our everyday life

Literacy Specialist Job Description

by William Henderson, studioD

As a literacy or reading specialist, you’ll primarily help children learn how to read and write, though you also may work with kids who need help learning how to listen and talk. You will also work closely with teachers and school administrators and develop reading and literacy curriculum.


Literacy specialists identify children who need help by first figuring out their reading level. You then work with small groups of children, or individually with a child, to teach the skills needed to improve reading comprehension. Along with working with teachers and administrators, you usually administer state reading tests and often talk to parents of children who need help. You also may develop a school’s reading curriculum and instruct teachers how to implement it in the classroom.


Most schools require instructional coordinators like literacy specialists to hold a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction or in a comparable field. A master’s degree program on curriculum and instruction covers designing curriculum, how to teach and how to collect and analyze data. Earning a master’s degree in reading or English also can help you succeed as a literacy specialist. Master’s programs like these require you to have a bachelor’s degree, usually in teaching or a comparable area. Some schools will hire literacy specialists who only hold a bachelor’s degree.

State Licensure

The guidelines for the type of licensure you need to work as a literacy specialist vary by school district. The school where you work may require you be licensed to teach and/or to hold an education administrator license. To work as a literacy specialist in Kansas, for example, you must have a bachelor’s degree and be licensed to teach in Kansas. Some school districts also require you to be licensed as a literacy specialist.

Literacy Specialist Licensure

Places like The Reading Institute, which offers a certification program in becoming a literacy specialist, offer weekend and summer courses in key areas, including fundamentals of the English language, strategies for improving reading comprehension, how to teach someone how to read and write and using technology in the classroom. After completing these courses, you must pass a Reading Specialist test and a Communication and Literacy test, hold a teaching license and have at least one year experience teaching. Some programs, such as the Massachusetts-based Collaborative Licensure Program, requires its candidates to complete not only required coursework but also a 150-hour practicum. You can apply the credits you earn during this licensure program toward a master’s degree in education and curriculum.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the need for instructional coordinators will grow by 20 percent by 2020. It links this growth to the growing number of schools putting in place tools and personnel to help improve a teacher’s efficacy and help students score better on statewide exams, such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. How much money a school has to spend on instructional coordinators will affect the growth in this industry.

About the Author

William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images