1. Education

One way, in fact the most direct way, to help students achieve their literacy goals is to become involved in education. However, if working with young students in a larger classroom setting isn’t for you, that’s ok. There are a wide variety of folks who need assistance with their reading. For example, you might choose to work with adult learners, English speaking individuals learning disabilities, incarcerated individuals, as well as those who speak English as a second language.

You could also work as an individual tutor, educational technician, instructional designer or coordinator, adult literacy teacher, school guidance counselor, or even in upper level administration. Some choose to pursue careers as resource instructors, where they provide “literacy and language skills to students with intellectual or physical challenges that make it hard to learn to read,” according to Noodle. For those who are passionate about literacy, but know working directly with students isn’t for them, a career as a literacy education editor or policy advocate may prove to be worthwhile.

In order to achieve these career goals, you will need to explore the educational options available at your institution, keeping in mind the requirements for educators vary not only by country but by state, even sometimes by counties. Generally, most educators require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and a certification to begin teaching. Those who pursue a master’s degree in literacy or language can find themselves poised to make a significant difference in the lives of their learners.

2. Technology

Currently, only about 17 percent of adult learners are “confident in their ability to use digital tools to pursue learning”, according to Adobe. With the rapid shift from in-person to remote technology spurred the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals found themselves struggling to keep up. This is where a career in technology and IT could come into play. As more workplaces, and educational institutions move online in the interest of safety and economy, there is a significant and growing need for digital literacy. Those with a strong understanding of technology, as well as digital literacy, could find themselves in the position to help others become more comfortable and secure in their use of technology.

Additionally, there will also be options outside of the corporate world, as educators grapple with how to keep students engaged in STEM work outside of the classroom. With many schools and parents opting for remote learning, there’s a need to help students understand the importance of science while still at home. Those who have a strong grasp of technology will be instrumental in crafting programs that still deliver necessary information while keeping students interested and learning.

3. Social policy

While a lot of the aforementioned career and degree options are student-focused, or have an educational component, that might not be for everyone. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t promote literacy outside of the classroom. Those who opt to pursue a degree in social policy will find themselves with a wide array of career options available to them, giving them a broad base in knowledge. With your undergraduate degree, you might work with individuals in underserved communities, social welfare offices, legal offices, and a variety of other options.

Those who choose to go on and specialize with further education or certifications could work more closely with individuals needing literacy support, work in various nonprofits specifically for those who need literacy assistance, or even transition to the private sector to work with corporations. You could also explore areas of “social diversity, criminal justice, youth and community work and politics,” according to prospects.ac.uk.

4. Development studies

Even prior to the pandemic, there were a lot of humanitarian crises throughout the world. However, one of the best ways to combat poverty is through education and literacy. So if you're someone who is passionate about working for progress in the world, a degree in Development Studies might be for you. Those who pursue humanitarian work often have long, interesting careers, with diverse interests and broad skill sets. There’s often opportunity to travel, as well as chances to engage with individuals from other parts of the world. Some humanitarian efforts include working in education in developing countries, responding to emergencies, participating in conservation and environmental preservation efforts, healthcare, and human rights advocacy. In all of these areas, helping people have a strong grasp of literacy is absolutely essential. 

Additionally, those who pursue developmental studies can also find themselves in other functional areas, such as administration of organizations, research, fundraising, planning, relief work, training, and even advocacy. Being able to communicate, demonstrate empathy, understanding, and flexibility are all key components of being successful in this field.

If you’re someone who is passionate about helping others, willing to engage, and seeking opportunities to promote literacy, any of these four areas may be right for you. As the world continues changing, and the needs of others keep evolving, there will be endless opportunities for helpers. Will you be one of them?