Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program Guide

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James Mielke
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James Mielke writes education and career-focused guides for BestColleges. Beyond higher education topics, his writing has been featured in Golfweek and Eaten Magazine. James has a history degree from Belmont University and is an unapologetic Grateful...
Updated on August 18, 2023
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Whether students want to help others expand their reading and literacy skills in the classroom or take on leadership roles in a literacy-based nonprofit, a doctorate in reading and literacy can help degree-seekers meet their career goals. These programs complement required core coursework with electives and academic concentrations. Participants follow an academic track that highlights the theoretical and practical knowledge essential to the expansion of literacy.

The following page takes a close look at what it takes to earn a doctorate in reading and literacy, who might benefit from earning this degree, and what students can do after they graduate. For students interested in challenging the language barriers for nonnative speakers, expanding adult literacy, and/or examining the social justice concerns inherent to literacy issues, this advanced degree may be a great option.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for instructional coordinators and college-level instructors will grow by 6% and 9%, respectively, between 2019 and 2029. Both of these rates are faster than the average projected growth for all occupations. Students who earn a doctorate in reading and literacy can qualify for these and related positions.

Prior to enrolling, it is worthwhile for prospective students to take a serious inventory of their personal goals and career ambitions.

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Degree-seekers should remember that earning a doctorate can take years of rigorous, time-consuming study. Fortunately, earning a doctorate in reading and literacy can increase your career options and boost your earning potential. Leadership roles, jobs in academia, and positions in the private sector may all pay well.

Before enrolling, it is worthwhile for prospective students to take a serious inventory of their personal goals and career ambitions. This niche degree isn't required for many positions. However, if you decide that a reading and literacy doctorate is the right choice, make sure you do some research to find the best academic program for your situation.

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

What Can I Expect from a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program?

Available through online and on-campus programs, a doctorate in reading and literacy typically takes students anywhere from 2-6 years to complete. Timelines can vary widely depending on a learner's enrollment status and dissertation/course requirements. While enrolled, degree-seekers take a mix of required and elective courses, typically completing 40-80 credits before graduation.

During their doctoral studies, students tackle core requirements that may cover areas like literacy leadership, current topics in literacy, and foundations of literacy inquiry and professionalism. Students also complete a written dissertation, and they may engage in practicum experiences. Additionally, learners can typically customize their curriculum to mirror personal and professional interests. For example, some programs offer additional certifications in areas like early childhood and adult literacy.


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In this specialization, learners take an even closer look at issues and practices surrounding literacy. Courses may investigate theories and strategies for teaching literacy, digital literacy, and the research and practice of teaching writing.


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Focusing on teaching English as a second language, degree-seekers take classes such as linguistics for English language teachers, literacy development for second language learners, and foundations of bilingual language education.

Early Literacy

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Preparing students for academic and leadership roles, this track emphasizes theory and research related to reading instruction and development. Degree-seekers tackle specialized coursework, including language arts in early childhood, trends and issues in teaching reading, and history of theory and practice in literacy.

Pedagogy and Curriculum

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In this concentration, students focus on the theoretical and practical elements of teaching and curriculum construction. Standard coursework delves into theories of reading, multicultural issues in education, and social perspectives of literacy.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs

How to Choose a Reading and Literacy Doctorate Program

When looking for a reading and literacy doctoral program that best fits their needs, prospective learners should consider many factors. Because a doctoral program requires a significant investment of time and money, tuition rates and financial aid opportunities can impact enrollment decisions.

Additionally, academic requirements and concentrations vary between programs. For example, some programs focus on promoting equity and social justice in curricula, while other programs focus on training degree-seekers to assume leadership roles in administration.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Before enrolling in a degree program, applicants should look into a school's accreditation status. In addition to being a signifier of academic rigor and institutional quality, accreditation can help assure students that a program is worthy of their financial investment.

The best colleges and universities typically hold regional accreditation, while for-profit, vocational, and other specialized schools may hold national accreditation. At the programmatic level, reading and literacy doctoral programs may hold specialized accreditation from an organization like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Find the top online doctorate in reading and literacy programs.

How to Get Into a Reading and Literacy Doctoral Program

While admission requirements vary between programs, there are some similarities applicants can expect to encounter. Reading and literacy doctoral programs require interested learners to submit academic transcripts from previously attended schools. Additionally, most programs ask applicants to provide letters of recommendation.

Other common admission requirements include academic writing samples, professional teaching experience, and teaching certification. Some programs may also require GRE scores. As requirements are not consistent between schools, it is best practice to reach out to admissions counselors directly with any questions.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admission.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

Earning a doctorate in reading and literacy can lead to a variety of career opportunities. Degree-seekers develop literacy skills and learn about strategies that can help them elevate teaching and enhance learning in special education, general education, and English-language learning settings. Additionally, a doctorate prepares graduates for academic and research work in a higher education environment.

Typical roles in this field include college professor, curriculum developer, and reading specialist. Graduates can also work in noneducational environments, finding careers at policy centers or research institutions. Schools typically offer career advising and can help students tailor their academic experience to meet career goals.

Popular Career Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

Although salaries can fluctuate significantly between jobs, earning a doctorate in reading and literacy has the potential to increase a worker's pay and boost their career options. Instructional coordinators earn a median yearly salary of about $67,000, while college professors earn around $81,000 annually. Additionally, BLS projects the number of these positions to grow faster than average between 2019 and 2029.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Prepares For

Family Literacy

Focusing on developing literacy during a child's early developmental years while also underscoring adult learning, students in this certificate program evaluate effective literacy programs and their development. Commonly covered topics include adult literacy, early literacy development, parent involvement, and interactive literacy.

Adult Basic Education

Designed for professionals working with adults struggling with essential skills like reading, writing, and math, this certificate provides students with an opportunity to strengthen their teaching ability through research-based and data-driven instruction. Required courses delve into teaching math and numeracy to adults, program planning in adult education, and perspectives on adult learning theory.

Reading Specialist

A reading specialist certificate gives working teachers the opportunity to add to their credentials while tackling practical and theoretical coursework designed to improve student literacy in a K-12 environment. Coursework may go over reading foundations, literacy assessment and evaluation, and diagnosis and correction of reading difficulties.

Early Childhood Language and Literacy

By utilizing current research in the field, certificate students challenge themselves to deepen their knowledge of how young students learn to read and write. Focusing on preschool through third grade, this curriculum covers inquiry-based learning, pre-K reading and writing, and emergent literacy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

How much does it cost to get a doctorate in reading and literacy?

Tuition rates vary considerably between schools. When considering a potential reading and literacy program, know that earning a doctorate requires a serious investment of time and money. In addition to comparing price tags, reach out to schools of interest and inquire about financial aid and funding opportunities.

Is a doctorate in reading and literacy worth it?

For graduate students interested in leadership roles in education settings, earning a doctorate in reading and literacy can help bolster a resume. Although earning a doctorate may require a significant investment of time and finances, this degree can expand career options and increase pay.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a doctorate in reading and literacy?

Salaries differ between jobs, but a doctorate in reading and literacy often leads to fairly lucrative leadership and postsecondary teaching roles. Graduates who teach at colleges and universities earn a median salary of over $80,000 per year. Additionally, instructional coordinators and community service managers earn median annual wages of $67,000-$70,000 annually.

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

Doctorate in reading and literacy programs typically contain 40-80 credits and can take students 2-6 years to complete. A student's course load, program requirements, and enrollment status can all influence how long it takes to graduate.

What is the difference between a doctorate in reading and literacy and a doctorate in literature?

A doctorate in reading and literacy focuses mainly on the theories and methods used to teach individuals fundamental reading skills. Many programs also explore social, cultural, and historical issues in literacy and how those elements impact current issues in education and literacy. In contrast, a doctorate in literature provides students with a deeper knowledge of literature and literary criticism. 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.

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