlook and salary statistics.
What is a Certified Reading Specialist?
Degree RequiredBachelor's degree at minimum; master's may be required
Job Growth (2020-2030)10%* (instructional coordinators)
Median Salary (2021)$53,636** (reading specialists)
2 more rows

How many reading specialists are there in the United States? ›

In the US, there are approximately 19,000 reading specialists. Approximately 4 million students are enrolled in Grade 3 in the US in 2022.

How many reading strategies are there? ›

The seven strategies of highly skilled readers include activating, summarizing, monitoring and clarifying, visualizing and organizing, searching and selecting, questioning, and inferring.

Why is it important for a reading literacy specialist to understand the stages of language development? ›

Effective language development is critical to a child's ability to function in society because it helps them learn and socialize. Knowing the phases of language development ensures that you can identify and correct any issues that arise during each stage.

What professional disposition do you value most in the role of reading literacy specialist? ›

The most highly respected literacy coaches keep a tentative stance, always open to new learning, new ideas, and different perspectives from their own. They develop deep theoretical knowledge, but are not rigid in their thinking.

How do I get a reading specialist certificate in Texas? ›

Reading Specialist Certification Requirements

A valid Texas teaching certificate. The successful completion of a TExES examination, given by the State of Texas. Two years of teaching experience at an accredited school – can be completed before, during or after coursework.

How much does a reading interventionist make in Texas? ›

How much does a Reading Interventionist make in Houston, Texas? As of Oct 10, 2022, the average annual pay for a Reading Interventionist in Houston is $54,791 a year.

How do I become a reading specialist in Florida? ›

To apply, please contact the Just Read, Florida! office at or 850-245-0503. Teachers who have one of the approved certificates may apply to the Bureau of Educator Certification to have the Reading Endorsement added to their Florida Teaching Certificate.

What makes a good reading coach? ›

The highest level, which they call the gold standard, requires a master's degree in literacy and additional certification in coaching; successful teaching experience at the grade level to be coached; previous experience working with and training teachers; experience as a classroom observer; and excellent presentation ...

What are ethical responsibilities the reading literacy specialist? ›

These responsibilities include maintaining a safe, supportive, and confidential environment for students to learn, recognizing the boundaries between instructor and student, working to positively impact students and their development, valuing diversity and differences in students, and recognizing the boundaries of ...

What is the RTI program in schools? ›

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is an educational strategy used in schools to: Provide effective and high-quality instruction, Monitor all students' progress to make sure they are progressing as expected, and. Provide additional support (intervention) to students who are struggling.

Can a reading specialist diagnose dyslexia? ›

“Professionals with expertise in several fields are best qualified to make a diagnosis of dyslexia. The testing may be done by a single individual or by a team of specialists. A knowledge and background in psychology, reading, language, and education are necessary.

Is your child a struggling reader? ›

Signs to watch for: Your child has a low level of comprehension when it comes to reading. He or she also has trouble understanding, recalling, or summarizing what he or she has just read.

How hard is the Orton-Gillingham training? ›

Completing an Orton-Gillingham training program is not an easy undertaking. It's a long process. You may have juggled teaching full-time with your OG practicum (as I did years ago when I trained), had a family to care for, or paid for it out of pocket.

How long does it take to complete Orton-Gillingham? ›

How long does it usually take to complete your courses? Our comprehensive coursework will take 30-40 hours to complete.

What grade level is Orton-Gillingham for? ›

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is the underlying foundation of all multisensory, structured literacy instruction. This course is designed for classroom teachers in third grade and up.

What are the basic literacy skills? ›

Literacy skills include listening, speaking, reading and writing. They also include such things as awareness of the sounds of language, awareness of print, and the relationship between letters and sounds. Other literacy skills include vocabulary, spelling, and comprehension.

What are the 7 new literacies? ›

Seven Literacies: Home
  • Home.
  • Basic Literacy.
  • Early Literacy.
  • Civic/Social Literacy.
  • Digital Literacy.
  • Financial Literacy.
  • Health Literacy.
  • Legal Literacy.
24 Aug 2022

What are the 3 forms of literacy? ›

Since adults use different kinds of printed and written materials in their daily lives, NAAL measures three types of literacy—prose, document, and quantitative—and reports a separate scale score for each of these three areas.

How long does it take to complete the Wilson reading program? ›

Wilson Reading System instruction can be implemented in a one-on-one setting or with a small group of students. Depending on the frequency and intensity of delivery, it may take 2-3 years (or more) to complete all 12 Steps of the curriculum.

What is the best program for dyslexia? ›

For kids with true dyslexia, an Orton Gillingham reading program is often the best type of reading program. Even if your child doesn't have true dyslexia, Orton Gillingham reading programs for dyslexia are a great choice.

What are some of the things a reading specialist does or might do? ›

Reading/learning specialists plan, teach, and evaluate instruction for students having difficulty with reading or writing. They work with students in small groups and in classroom settings from elementary through the secondary level.

What are reading interviews? ›

Literacy practices interviews are informal assessments that elicit information on students' reading and writing activities, including their free-time reading habits, their access to books, and their attitudes toward reading and writing. Use the interviews in one-on-one or small, focus group-like settings.

What questions do they ask during interview? ›

50+ most common job interview questions
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • How did you hear about this position?
  • Why do you want to work at this company?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What can you bring to the company?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
2 Sept 2022

Are reading specialists in demand? ›

For this reason, reading specialists are in demand in the job market overall.

What is the difference between a reading specialist and a literacy coach? ›

Is there a difference? According to the IRA, Literacy Coach and Reading Specialists have the same role and job description. This specialist may have primary responsibility for supporting teacher learning.

What is it like being a reading specialist? ›

Reading specialists support the literacy infrastructure in a school. They do this is by contributing to regular classroom teachers' efforts to improve students' reading skills. They don't replace classroom teachers; rather, they support, supplement and extend instruction.

What are reading intervention strategies? ›

Examples of reading interventions include scaffolding, or providing supports for students, small-group instruction, use of technology, explicit phonics instruction, and offering choices of reading materials.

What is a process interview? ›

The interview process is a multiple-stage process for hiring new employees. The stages mainly comprise job interviews held either one-on-one, with a group of candidates, or with a panel. Interviews are conducted in person, over the phone or by email, or via video conferencing tools.

What is balanced literacy program? ›

Balanced literacy refers to an instructional approach that involves a balance between teacher-led reading and writing instruction and independent learning. Typically, a balanced literacy framework consists of opportunities to: Read aloud. Engage in guided reading. Participate in shared reading.

What are the 5 hardest interview questions? ›

The most difficult interview questions (and answers)
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What's something that you didn't like about your last job?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • How do you deal with conflict with a co-worker?
  • Here's an answer for you.

How do you answer why should I hire you? ›

How to Answer Why Should We Hire You
  1. Show that you have skills and experience to do the job and deliver great results. ...
  2. Highlight that you'll fit in and be a great addition to the team. ...
  3. Describe how hiring you will make their life easier and help them achieve more.
8 Jul 2022

What is your weakness best answer? ›

Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you're applying to and by stressing exactly how you're practically addressing your weakness. Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.

Is dyslexia a disability or difficulty? ›

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that mainly causes problems with reading, writing and spelling. It's a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn't affected.

Is dyslexia really a disability? ›

Dyslexia is a "reading disability," and is characterized by an unexpected difficulty in reading by people who possess the intelligence, motivation, and schooling necessary to read. It is a persistent, chronic condition rather than a transient developmental lag.

Is dyslexia a form of autism? ›

There are, however, significant symptoms that are shared by these two conditions and which inform the opinion that, although autism and dyslexia are distinct conditions, they can occur in the same individual.


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