Reading: Reading Specialist Emphasis - Master of Science in Education

This multifaceted, online program is designed to meet the needs of educators who are interested in (a) ongoing professional development in reading education and (b) certification in the State of Wisconsin as a Reading Specialist (5017 license).

Master of Science in Education in Reading Program

The online UW‐La Crosse Master of Science in Education in Reading Program is dedicated first and foremost to preparing graduate students who serve communities, families, students, schools and fellow educators as leaders in literacy education.

Through preparation and experiences in developmental and exceptional literacy instruction and assessment, students in the Master of Science in Education in Reading Program develop their knowledge, skills, and dispositions as classroom teachers of reading, as Title I or other Reading teachers, or as Reading Specialists or Consultants/Coaches for schools and/or districts.

Graduates of the Reading Program at UW­‐La Crosse are prepared:

  1. To model current and authentic best practice in K‐12 literacy education;

  2. To seek and identify current research­‐based strategies and resources;

  3. To provide services and support in literacy assessment, diagnosis, and evaluation;

  4. To remain accountable to constituent groups;

  5. And to advocate for students, families, and colleagues.

The Reading Teacher and Reading Specialist programs are aligned to the 2017 Standards for Reading Professionals of the International Literacy Association (ILA) and to WI Teaching Standards (for the Reading Teacher programs) or to WI Administrator Standards (PI 34.003, for the Reading Specialist programs). The ILA standards focus on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for effective educational practice and highlight contemporary research and evidence-based practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and leadership. These recently updated standards address the need for a broader definition of literacy beyond reading to include writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing in both print and digital realms. Likewise, the UWL Reading Teacher and Reading Specialist curricula are based on current research and best practice in the fields of literacy and reading. The program is delivered in an online format and is dedicated first and foremost to preparing educators who serve communities, families, students, schools, and fellow educators as leaders in literacy education.

This program is offered to students in the fall, spring, and summer terms. When a student reaches their fourth term in the graduate Reading Program, students interested in this subprogram may apply to join the cohort.


To qualify for unconditional admission to the Reading: Reading Specialist (5017) Emphasis, a candidate for the program must:

  • Meet all UWL graduate application requirements.
  • Hold a bachelor's degree in education from an accredited institution. 
  • Have an overall undergraduate grade point average of 2.85 or higher on a 4.00 scale.
  • Provide evidence of teaching license or certificate (i.e. copy of teaching license).
  • Complete a successful criminal background check (initiated by UWL).

Criminal background check

The WI Department of Public Instruction (DPI) requires that candidates for admission to a teacher education, administration, or pupil services program successfully pass a criminal background check (CBC) as one criterion for admission. By applying for admission to one of these programs, candidates agree to provide the necessary personal information to UWL in order to initiate their CBC and to complete their portion of the process prior to the deadline specified in their admission letter. Program candidates are responsible for all costs associated with their criminal background check(s).

Out-of-state applicants

This program may meet other states' licensing requirements. An applicant's state may or may not require that the applicant get a Wisconsin teaching license to be endorsed for their program of study. The Wisconsin licensing process may include taking coursework in Native American Studies (ACT 31). The applicant should check with their state licensing board prior to applying to ensure they understand the appropriate pathway to meet their state's licensing requirements.


(30 credits)

RDG 600Research Methods in Literacy3
RDG 711Advanced Research Methods in Literacy3
RDG 718Guiding and Directing a Schoolwide Reading/Literacy Program3
RDG 780Reading Specialist Practicum3
Action Research in Literacy (six credits required)6
Action Research in Literacy
Reading electives12
Literacy and Language Development for Diverse Learners
Disciplinary Literacy
Literacy Assessment and Instruction
Emergent Literacy
Reading Teacher Practicum
Children's and Adolescent Literature
Other reading course credits
Total Credits30

Program completion and eligibility for certification

Eligibility for Reading Specialist (5017) certification is contingent upon:

  • Satisfactory completion of Reading Specialist (5017) Program coursework, associated experiences, and artifacts.
  • Passing score on the Foundations of Reading Test or hold a WI Lifetime Administrator License.
  • Completion of DPI employment verification form documenting at least six semesters as the teacher of record, or at least six semesters as a school counselor, school psychologist, or school social worker and 540 hours of classroom teaching experience in K-12 schools,
    • Or hold a WI Lifetime Teaching License.

University graduate degree requirements

After being admitted to the program of one's choice, candidates for a graduate degree must:

  1. Complete any preliminary course work and deficiencies.
  2. Complete all courses and other program requirements, including residence requirements prescribed for the degree desired in the respective school or college within a seven-year period from the date of initial enrollment, with the exception of students enrolled in the Student Affairs Administration and Leadership Ed.D. (SAA Ed.D.) graduate program. SAA Ed.D. students must complete all degree requirements within ten years from the time of initial enrollment in the graduate program.
  3. Earn a minimum of 30 credits for a master's degree; 54 credits for a doctorate or post-master's degree. Earn at least one-half of the minimum number of credits required in the program in graduate-only level courses (700, 800, 900, and non-slash 600 level courses). Some UWL graduate programs require more than 30 graduate credits. Please review the individual program requirements listed in the catalog for the exact number of credits required.
  4. Earn a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00.
  5. Satisfy dissertation, thesis, seminar paper, terminal/graduate projects and internships, or comprehensive examination, where applicable. A dissertation or thesis approved by the committee must be submitted to Graduate & Extended Learning for editorial review and approval by the Dean of Graduate & Extended Learning. The recommended initial submission date for review is two weeks before commencement. Ordinarily, a seminar paper or project report does not have to be approved by the Dean of Graduate & Extended Learning. However, if the seminar paper or project report is to be archived in Murphy Library, the student must follow the same rules as they apply to the dissertation/thesis requiring approval from the Dean of Graduate & Extended Learning. For further research/dissertation/thesis guidelines, see Graduate & Extended Learning.
  6. File a completed "Intent to Graduate" form online via the WINGS Student Center immediately following registration for the final semester or summer term in residence. December graduates and winter intersession should file by May 1. May and summer graduates should file by December 1.
  7. Pay the graduation fee and remove all other indebtedness to the university. Payment of graduation fees does not imply readiness for graduation and does not take the place of applying for graduation.
  8. Complete all requirements within 30 days after the official ending date of a term in order for a degree to be awarded for that term. (See #5 above for separate deadline for written capstone experience.)