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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 at 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 program from the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) prepares graduates to be essential educators in the reading process. This program offers seven different certifications — including 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. ULM’s School of Education programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program also prepares students in Louisiana to add on a Teacher Leader endorsement.

The Unique Roles of Reading and ESL Specialists

While many of the strategies and concepts for Reading specialists and are closely aligned, there are differences, particularly regarding their school roles. 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 often support developing schools’ reading programs and curricula. They also work with other departments, such as , 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 $52,002, according to (as of May 2023).

ESL Specialist

Like reading specialists, ESL specialists play a critical role in helping to develop literacy skills among student groups who might usually 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 knowledge of the students and their perspectives, increasing opportunities for connection.

This awareness usually means a better understanding of the in the school community and the ability to extend learning opportunities to parents at home. Just as with reading specialists, many roles also include ESL specialists for leadership positions in their schools. The average annual salary of an ESL specialist in the U.S. is $54,584, according to (as of May 2023).

Whether students want to become reading or ESL specialists, ULM’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program can lead them to fulfilling, impactful careers in education.

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program.

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