Skip to content

Reading Specialist or ESL Specialist? Choose Your Path With an M.Ed. in C&I

Reading, writing and speaking skills are the foundation of any learning process. Without the ability to communicate, learning becomes much more difficult. In schools where students' reading levels can vary greatly, identifying disparities in communication skills helps to keep all students on an upward learning trajectory.

Among today's diverse student populations, learning needs have become as varied as ever. For example, many students are learning English as a secondary language, thus requiring teachers who can communicate on their level. Also, due to the rise of digital media and video-based content, many students' attention spans have been stretched thin. Therefore, to properly serve the needs of struggling readers, schools need specialists with the proper training and expertise to offer the assistance students need.

The Best of Both Worlds

The online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) with an emphasis in Literacy Studies program from The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) prepares graduates to be essential educators in the reading process. The M.Ed. in C&I – Literacy Studies program offers two different certifications, Reading Specialist and English as a Second Language (ESL), that students can choose from when taking the next steps in their development as reading educators.

Regardless of which certification students choose to pursue, they can take advantage of a fully online master’s program that instills in graduates the knowledge and skills to serve the literacy-learning needs of all students. The Reading Specialist trajectory is an advanced certification that teachers can add to their existing credentials after earning a master's degree and teaching for two years. In Texas, the ESL option is an add-on certificate that individuals with a teaching certificate can add to their existing credentials after finishing four graduate courses focused on English Language Learners.

UTA's education programs have been recognized by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) and International Literacy Association (ILA) as delivering high-quality instruction to its students through recognized educators and programs. In-state graduates will also be fully prepared to meet the Texas qualifications for the Reading Specialist and TESOL certifications. Out-of-state students should consult the "Out-of-State Residents" section on UTA's program page for more information about credential requirements.

While many of the strategies and concepts for Reading Specialists and ESOL educators are closely aligned, there are differences, particularly regarding their roles in schools. Here's a look at the nuances of these distinct positions.

Reading Specialist

WETA's online publication Reading Rockets explains that reading specialists are professional educators with "advanced preparation and experience in reading who have responsibility for the literacy performance of readers in general and struggling readers in particular." Reading specialists work at all levels of education, from elementary students to adult learners, and appear in public and private sectors of education. Beyond their direct student instruction, reading specialists also typically support the development of schools' reading programs and curricula. They also work with other departments, such as special education, to assess student reading levels and diagnose those who need additional assistance. The average annual salary of a reading specialist in the U.S. is $52,352, according to (as of October 2022).

English as Second Language Specialists

Like reading specialists, ESL specialists play a critical role in helping to develop literacy skills among student groups who might normally have difficulty accessing classroom materials. While ESL specialists understand the language acquisition process well, the bilingual online education resource Colorín Colorado from WETA explains that they also bring valuable insights and knowledge of the students that give them a unique ability to reach ESL students. This awareness usually means a better understanding of the cultures and lives of the students in the school community and the ability to extend learning opportunities to parents at home. Just as with reading specialists, such a large number of roles also positions ESL specialists for leadership positions in their schools. The average annual salary of an ESL specialist in the U.S. is $57,133, according to (as of October 2022).

Whether students want to become reading or ESL specialists, UTA's online M.Ed. in C&I – Literacy Studies program will put them on the path to fulfilling, impactful careers in education.

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington's online M.Ed. in C&I with an emphasis in Literacy Studies program.

Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Request More Information

Submit the form below, and a representative will contact you to answer any questions.

*all fields required
or call 866-489-2810 866-489-2810
By submitting this form, I am providing my digital signature agreeing that The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) may email me or contact me regarding educational services by telephone and/or text message utilizing automated technology or a pre-recorded message at the telephone number(s) provided above. I understand this consent is not a condition to attend UTA or to purchase any other goods or services.

Begin Application Process

Start your application today!

Apply Now