To become a certified reading specialist, an individual must earn a bachelor's degree in education, become a licensed teacher, pursue a teaching career, and acquire an advanced degree in reading teacher education. In some states, students must pass a state-sponsored reading specialist exam to acquire certifications or endorsements.
The first step to becoming a reading specialist is to enroll in a teacher preparation program and earn a bachelor's degree in education or reading education. In most programs, students spend the first two years taking introductory teaching and general education courses. Students spend the next two years on reading literacy and teaching courses. Some programs require students to attend more than one practicum in different grade levels to gain experience with struggling learners. After graduation, students can take a state-sponsored exam to earn a reading specialist endorsement.
Students who wish to increase their competitiveness or who reside in states that require a master's degree to gain the reading specialist certification may pursue a degree in reading education. The graduate program focuses on theories of literacy and may include courses on methods of evaluating student abilities and curricula. Students may also pursue graduate programs that award a master's degree in reading and language arts. These programs cover professional development, literacy education and linguistics and multicultural studies.