Reading Specialist Certification

Complete your Wisconsin Reading Specialist #5017 certification. 100% Online. Only three courses if you have a Master's degree and a reading teacher license.
Degree Type Certification
Careers & Salaries Certificate Outcomes
Delivery Online

Become a Literacy and Reading Specialist

Are you seeking advancement in your reading career?

Enhance your literacy leadership and coaching skills through our reading specialist program

How much will it cost?

  • 2023-2024: $476 per semester hour graduate credit ($1,428 per course)
  • Tuition is the same for Wisconsin residents, out-of-state, and international students.
  • Tuition Due Dates

E-textbooks are included in the tuition fee.


Online Registration Form

Register now to reserve a spot, there is no registration fee to reserve a class.
Register Now!

Reading Specialist Course Sequence

  • 100% online
  • No travel to campus required for weekend or night classes
  • Each reading specialist course is three semester hours of graduate credit.
  • If you are teaching full-time, enrolling in one course per term is the recommendation of the reading faculty.
  1. RDGED 720 Leading and Directing the Reading Program
    Fall: September 16 - November 22, 2024
  2. RDGED 721 Supporting Literacy Instruction
    Spring 2025: TBA
  3. RDGED 722  Reading Specialist Field Experience*
    Spring: January 29 - April 26, 2024
    Fall: September 9 - December 6, 2024
    (*Prerequisites: completion of RDGED 720 & RDGED 721, background check)

Program Benefits

  • 100% online courses
  • Field-based experiences in your school district
  • Focus on real-world reading education projects 
  • Credits may also apply as electives in the Master of Science in Education graduate degree
  • Taught by experienced reading specialists
  • Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools (NCA) and the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)
  • Learn more about our other certificates and Professional Development classes

Note: This program is designed to meet the requirements for licensure in the State of Wisconsin. If you reside outside of Wisconsin, please note that UW-Stout cannot confirm whether this program (or course) meets requirements for professional licensure in your state. Students from other states will need to contact their state regarding licensure requirements. See the following website for additional information.


Let's Talk

If you are considering a Reading Specialist Certification, we encourage you to contact Dr. Emily Hines, the certification advisor at She can explain how our certification will give you a unique and competitive advantage as you pursue your career. And when you're ready to get started, Emily will help you successfully complete the certification.

When can I start?

When can I start?

Register now to reserve a spot.

The reading specialist courses are offered two times each year (January and September).

There is no registration fee to reserve a class.

Complete the Online Registration Request Form

This program is very popular, and courses fill well before the start date.

When is the registration deadline for reading specialist courses?

Registration is available until the class is filled or five days before the course begins.

Will the course credits apply to a Master's degree?

Yes, only 8 additional classes are required to obtain your Master of Science in Education graduate degree.

Do I need to apply for admission to the university's graduate program?

No, you do not need to apply for graduate admission to the university unless you are beginning the Master of Science in Education online graduate degree at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Who Should Enroll 

  • Academic/Instructional Coaches
  • Reading Teachers
  • Reading Interventionists
  • Elementary, Middle School, and High School Teachers
  • Title I Teachers
  • RtI Coordinators
  • Literacy Coaches

If you reside outside of Wisconsin, please note that UW-Stout cannot confirm whether this program (or course) meets requirements for professional licensure in your state. See the following website for additional information. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Online Courses

May I enroll in a single reading specialist course for professional development or license renewal?

Yes, just Register Online.

Yes, you many enroll in the courses to meet your goals for:

  • professional development 
  • a continuing education refresher course
  • license renewal
  • renewal of a teaching license
  • graduate credits to apply for salary advancement
  • transferring credits to another university or state's licensure program
    ***If you live in another state, contact the Department of Public Education/Instruction to see if courses meet their reading specialist requirements.

May I enroll in the reading courses if I have already completed a Master's degree?

Yes; we'd love to have you join us!  Reading specialist application.

Questions/clarifications, please email Dr. Emily Hines at

Reading Specialist Program Admission Requirements 

  1. Reading teacher license (Wisconsin #1316)
  2. Master's degree or enrolled in a Master's degree program
  3. Three years of successful full-time, K-12 classroom teaching experience
    • The three years of teaching experience do not have to be in Wisconsin.
    • A long-term substitute teaching assignment, in Wisconsin or out-of-state for the minimum time of an entire semester, may count towards the total number of years in teaching experience for the reading specialist license.
    • Experience as a reading teacher (i.e. Title I, interventionist, etc) with an emergency license, also counts towards the three years of experience required for the reading specialist license (Wisconsin #5017).
    • The Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) is required to obtain your reading specialist license.

If you have questions about your current Wisconsin teaching license, obtaining a Wisconsin reading teaching license, or the verification of your teaching experience, contact the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at (608) 266-0452 or (608) 266-2386.  

What if I have a #1316 reading teacher license and no Master's degree?

Apply to the Master of Science in Education program at UW-Stout. Apply the Reading Specialist Certification credits as elective credits in your degree program.

Can previous graduate level literacy or reading coursework be applied to the UW-Stout reading specialist certification sequence of courses?

A maximum of three graduate credits completed within the past five years may be transferred pending a final project and syllabus review. 

Transfer credits may only apply to the first course in the reading specialist certification sequence of courses (RDGED 720).

NOTE: The last two courses (RDGED 721 and RDGED 722) must be taken from University of Wisconsin-Stout to demonstrate competencies using specific literacy coaching tools, building/district literacy data analysis, and professional development needs assessments.

If I live outside of the state of Wisconsin, will the reading specialist certification apply in my state?

If you reside outside of Wisconsin, please note that UW-Stout cannot confirm whether this program (or course) meets requirements for professional licensure in your state. See the following website for additional information.

Wisconsin Reading Specialist (#5017) Licensure Requirements
  • Satisfactory disposition ratings
  • Satisfactory e-portfolio rating
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher in each of the reading specialist courses (3 classes, 9 credits)
  • Three years of successful teaching experience
  • Valid Wisconsin teaching license
  • #1316 Wisconsin reading teacher license
  • A master's degree
  • Due to the reading specialist license classification within the administrator category, apply for your new add-on Wisconsin #5017 reading specialist license upon successful completion of the three courses/coursework requirements and after passing the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT).  The passing FORT score is 240. If you currently hold a life administrator license, after successful completion of the three reading specialist courses/coursework, you do not need to complete the FORT and can then apply for your #5017 license.

See examples below:

  • A reading teacher who is completing a reading specialist licensure program who does not hold an administrator license must pass the FORT.
  • An educator who holds a life license in the administrator category does not have to take the FORT to add on a reading specialist license.
  • An administrator who holds a life license but doesn’t hold and has never held a teaching license who wants a reading specialist license must pass the FORT.
  • An administrator who holds a life license but doesn’t hold and has never held a teaching license who wants a K-5 regular education, special education or reading teaching license, must pass the FORT.


Reading Specialist Jobs

How will a graduate reading specialist certification help me?

A reading specialist license is required for any person who directs early childhood through adolescent reading programs or works with reading teachers, classroom teachers, administrators, and others as a resource teacher in reading or literacy coach.

* Use your online reading eportfolio to showcase your skills to act as a resource person to classroom teachers to implement the reading curriculum, work with administrators to support and implement the reading curriculum, conduct an annual evaluation of the reading curriculum, and coordinate the reading curriculum with other reading programs and other support services within the school district.

* Add your reading specialist certification to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

* Enhance your master’s degree with literacy subject matter expertise.

Our Students Say...

This course opened my eyes to the all-encompassing responsibilities of the reading specialist."

I feel that I can be a person who can lead change, who can develop and support a reading program through collaboration and communication, and who will make data-driven decisions based on best practice.”
~ Caryl Kidd, Title One Teacher

This course was a great opportunity for me to reflect on myself as a reading specialist/literacy coach and has given me more confidence.”
~ Jaimie Howe, Literacy Coach

The skills I gained will allow me to provide valuable coaching and staff training to make our reading program an effective program for all students.
~ Karen Thoen, Reading Teacher

"I appreciated the ability to complete the program online. As a full-time teacher and mother of two young children, this was really the only option for me."
~ Reading Specialist Graduate

"I loved being able to prepare materials that I could actually use in my position/school. For instance, creating professional development, resources for teachers, etc."
~ Reading Specialist Graduate

"The information learned transferred directly. I don't feel as though anything was "fluff" or "filler." The instructors were ALL professional and held us to high standards."
~ Reading Specialist Graduate