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What It Takes to Be a Literacy Specialist

From literacy assessment to intervention to program development, literacy specialists help ensure students are literate.

Literacy is essential. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) calls literacy a right and a fundamental component of informed decision-making, personal empowerment, and all forms of participation in modern society.1 That’s why literacy specialists are so vital in our schools. Without them, many students would lack the literacy competency they need to succeed in life.

If you want to make a real difference in your education career, you may be considering becoming a literacy specialist or taking your current literary specialist career to the next level. But do you have what it takes? Here’s what you need to be a successful literacy specialist:

What It Takes to Be a Literacy Specialist

An Eagerness to Help

First and foremost, if you want to succeed as a literacy specialist, you need to be motivated to help others. And those you are helping need to trust you have their best interests at heart. For many—from kindergarteners through high schoolers—literacy problems can be a source of embarrassment. Whether you’re handling literacy assessments and interventions or overseeing a literacy program, you need to make students feel comfortable and valued.


No one learns to read and write overnight. It takes time, which requires you to have patience. Consider the results of reading assessments not as a goal reached or missed but as a guidepost that lets you know if you can continue on the same path or if you need to change course. That way, you can keep focused on the end goal, even if a student’s progress is slow or stalls.

A Team-Player Attitude

Literacy specialists are almost always part of a team, either working directly with classroom teachers, advising administrators, or participating in the development of a state’s or district’s literacy program. As such, you have to be a good listener, paying attention to the specific concerns and needs of teachers, administrators, and/or governing bodies. And you have to make sure you’re fully addressing those concerns and meeting those needs, or clearly explaining why you want to take a different course of action.


Every educator needs the ability to self-assess. Make sure you don’t get so wrapped up in executing a specific literacy program or solving a specific issue that you lose focus of the bigger picture. Namely: Are you doing as good of a job as you can? Most likely, there will always be parts of your teaching, administration techniques, or research methods that you can improve. Having the introspection necessary to identify your weak spots can help you strengthen your overall performance and ensure you’re doing the best job possible.

The Right Degree

Being a literacy specialist requires specific knowledge of everything from using digital literacy assessments to properly diagnosing and treating specific literacy issues. To acquire the knowledge you need to truly excel in the field, you need the right kind of degree. And the more advanced the degree, the better.

Depending on your career aspirations, there are three degrees that are particularly good for those who want to improve literacy and literacy education. They are an EdS in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment; a Doctor of Education with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment; and a PhD in Education with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, Assessment, and Evaluation.

The EdS degree (education specialist degree) is ideal for any education professional who wishes to influence growth in reading and literacy—including classroom teachers, lead teachers, reading specialists, literacy coaches, department chairs, and curriculum specialists. The Doctor of Education (EdD degree) takes the knowledge of the EdS a step further, helping develop skills and strategies that can improve reading and curriculum outcomes across the educational spectrum, including classroom instruction, program design, and policy implementation. If you prefer a more academic path (instead of the more professional path of the EdS or EdD), the PhD degree could be the right choice, as it involves the development of literacy-related research projects and the critique of significant research.

While the three degree programs vary in focus and scope, they do have one thing in common. You can earn any of them at an online university. That’s a significant plus because online learning can make completing an EdS, PhD, or EdD program more possible. Instead of requiring you to live close to a campus, online degree programs let you stay right where you are and complete your coursework from home or anywhere else you have internet access. Online education also lets you choose when in the day you attend class. That means you can participate in an online EdS program, an online EdD program, or an online PhD program while continuing to work full time.

As UNESCO says, literacy is a right. With an advanced education degree, you can help ensure students gain the skills they need to enjoy that right.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an EdS in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment program; a Doctor of Education program with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment; and a PhD in Education program with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, Assessment, and Evaluation, all online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,