The online doctorate in literary education is a broadly applicable degree that provides the leadership skills necessary for secondary or postsecondary administration and research skills for leading faculty at any educational level. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that careers related to this degree will grow between 6% to more than 10% by 2024.

With the advent of social media and digital literacies, methods of teaching reading and writing need to evolve to best serve students. To meet this need, many PhD programs are incorporating courses that cover the new literacies and multiliteracies of the 21st century. The following information will help you choose the right literacy doctorate program.

Choosing a Program


While previous work experience is not always required, the best reading doctorate programs generally require documentation of prior professional work. Students should have at least two years of teaching or administrative experience in a K-12 setting. Even if the school you apply to doesn't require teaching experience, remember that working in an educational role will help you apply abstract classroom theories in a practical capacity.


It's important to ask yourself what you need from a program. If you need more practical experience in an educational setting, look for programs that provide internship, practicum, or clinical learning opportunities. If you're busy with other obligations, such as work or family life, a part-time program offering asynchronous classes or generous transfer policies will make it easy to balance your schedule. Make sure you take needs like these into account when researching different programs.


Many schools design and market their programs for working professionals, and online learning is often the best academic format if you can't take off time from work. Most online doctorate in literacy education programs deliver courses in an asynchronous format, allowing you to complete assignments when it's convenient.


In addition to offering you the flexibility to complete an advanced degree while balancing a busy schedule, earning your doctorate online helps you advance in your field and earn a competitive salary. With a PhD or EdD, you can work as a school administrator, a college professor, a multisensory instructor, or even a literacy coach or supervisor. In positions like these, you can expect to earn between $60,000 and $90,000 per year.


School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

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 Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 49%

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 Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 78%

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 Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

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 Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

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.

What Else can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Reading & Literacy Program?

A literacy doctorate is a research-intensive degree that prepares students to become leading language faculty and develop literacy curriculum for multiple educational settings. Most programs are focused on addressing the needs of underserved populations. Since these skills are suitable for many careers, the coursework might change depending on the focus of each program and the concentrations they offer. The following guide can help you find the program that fits your goals and career interests.


  • Literacy for Diverse Populations: This class covers and explores literacy issues that are unique to diverse populations. Coursework emphasizes the ways poverty and systematic inequality affect the literacy rates of at-risk communities. Depending on each school's curriculum, students will learn skills suitable for future careers as school administrators or school social workers.
  • Issues in Literary Research: Students will investigate the cultural, social, linguistic, and historical foundations affecting major reading and literacy trends. This class prepares students for an online doctorate in literacy education program, covering the latest empirical studies in the discipline and vital research methods. These skills prepare students for research-centric roles, such as college teaching.
  • Leadership and Decision Making: This course develops the leadership skills necessary to work as a school district administrator or classroom teacher. Students study ethics, evidenced-based learning, and leadership values to become effective educational leaders at multiple levels. Sometimes, schools include a clinical or practicum experience in an educational setting.
  • Internship: Reading PhD programs require students to complete field or internship experiences. These opportunities allow students to hone the practical application of theory by working in an educational setting. These experiences might involve working in classroom settings, or they might focus on meeting the literacy needs of multicultural communities.


Literacy doctorate degrees can vary in length, requiring anywhere between 40 and 70 credit hours. In general, you can expect to finish your degree in two to four years, depending on the credit-length and learning format of each program. Some PhD programs accept transfer credit, allowing students to transfer up to a third of their credits from other institutions.

Before applying to a reading PhD program, take the time to think about your needs and learning style. Some online programs are self-paced and deliver classes asynchronously. This format generally allows online students to graduate more quickly. Other programs use a cohort format and may deliver classes synchronously, meaning that online students have to progress through the curriculum with their peers at a set pace. Additionally, some programs are fully online, while others are hybrid and include in-person requirements. Hybrid programs usually take longer to complete than entirely online programs, especially if they include on-site clinical or internship experiences.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Reading & Literacy Programs

Students should consider regionally and nationally accredited schools. National accrediting agencies require schools to reapply for accreditation every three to five years to prove that they meet national standards for institutions of higher learning. Regional accreditation ensures schools meet a similar benchmark, although each of the regional accrediting agencies enforce slightly different standards. Common regional accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Both national and regional accreditation are important, but regional standards tend to be slightly more strict, and regionally accredited schools won't always accept coursework from nationally accredited schools. Nationally accredited schools typically accept any work from regionally accredited colleges or universities.

Students can also look for programs accredited by agencies focusing on the fields of reading, literacy, or education. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits teacher preparation programs, ensuring that schools provide graduates with the skills necessary to become future teachers. CAEP accreditation is a good benchmark to look for when choosing a literacy program.

The U.S, Department of Education (ED) supervises the accreditation process by reviewing national and regional agencies. The ED holds agencies accountable to their own accrediting standards, maintaining the integrity of the accreditation process and education programs. For a complete list of accredited schools, be sure to check out the Department of Education's and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's databases.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Reading & Literacy Graduates


Earning an advanced degree, like a literacy PhD/EdD, can help give you an edge in pursuing your dream job. A literacy doctorate prepares you for a variety of education jobs in diverse settings, making it easier to find your niche. According to a study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, education professionals who have earned an advanced graduate degree have an unemployment rate of less than 2%, while educators holding a bachelor's experience unemployment rates ranging from about 4% to 5.5%. Since doctors of literacy can pursue a variety of tracks, we look at the categories that best match literacy specialties and how unemployment rates differ for undergraduate and graduate degree holders.

Education Focus Unemployment Rate for Experienced College Graduates (%) Unemployment Rate for Graduate Degree Holders (%)
General Education 4.1% 2.4%
Special Needs Education 4.5% 2.0%
Language & Drama Education 4.2% 2.2%
Elementary Education 3.4% 1.7%

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)


Reading and Literacy Careers by Experience

Graduates of reading and literacy programs are prepared for positions including high school teachers and college administrators. Annual wages fluctuate based on occupation and years of experience working in a specific field, so reading and literacy professionals can earn anywhere from $40,000 to over $100,000 annually. The table below looks at PayScale median wage data for teachers and school administrators based on the length of their careers.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Late-Career
English Language and Literature Teacher, Postsecondary $45,867 $40,000 $47,000 $56,000
High School Principal $87,637 $78,000 $82,000 $93,000
ESOL Teacher $38,518 $38,000 $37,000 $44,000
University Professor $85,697 $60,000 $71,000 $99,000
Dean of Students $113,589 $87,000 $80,000 $120,000

Source: BLS


Reading doctorate programs prepare candidates for a variety of career paths. While the majority are education jobs, several different tracks are available. Leadership graduates can pursue administrative roles in secondary or postsecondary education, while graduates of teaching-centric programs can become high school teachers or college professors. Candidates who studied literacy issues for students with disabilities are prepared for special education roles, either as teachers or administrators.

High School Teacher

High school teachers craft lesson plans and teach subjects that prepare students for life after college. English and literature teachers teach language-based curriculums, helping students improve their ability to read advanced texts and interpret them in writing.

Median Annual Salary: $58,030
Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Postsecondary Teacher

In addition to instructing university students, postsecondary teachers conduct research, publish scholarly papers, and attend academic conferences. Postsecondary teachers usually work in universities or community colleges, and many spend time outside class advising students. While earning a master's degree might be enough for some postsecondary teaching roles, most teachers at the college level have a PhD.

Median Annual Salary: $75,430
Projected Growth Rate: 13%

K-12 Principal

Principals supervise all daily activities in elementary, middle, or high schools. They manage teacher and support staff; ensure that curriculums meet district, state, or national standards; and cultivate a welcoming learning environment. Principals need at least a master's degree in education leadership or a related discipline.

Median Annual Salary: $92,510
Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators manage student services, academic coursework, and research activities at the collegiate level. Most postsecondary administrators focus on a specific aspect of the university, such as student life, admissions, or faculty research. Initially, administrators begin by working entry-level positions at a college, moving on to leadership roles once they earn a master's or PhD.

Median Annual Salary: $90,760
Projected Growth Rate: 9%

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers instruct students who struggle with learning, mental, or physical disabilities. While they can teach a wide range of subjects, special education teachers often teach literacy skills at the preschool, elementary, middle, or high school levels. Special education professionals need at least a bachelor's degree to practice, but may need state certification or an advanced degree for some positions.

Median Annual Salary: $57,910
Projected Growth Rate: 6%


While getting an advanced degree is important, researching and joining the appropriate professional organization can jumpstart your career search. Whether you're interested in working in international literacy, improving literacy rates among adults, or simply teaching middle school English, there are many professional organizations that connect educators through annual conferences, web seminars, and other resources. Professional organizations not only help you connect with potential employers, but can also support your later career in the form of professional development or financial grants.

Financing Your Online Doctorate in Reading & Literacy Degree

Most PhD programs also offer funding opportunities to graduate students. While the specifics of PhD fellowships vary depending on the program, these grants often take the form of a teaching assistantship. In addition to providing tuition reimbursements or living stipends, a teaching fellowship provides the chance to teach undergraduate classes, a vital professional experience for any future educator. Read on for more information about possible funding opportunities for your online doctorate in literacy education.


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