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):
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.
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.
Graduate degrees for teachers fall into two categories: the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and the Master of Education (MEd). Many resources indicate that the MAT is the best master’s degree for teachers, while MEd programs are primarily for aspiring educational administrators, policymakers, and other current education professionals who aspire to work outside the classroom. In reality, it’s not quite that simple.
Both MAT and MEd programs tend to be concentration-based, and while there are more part-time and full-time Master of Arts in Teaching programs focused on advanced pedagogic theories and skills, there are also plenty of Master of Education programs with grade-level, subject-area, and student-population concentrations.
In some areas of the US, a teacher with a master’s degree at the top of the salary schedule can earn close to $40,000 more than a teacher with a bachelor’s degree. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that going to graduate school will lead to a substantially bigger paycheck. The only way to know how much you’ll earn after graduating with a master’s in teaching or master’s in education is to look at the salary schedule in your district. You should be able to see at a glance how your education and experience will translate into dollars. ( )
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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.”
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:
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:
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.
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
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.
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:
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).
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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