Reading & Literacy

The Top 10 Reasons to Get a Master’s in Language and Literacy

The Top 10 Reasons to Get a Master’s in Language and Literacy
As a language and literacy expert, you will help identify and remedy students' language and literacy challenges before those challenges become insurmountable impediments to learning. Image from Unsplash
Tom Meltzer profile
Tom Meltzer June 17, 2019

You want to translate your passion for reading and communication into a fulfilling, meaningful career. A master's in literacy and language can be your babel fish.

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We shouldn’t need to tell you that the consequences of illiteracy are profound (but, if you’re actually on the fence, the Literacy Foundation has a significant body of evidence you can browse online):

  • Individuals lacking literacy skills are two to four times more likely to be unemployed than are college-educated workers, and earn lower incomes when they work;
  • They suffer low self-esteem and poorer health, and they are less likely to be aware of — and thus take advantage of — government programs that could improve their situations;
  • On a societal scale, illiteracy is a drag on GDP and damages democracy, because those lacking literacy skills are less likely to be involved with, and informed on political issues.

In 2003, the Department of Education estimated that approximately 14 percent of Americans did not meet the level of basic prose literacy level, defined as being able to locate easily identifiable information in short, simple prose, but unable to read beyond that level. That means approximately 32 million Americans lack many of the opportunities that the rest of the populace enjoy as a benefit of literacy.

In an age in which employment and economic advancement depend increasingly on more developed, more specialized skills, the handicap of illiteracy can only grow more severe, furthering the divide between the haves and have-nots. The promotion of literacy, consequently, is one of the great callings. If you want to make the world a better place, fewer missions are more effective than teaching people to read and communicate.

That’s what makes the master’s in literacy and language so important: it trains those whose mission is to spread literacy by addressing the root causes of illiteracy. Here are ten reasons to get a master’s in literacy and language.

Top ten reasons to get a master’s in literacy and language

10. Literacy is the key that opens the door to all other learning

The ability to read and communicate underlies all education, not just literacy and language education. Without sufficient literacy and language skills, a student can’t learn science, mathematics, social studies, or any other core academic discipline. As a language and literacy expert, you will help identify and remedy students’ language and literacy challenges before those challenges become insurmountable impediments to learning. Your intervention could be the difference between a lifetime of learning and a lifetime of struggling to learn.

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9. You will spend your days immersed in reading and language

Are you the sort of person who can imagine nothing better than curling up with a good book? Do you thrive on reading and communication? If your skills and interest lie in the language arts, what better way to earn your living than to study and teach language and communication skills? As you pursue your master’s, you will dive deep into the theory and practice of literacy and language instruction. Then comes your professional life: whether you’ll be working with students, teachers, school administrators, school district officials, education publishers, or policy experts, you’ll spend your days thinking about, talking about, and acting on language and literacy education. There’s an old saying: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

8. You will get to choose from a wide range of specializations

Within your master’s of literacy and language program, you will likely have a number of options for areas of specialization; this is not a one-size-fits-all discipline. You can specialize by age group or skill group; your choices will likely include:

  • Preschool through grade 5 instruction
  • Grade 6 through 12 instruction
  • Adult instruction
  • Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)/English as a second language (ESL)
  • Reading skills
  • Writing skills
  • Word learning skills
  • Oral language learning skills
  • Children’s literature
  • Media literacy
  • Literacy and technology
  • General language and literacy

7. You will learn about a broad range of subjects and disciplines

The study of literacy and language encompasses a broad and fascinating range of academic disciplines. In order to master this area, you will also have to develop some expertise in such diverse subjects as:

  • History: how people have learned to read and communicate in the past; the ways in which those approaches were faulty, and how were they improved; advances that have been made in recent years
  • Neuroscience: how the nervous system works, which impacts all learning, including learning challenges such as dyslexia and dyscalculia
  • Psychology: how people learn and process learning, how to motivate learners, how to measure learning progress
  • Sociology: how income, location, family structure, and other societal factors impact and influence learning and literacy
  • Statistics: how to collect, aggregate, and interpret data effectively for the purposes of research and assessment
  • Technology: how new technologies impact literacy learning and the meaning of literacy itself

6. You will develop research skills and learn to apply research to practice

All graduate level study requires research skills, and the master’s in literacy and language is no exception. Your master’s will teach you to pore through journals, government databases, theses and dissertations, and other such materials to aggregate the evidence you need to make a compelling academic argument. This valuable skill will carry over into your career as a literacy and language expert, no matter what job that degree ultimately lands you.

5. You can earn the degree fairly quickly and inexpensively

Most master’s in literacy and language programs can be completed in two years or less by full-time students; part-time study can twice as long. And nearly all state universities have schools of education, you can earn this degree at a very reasonable in-state tuition rate. You may even be able to complete the degree online

4. You will become a better communicator

No, not because you’ll be studying communication at the graduate level, although that won’t hurt. Your master’s in literacy and language will make you a better communicator because your subsequent career will almost invariably involve communicating with numerous stakeholders about teaching objectives, teaching strategies, teaching techniques, and teaching results. If you wind up in the classroom, you will be communicating with students, fellow teachers, administrators, and parents. Other career options in the field also require constant communication in order to learn, inform, and advocate on behalf of good language and literacy practice. There are no sit-at-your-desk-alone jobs in literacy and language. You’ll be interacting with others all the time, and becoming a better communicator in the process.

3. Your master’s will prepare you for a broad range of career options

A master’s degree in literacy and language qualifies you for numerous careers in education — at the school, district, state, or national level — as well as for careers in education publishing, government, policy creation, and policy advocacy. The jobs this degree will open to you include:

  • Classroom teacher: A classroom teacher can choose to specialize in early childhood, elementary, secondary, high school, or adult learning. No matter where you teach, your expertise in learning and literacy will improve your teaching in all subjects. Above the elementary level, your degree will qualify you as a English language arts specialist.
  • Literacy coach/reading specialist:__ As a literacy coach or reading specialist, you will work with classroom teachers to guide their language and literacy instruction and to administer and interpret assessments. You’ll become a leader of professional development and a mentor to teachers throughout a school or school district.
  • Resource teacher: A resource teacher specializes in teaching literacy and language to students facing educational or physical challenges. A resource teacher often works in conjunction with a classroom teacher, providing one-on-one or small-group instruction to students with special needs.
  • Curriculum specialist: A curriculum specialist works with one school, several schools, or an entire school district to devise, implement, and monitor curriculum. Responsibilities include selecting textbooks and other resources, training teachers in the use of new curricular materials, monitoring standardized test scores and developing strategies to improve them, and communicating goals and results to all stakeholders (students, teachers, administrators, parents).
  • Education writer/editor: Someone needs to create all the textbooks, worksheets, and handouts that drive curriculum. This work requires a level of expertise that a master’s in literacy and language provides.
  • Policy advocate: The education world is full of many advocacy groups promoting a variety of teaching methods, curricula, and education theories, as well as representing the interests of all sorts of different groups of students, parents, and teachers. These groups need experts to identify and formulate the solutions they champion, and to advocate effectively with policy makers. A master’s in literacy and language confers that expertise.

2. Your master’s should improve your lifelong earning potential

According to a report from the Center for American Progress, a master’s degree results in a pay increase for teachers between $1,423 (Texas) and $10,777 (Washington). The median pay raise is $5,192. Over the course of a career, those raises can add up to a decent pile of change.

A master’s degree also qualifies you for jobs you wouldn’t be eligible for with just a bachelor’s degree (see our list of career options above). You need a master’s degree to be an instructional coordinator, for example, a position which the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks the second-highest earning in its education, training, and literacy job category (post-secondary education — i.e. college professor — ranks first; it’s another position you can’t reasonably expect to get without a master’s degree).

1. Literacy is a gateway to financial, intellectual, and spiritual success

Literacy makes all other learning possible: without learning, avenues to wealth, knowledge, and spiritual fulfillment are difficult — arguably impossible — to access. If you want to get a good and fulfilling job; if you want to understand the world; if you want to explore the questions of greater meaning in life, you need to be able to read and communicate effectively. By committing your life to the field of literacy and language, you will be helping facilitate those benefits for many, many people. It’s hard to imagine a greater gift, or a more noble life purpose.

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About the Author

Tom Meltzer began his career in education publishing at The Princeton Review, where he authored more than a dozen titles (including the company's annual best colleges guide and two AP test prep manuals) and produced the musical podcast The Princeton Review Vocab Minute. A graduate of Columbia University (English major), Tom lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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