Children learn to write in preschool and elementary classrooms. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment to increase 7% for kindergarten and elementary teachers by 2026. While these teachers also provide guidance in other academic subjects, an understanding of literacy is crucial for teachers at these levels.

In addition, many adults struggle with reading, including English as a second language (ESL) learners. Literacy educators can help nonnative speakers read and write the language. Students in literacy doctoral programs can expect a strong career outlook, teaching children or adult learners.

Education students may also benefit from the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, through which the federal government forgives up to $17,500 of certain student loans.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

Ideal candidates for a literacy doctorate should appreciate the written word and hold an interest in helping others. Students also need patience and strong communication skills to efficiently deliver literacy guidance. Literacy programs often help students build these skills, and most curricula cover topics including reading complications, cultural aspects of reading, instructional strategies, and research and theories that concern reading.

Because of the field's diversity, a doctorate in literacy education can lead to several careers. Graduates may teach children or adults how to read. They may also work with ESL students or help special needs learners improve their literacy. Prospective students should choose a program with a curriculum that fits their career goals.

Students must also choose between on-campus and online learning. Working professionals may prefer online programs, which offer greater scheduling flexibility. Learners entering the literacy education field often choose on-campus programs because of their networking benefits. Either program type may include in-person experiences at literacy organizations, during which candidates can foster relationships in potential work environments. However, on-campus learning also includes face-to-face interaction with students and faculty. Some on-campus programs also feature events and workshops during which learners can interact with experts in the field. These in-person components can lead to recommendation letters and job opportunities.

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

The literacy field is diverse and includes a variety of careers. Students in reading doctoral programs can train to guide children or adults toward literacy. Graduates may also assist special education or ESL students in English literacy. All individuals pursuing a doctorate in literacy education develop an understanding of reading strategies and gain knowledge about the type of students they intend to teach. For example, doctoral students planning to teach adult literacy programs may study adult behavior.

Social Community and Service Managers

These managers work for organizations that tend to community issues, including literacy concerns. Job responsibilities involve shaping programs and evaluating how well these programs work over time. Candidates may apply for funding and encourage external companies to support developed programs. This position typically requires only a bachelor's, but candidates with advanced degrees are more competitive.

Median Annual Salary: $64,100*

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Teachers of this age group prepare lessons for various subjects, including literacy. Elementary educators need a bachelor's or master's for licensing and employment, but a doctorate in literacy education demonstrates a candidate's proficiency in reading instruction.

Median Annual Salary: $56,900*

Training and Development Managers

These professionals train and prepare organizations and employees to work efficiently. They focus on finances, company objectives, and employee statuses. A literacy doctorate qualifies candidates to assist groups focused on literacy. These positions typically require a bachelor's or master's, but a doctorate can help candidates stand out.

Median Annual Salary: $108,250*

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary educators teach several courses per semester at the college level. Literacy graduates typically create and deliver lessons plans for education and literacy courses. These teachers may attend meetings and provide curriculum input. Most schools require college professors to hold a doctorate.

Median Annual Salary: $76,000*

Instructional Coordinators

These professionals consult faculty about coursework, create class materials, and provide guidance on new curriculum tactics. Instructional coordinators also provide textbook feedback and train faculty. A literacy doctorate supplies candidates with in-depth reading knowledge that is useful when evaluating curricula.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Doctoral Program in Reading and Literacy

Candidates should consider cost when researching literacy doctoral programs. Many colleges and universities charge out-of-state students higher tuition rates. To lower total cost, students should consider in-state schools and public institutions.

A school's location affects students' networking opportunities. Studying locally may allow students to create professional connections through on-campus events. These connections can lead to internship and job opportunities, and a practicum or field experience can introducing candidates to local literacy organizations. Students may choose schools near areas with teacher shortages to improve employment options after graduation. Location also determines cost of living and can impact a student's ability to pay for college.

When choosing a program, learners should consider available specializations. For example, a person interested in childhood literacy should choose a program that offers child-centered coursework. Students should also review factors that affect program length, since a Ph.D. program can require two to six years. A program with extended coursework and a two-year dissertation may not appeal to a candidate who wants to graduate quickly. Students with personal or professional obligations should find a program that allows them to complete their program through a part-time format.

Candidates must also decide whether online or on-campus learning best suits their needs and should ensure all prospective programs and schools hold the proper accreditation.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and an Ed.D.?

Candidates pursuing a doctorate in literacy education can choose between a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. Both degrees cover educational concepts, such as curriculum and reading instruction. A Ph.D. program generally includes more research, while an Ed.D. curriculum is more application focused. For example, a Ph.D. student may examine a literacy education issue, but an Ed.D. student may find a remedy for the issue.

Job opportunities vary based on degree. Ph.D. candidates prepare to work as college-level educators and researchers. An Ed.D. can lead to administrative positions in K-12 or college settings, as well as employment as instructional coordinators and superintendents. Both degrees can prove financially lucrative, though an Ed.D. in reading and literacy may supply more opportunities for advancement.

A Ph.D. often requires more time to complete due to higher credit requirements, which can increase program cost. However, candidates should consider the value of each degree based on their career goals.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctoral Programs in Reading and Literacy

Accreditation means a school or program holds approval from an agency that is authorized to evaluate the academic merit of institutions. Many forms of financial aid are reserved for students attending accredited schools. Additionally, other institutions and future employers may not accept credits and degrees earned from unaccredited institutions.

In addition to national and regional accreditation, students should look for programmatic accreditation. Field-specific agencies award this type of accreditation to individual programs. Accreditation ensures a program meets set standards.

Students pursuing a doctorate in literacy education should look for accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the International Dyslexia Association.

Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program Admissions

Applications for literacy doctoral programs often include a writing sample, transcripts, and a personal statement. Schools review thousands of applications per year, so faculty may only give each application minutes of consideration. For this reason, candidates should submit concise, organized applications. Online admissions may involve more interaction between the applicant and the admissions team.

Since many schools charge an application fee, candidates should limit the number of applications they submit. However, candidates should apply to multiple schools to improve their chances of acceptance. Most candidates apply to around three graduate schools.

Prospective students should consider each school's location, cost, and program specializations. Students should apply to three types of schools: institutions with admission standards that reflect the learner's accomplishments, schools with higher admission requirements, and schools with lower expectations. This method provides the chance of studying at prestigious schools, while incorporating fall-back options in case preferred institutions refuse admission.


  • Degree: Many literacy doctoral programs require applicants to hold a master's degree, and some insist on prior literacy coursework, which demonstrates foundational literacy knowledge and previous academic success. However, certain institutions may require only a bachelor's degree for admission.
  • Professional Experience: Work experience demonstrates that a candidate is capable of completing a doctorate in literacy education program. Some schools require applicants to have two to three years of teaching experience.
  • Minimum GPA: Minimum GPA requirements ensure that applicants have the academic potential necessary to succeed in a doctoral program. Some departments set different GPA requirements for graduate and undergraduate work, such as a 3.0 GPA in bachelor's coursework but a 3.5 in master's courses. Students who do not meet these standards may still qualify for conditional admission.
  • License: Since states require public K-12 teachers to hold a license, so any program that requires applicants to have professional experience also requires licensure.

Admission Materials

  • Application: An application form provides an overview of a candidate's academic qualifications. Candidates can typically complete an application in less than an hour.
  • Transcripts: These documents supply information about an applicant's previous classes and grades. Students should submit transcripts from all previous schools. Many institutions charge a fee to release transcripts.
  • Letters of Recommendation: These letters serve as proof that professionals and community leaders support the applicant's education. Learners should submit the number of letters the school requests and should allow recommenders sufficient time to complete the task.
  • Test Scores: Tests commonly required for doctorate in literacy education programs include the Graduate Record Examination and the Miller Analogies Test. Some schools require minimum scores and may only accept test scores from the last five years.
  • Application Fee: Many institutions require application fees as compensation for reviewing thousands of applications each year. Some schools award fee waivers in certain circumstances. Application fees are typically less than $100 per school.

What Else Can I Expect From a Doctoral Program in Reading and Literacy?

Literacy education focuses on helping students learn to read, but many specialities exist within the field. For example, students intending to teach at public schools may choose a K-12 literacy program. Aspiring reading specialists may choose a program that leads to a related certification. Students should consider their career goals when choosing a program and concentration.

Concentrations Offered for a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy
Concentration Description Careers
Sociocultural Studies This concentration covers social elements related to literacy and language learning. Coursework covers topics such as age, country of origin, and mental or physical limitations. Manager or administrator at a literacy organization
Assessment This focus trains students to evaluate curricula and improve reading education through changes to policy and classroom structure. Course topics may include culture, finances, ethics, modern educational concerns, and the evolution of literacy education. Reading specialist, reading coach, curriculum designer, and teacher
Multilingual Students learn how to deliver literacy concepts to learners who speak other languages. Courses explore cultural diversity and second-language acquisition. Students learn to educate both children and adults. ESL teacher or college professor
Early Literacy Students explore general reading ideas, such as foundations of literacy and instruction tips, with a focus on teaching younger students. Coursework may analyze children's books or examine psychological concerns related to teaching children. Child reading teacher in school systems and literacy organizations.
Writing Literacy includes the ability to read and write, and this specialization emphasizes the writing aspect of literacy. Students perform writing tasks and examine grammar concepts. Reading and writing teacher at schools and literacy organizations

Courses in a Doctoral Program in Reading and Literacy

Learners take courses specific to their program's concentration. For example, a student concentrating in early literacy may take courses in childhood development. However, certain literacy concepts are applicable to many specializations. Most students pursuing a doctorate in literacy education take the courses below.

Foundations of Literacy

This course covers policy concerns, stages of literacy development, cultural aspects of literacy, and theories regarding reading. Students explore instructional methods for delivering literacy concepts to classrooms and prepare for careers as instructional coordinators.

Research in Literacy

Students review literacy research and explore common vocabulary for research documents. Students also learn to locate and assess quality research materials. Learners gain skills that are useful for research and management positions.

Developmental Reading

Students learn strategies for understanding reading material, such as deciphering tone and considering context. Learners also explore tactics to improve reading performance. Topics may include interpretation and analysis of structure and strategies for aspiring reading specialists and coaches.

Issues in Reading

Students examine complications in literacy instruction, including topics such as phonics and comprehension. Candidates learn to teach specific groups of learners, such as gifted or special needs students. Students explore current research and case samples and learn appropriate teaching methods to prepare for careers as reading specialists.

Curriculum and Instruction in Reading

Learners study classroom teaching in the context of history, psychology, and current trends. Students learn effective strategies for delivering literacy concepts. Students gain skills necessary for administrative roles and positions as curriculum developers, reading coaches, and instructional coordinators.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

The time needed to complete a doctorate varies, but most students require two to six years. Program characteristics that impact completion time include the number of required credits and dissertation requirements.

Most doctoral programs require 70-80 total credits; students who graduate in five years complete 14-16 credits per year. Students who want to graduate more quickly can attend a school that allows students to take more credits per semester, but they may pay course overload fees. Busy students can enroll part time, but some institutions charge higher per-credit tuition rates for part-time status.

Other factors that impact program length include accelerated learning options, which reduce degree completion time, and cohort delivery methods, in which students complete coursework in small groups. Students in cohort programs complete coursework in a prescribed sequence, which can delay graduation.

How Much Is a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

When choosing a program, learners should consider their budget. Students who choose less expensive schools graduate with less debt. To save money, students can consider public schools with lower tuition rates. Additionally, learners who choose in-state schools often pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state students.

Literacy programs with per-credit tuition rates often often charge $300-$600 per credit. However, some institutions charge per-semester tuition rates up to $7,000.

Students should also budget for other education-related expenses, such as textbooks. Courses may require more multiple books, which can each cost more than $100. Textbooks for a 70-credit program can costs thousands of dollars. Students must also pay fees including a health insurance fee, a technology fee, and a student union fee, and on-campus learners should consider commuting costs. Financial aid can assist students with these expenses.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Prepares For

Reading Specialist Certification

Reading specialists assist students with literacy and advise schools and districts regarding literacy tactics. Requirements to become a reading specialist vary by state and employers. Many schools provide opportunities to obtain reading certifications.

Trainer Certification

This certification from ProLiteracy supplies candidates with relevant resources and courses. Candidates must obtain an endorsement, complete an assessment, and deliver a supervised workshop. ProLiteracy members pay $80 for this certification and must renew the credential after four years. This certificate is ideal for aspiring literacy coaches.

Family Literacy Certificate

The National Center for Families Learning delivers this 12-credit program to bachelor's degree holders. Certification coursework includes classes in family literacy, early literacy development, adult literacy, and interactive literacy. Individuals who earn this certification often work as program coordinators and managers.

Early and Middle Childhood/Literacy: Reading-Language Arts Certificate

This certification is primarily for teachers who work with children from three to 12 years old. Candidates must complete an assessment and demonstrate teaching abilities in classrooms. The certificate can lead to positions as reading specialists and reading coaches.

Resources for Reading and Literacy Doctoral Students

Open Books

This group provides writing workshops and programs for children learning to read and write, such as reading buddies and storytime. Students can gain field experience by volunteering with this organization.

Reading Rockets

This resource provides tips related to literacy teaching and insights on why children may find reading complicated. Visitors can explore literacy research and book recommendations. Students may apply these concepts toward academic papers, internships, practicums, and student teaching opportunities.

Room to Read

This website provides publications and blog posts. Students can host group events, such as a read-a-thon or book swap. Room to Read maintains chapters in Australia, France, Japan, and the United States.

Reading Horizons

Reading Horizons provides information on dyslexia and webinars on topics such as technology for literacy learning. The organization delivers workshops, a professional development course, and a certification for trainers. These resources can help students learn how to deliver literacy concepts and build their resumes.

Keys to Literacy

This website provides webinars on reading and writing and articles on literacy for certain age levels. Students can attend events that address topics such as disabilities, phonics, and ESL tactics.

Professional Organizations in Reading and Literacy

Professional organizations help reading educators and workers network through events, workshops, and seminars. These networking opportunities can lead to career opportunities and recommendation letters. Many organizations also offer career services, such as job boards and resume tips. Professional organizations may also provide continuing education opportunities to help members meet licensing and certification requirements.

International Literacy Association

This organization provides access to online publications and hosts in-person events. The association also offers book recommendations for literacy teachers to use in their classrooms.

Reading Partners

Educators can request that Reading Partners provide literacy assistance for their school. Members can also join AmeriCorps and host a book drive to gain professional experience and reach more students.

Reach Out and Read

This group provides resources for reading teachers, including tips on book selection and information on developmental stages. With the help of a program coordinator and medical consultant, members can begin a local Reach Out and Read program.

Children's Literacy Initiative

CLI provides workshops to train educators of specific grade levels and advise them on interacting with families. The organizations provides online resources, including reading recommendations and information on classroom tactics.

Reading Is Fundamental

This organization delivers information for teachers, parents, and volunteers. Educators can explore classroom activities and tips for teaching literacy concepts, including spelling and semantics.