Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

We ranked the best doctorate in reading and literacy online programs to help you make an informed and smart choice. Evaluate your options in this helpful guide.
20 min read

Share this Article

An online doctorate in reading and literacy can equip professionals with knowledge about the acquisition of literacy and reading skills. Some graduates conduct research or work in postsecondary education to train future educators. Other individuals pursue careers in instructional design, administration, or curriculum development.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students in graduate programs at public schools paid an average of over $12,100 during the 2018-2019 academic year. Master's programs at private schools cost almost $26,000 annually. Students may save money by enrolling in online schools. However, an online degree often comes with additional technology fees and other expenses. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Most doctoral programs in reading and literacy require students to complete 40-80 credit hours. Students typically spend the first 2-3 years taking core and elective classes, after which they write and defend a dissertation on an original research topic.

The employment outlook for individuals with a doctorate in reading and literacy is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that college and university instructor and instructional coordinator positions will grow 12% and 10%, respectively, between 2020 and 2030. These rates exceed the projected growth rate of 8% across all occupations.

Pay varies widely among reading and literacy occupations, with professionals in leadership and postsecondary positions typically earning the highest salaries. For instance, according to the BLS, the top 10% of instructional coordinators, who oversee school curricula and teaching standards, earned more than $105,650 in May 2020. In contrast, Payscale reports that educational specialists, who may work one-on-one with teachers to alter lessons, make an average annual salary of $51,080 in January 2022.

What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

People who see literacy as a social justice issue or who want to help others learn to read might find an online doctorate in reading and literacy attractive. This field might also interest individuals who wish to understand how nonnative speakers learn a new language. Individuals who exhibit empathy and patience and want to help others learn might apply their doctorate to a job in education.

A traditional or online doctorate in reading and literacy takes 2-6 years to complete, depending on students' schedules and programs' graduation requirements. Students typically take 40-80 credit hours of core and elective courses, including credits toward completing their dissertation. Learners who want to graduate more quickly might consider online programs that offer self-paced or asynchronous courses.

In addition to core classes, most doctoral programs offer electives that can count toward a concentration, such as adult education or early childhood and elementary literacy. Other specializations include teaching English as a second language (ESL), pedagogy and curriculum, or literacy.

Depending on their career goals, students may also be able to pursue a specific degree track. For example, individuals interested in teaching might choose to pursue a doctor of education (Ed.D.). A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) might suit people who want to work in postsecondary education or conduct research in reading and literacy.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program?

Instructional Leadership in Reading and Literacy

This course prepares individuals pursuing jobs in curriculum development. Students learn how to assess and improve reading-related learning outcomes. This class also covers literacy assessment methods and tools.

Literacy Acquisition

In this interdisciplinary course, students learn how individuals develop skills in literacy and reading. The class also applies sociological and psychological theories to understand how individuals learn to read, including students with disabilities.

Research in the Teaching of Writing

Students learn about historical and current methods in teaching writing skills. This course also discusses various methods for researching how people learn writing in conventional and nontraditional education contexts.

Research Design

Students pursuing a doctorate in reading and literacy benefit from this course if they plan to work in postsecondary settings. The class covers the design and implementation of research studies in literacy acquisition.

Theories of Reading

As a core course in most online doctoral programs in reading and literacy, theories of reading covers the research, theory, and practice of teaching literacy. Students also learn about contemporary topics in the discipline, including trends and current research.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program?

Most people applying to a doctorate in reading and literacy program hold a master's in education or a related field. Departments offering education-related concentrations might also require applicants to possess teaching experience and certification. Most programs require a minimum GPA and typically request that candidates submit official transcripts and GRE scores.

Prospective students should also expect to provide academic writing samples and 1-3 letters of recommendation. Because schools have different admission requirements, applicants should direct their questions to the appropriate graduate or admissions directors before submitting their applications.


Prospective students generally complete an application, which includes fields for personal information, test scores, and other documents. Most colleges and universities use an online application system, such as the Common App or the Coalition for College app, to manage undergraduate applications. However, students applying to master's and doctoral programs typically need to apply to each school individually.

Test Scores

Most graduate schools request that students submit scores from entrance exams like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). These assessments intend to predict students' success in graduate school by measuring their writing, mathematical, and analytical skills. Applicants who need to take the GRE might check for changes in testing schedules because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants should expect to submit at least one letter of recommendation from a former professor, employer, or mentor when applying to graduate school. Recommendation letters highlight applicants' achievements, strengths, and suitability for graduate study. Prospective students should allow letter writers plenty of time to complete their recommendations before application deadlines.

Resume and Work Experience

Students should find out which doctorate in reading and literacy programs require prior work experience. A resume or curriculum vitae can highlight work-related achievements that candidates may not have space to mention in other parts of a grad school application. Regardless of work requirements, applicants might submit their resumes as part of their application packages.


Most programs offering an online doctorate in reading and literacy require candidates to write an application essay. This essay allows applicants to emphasize their academic achievements and strengths, some of which might not come across in other application materials. The most effective personal statements tell a compelling story, show clear organization, and directly answer the prompt or question.

Official Transcripts

Graduate schools generally require academic transcripts listing courses from previous schools. Students might transfer some of their college credits to fulfill some core requirements in their doctoral programs. Applicants should also explore whether military, professional credentials, certification, or relevant work experience can count as credit.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Degree?

Career Outlook

Positions for professionals with doctorates in reading and literacy will likely remain in demand in the near future. The BLS reports that jobs for social and community service managers and instructional coordinators will grow 15% and 10%, respectively, between 2020 and 2030. These figures exceed the average projected growth rate of 8% across all occupations during the same period.

A doctorate in reading and literacy can allow professionals to access lucrative work. For example, the BLS reports that postsecondary teachers and adult literacy educators made a median annual salary of $80,560 and $55,350, respectively, in May 2020. Annual pay varies by location, work experience, education, and occupation.

An online doctorate in reading and literacy can qualify most individuals for postsecondary education, curriculum development, adult literacy, and nonprofit work. Graduates might also assist adults learning English as a second language. Also, a doctorate can expand access to managerial and leadership opportunities.

See what you can do with a doctorate in reading and literacy. Learn more about careers in education.

Career Paths

Postsecondary Teachers

Professionals in higher education teach and often research reading and literacy. Postsecondary educators work in public or private schools, teaching classes and conducting laboratory or field research. They also might supervise students' independent projects or offer academic advising. Many professors also serve on committees, recruit new students, and help plan curricula.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $80,560

Social and Community Service Managers

These professionals oversee and plan programs that deliver public services. Specifically, these managers supervise personnel, ensure program objectives meet stakeholder expectations, and recommend and implement organizational improvements. These individuals also spend significant portions of their time fundraising and increasing community awareness of their organizations' services.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $69,600

Educational Specialists

Educational specialists focus on improving the way students learn. These professionals collaborate with teachers and administrators to ensure that programs assess students' learning outcomes according to their ages and abilities. These specialists' duties typically include recommending changes to programs, ensuring that instructional materials and methods adhere to educational standards, and training teachers and staff.

Median Annual Salary (January 2022): $51,080

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators create, carry out, and evaluate course curricula. Their jobs include designing instructional materials and methods and finding the best ways to apply them in the classroom. These professionals recommend teaching standards according to state requirements and current research in the field. They also train educators to define and assess learning outcomes.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $66,970

Adult Literacy and ESL Teachers

These instructors work with adult learners who need help developing their reading and literacy skills. Some professionals assist pupils in learning ESL. Their duties typically include planning and teaching lessons, identifying potential learning disabilities, tracking student progress, and facilitating the acquisition of primary and advanced skills in reading, writing, and language.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $55,350

Reading and Literacy Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Professionals in education must continually receive training and certification to stay current in their fields. People who teach in public elementary and secondary schools must maintain state licensure. Many postsecondary institutions provide licensing and certification courses. Some of these schools offer free massive open online courses (MOOCs), which provide workshops, classes, and other educational resources.

One type of credential is a reading specialist certificate, which qualifies professionals to help students at the K-12 level improve their literacy. An early childhood language and literacy certification prepares educators to help children learn to read and write in elementary and pre-K settings.

How Do I Choose an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program?


The cost of an online doctorate in reading and literacy varies by school, location, and residency status. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average tuition for a doctorate totaled $114,300 in 2021. This figure differs for public and private schools. Many online programs cost less than in-person courses of study, especially if they waive out-of-state tuition. When considering a graduate degree, students should also keep in mind other expenses, such as room and board, books, and student services.

Program Format

Online doctoral programs vary in their delivery formats. For instance, asynchronous courses might benefit some students with full-time jobs, allowing them to complete their class requirements on their own time. Learners who want to earn their degrees in shorter time frames might consider enrolling full time instead of taking classes on a part-time basis.


Online doctoral programs can prove more accessible for people limited by geography, work schedules, or finances. Students who can easily learn at their own pace might find an online program suitable. On the other hand, learners who want the interaction of a traditional classroom setting might prefer on-campus classes.


Doctorate in reading and literacy programs with accreditation can demonstrate academic rigor and adherence to educational requirements. Individuals attending accredited schools can obtain financial aid, and their credits can transfer to other institutions. Students should also determine whether a doctoral program holds programmatic accreditation from an organization like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Student Support

As with on-campus schools, online programs offer various student services to help enrollees make the most of their educational experience. For instance, individuals can contact student services to access disability accommodations, writing assistance, and academic advising. These programs also help with internships, job interview preparation, and other types of employment assistance.

Best Accredited Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Best Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

  • Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC



    Appalachian — located in Boone, North Carolina — serves more than 19,000 students. The university offers a comprehensive array of certificates and degrees, including online options like a doctorate in educational leadership. Learners may complete this degree fully online or take evening classes on campus once a week.

    The program's required coursework covers topics like organizational and systems theory, qualitative research methods, and program evaluation and policy analysis. The curriculum offers six concentrations, including literacies in exceptionalities, which focuses on advanced reading instruction and assessment.

    Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and strong GRE scores. Prospective students also need to submit four references and a five-page statement of purpose.

  • Concordia University Chicago

    River Forest, IL



    CUC delivers over 50 online programs, including online Ed.D and Ph.D. in leadership tracks with a reading, language, and literacy specialization. Participants develop the practical and theoretical framework needed to work as researchers in literacy instruction and assessment.

    Students pursuing their doctorate in reading and literacy complete 61-67 credits of courses, including core classes like development and evaluation of literacy programs; new literacies and multiliteracies in education; and literacy supervision, leadership, and coaching. Students gain hands-on skills by completing two consecutive semesters of internships. Learners round out the program with a dissertation defense and a comprehensive exam.

    Applicants need a regionally accredited master's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit adequate GRE scores and have at least two years of lead teaching experience.

  • Indiana University Bloomington

    Bloomington, IN



    IU powers distance education with the Canvas platform, providing over 140 online programs, including a fully online doctoral degree in literacy, culture, and language education. After completing this 60-credit program, graduates are prepared to work as instructional materials writers, literacy program directors, and curriculum consultants.

    Students take core classes like educational technology and inclusive instruction practices. Learners gain advanced research skills, which they strengthen during an internship. Participants also complete six credits of electives and dissertation work.

    To enroll in this online doctoral program, prospective learners need a master's degree earned with a minimum 2.7 GPA. Admission requirements include GRE scores, a personal statement, and two recommendation letters.

  • SUNY at Albany

    Albany, NY



    UAlbany serves about 18,000 students, many of whom enroll online through asynchronous courses powered by Blackboard. The university offers an online Ph.D. in literacy that prepares graduates for leadership positions in colleges and universities, state education departments, and policy centers. Learners choose from a fully online delivery method or a hybrid format that includes some evening courses on campus.

    Program coursework covers topics like literacy as social practice, research tools and methodologies, and literacy learning and development across the lifespan. Students gain hands-on experience by completing a practicum or a teaching assistantship. Learners personalize their curriculum through 27 elective credits.

    The program offers a fall entry date. Applicants must submit GRE scores, three recommendation letters, and an academic writing sample.

  • St. John's University

    Queens, NY



    St. John's delivers online learning through Blackboard. The university's distance programs include an online doctor of philosophy in literacy. This program's 42-credit curriculum focuses on diverse and at-risk learners, preparing graduates to advocate for equity and social justice in their roles as teacher educators, school literacy specialists, and curriculum/staff developers.

    To earn this online doctorate, students take seven consecutive semesters of coursework followed by dissertation work. The curriculum covers topics like educational research and data analysis, literacy leadership, and models and processes for reading and writing acquisition.

    Program applicants need a master's degree earned with a minimum 3.2 GPA. They must submit GRE or MAT scores, two recommendation letters, a resume or CV, and a goals statement. Prospective students should also have full-time teaching experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Is a doctorate in reading and literacy worth it?

Chevron Down

Despite the significant monetary and time commitment that a doctoral program requires, an online doctorate in reading and literacy can increase professionals' earning potential and employment opportunities. The degree qualifies many individuals for leadership and other high-level positions in education and similar fields.

People pursuing jobs in research and postsecondary education typically benefit from earning a doctorate. Also, individuals with a passion for promoting literacy might find this career track rewarding and meaningful.

What can I do with a doctorate in reading and literacy?

Chevron Down

People can gain access to various careers with a doctorate in reading and literacy. Graduates can obtain higher-level general or special education jobs as teachers, educational specialists, instructional designers, or curriculum developers. They can also work with adult learners and ESL students. This degree also qualifies many professionals for academic research. A reading and literacy doctorate can prepare individuals for work settings outside of education, such as nonprofit organizations, policy centers, and research.

How long does it take to earn a doctorate in reading and literacy online?

Chevron Down

Students pursuing an online doctorate in reading and literacy take between 2-6 years to graduate. For the first 2-3 years, most students enroll in a combination of core and elective classes. Once they complete their courses and successfully pass their oral exams, students typically spend the next year or two researching and writing a dissertation or original research project. The amount of time students take depends on program requirements, course load per semester, and other factors like work and personal schedules.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in reading and literacy?

Chevron Down

Despite variations in pay among reading and literacy occupations, many doctoral graduates enjoy relatively lucrative careers. According to the BLS, ESL and adult literacy instructors earned a median annual salary of $55,350 in May 2020, compared to a median yearly wage of $41,950 across all occupations. Also, the BLS reports that instructional coordinators earned a median salary of $66,970 during the same period, with professionals in government and elementary and secondary schools earning even more. The highest 10% made $105,650 in the same year.

What are the highest paying jobs for professionals with a doctorate in reading and literacy?

Chevron Down

Professionals working in academic research and postsecondary education tend to enjoy some of the highest salaries in the reading and literacy field. According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers earned a median yearly wage of $80,560 in May 2020. Managerial positions also tend to pay relatively high salaries. The BLS reports that social and community service managers made a median annual salary of $95,180 during the same period. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.