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 Description Toggle

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC Cost: $$$$$

A public institution located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian State University offers an Ed.D. in educational leadership with a concentration in literacy in exceptionalities. This terminal degree features courses in organizational and systems theory, concepts in curriculum and instruction, qualitative research methods, and writing for the professional educator. This doctorate in reading and literacy online prepares students for careers as deans, associate deans, provosts, department chairs, chancellors, and vice chancellors.

Students must earn a minimum of 60 credits, including a minimum of six hours of dissertation coursework. This Ed.D is offered on a part-time basis, and students choose between a 100% online education or a hybrid option. All students are required to attend two residencies on campus. Online coursework is delivered both synchronously and asynchronously, and the program culminates with a final qualifying exam.

Applicants to this program must hold a master's degree from an accredited college or be a graduate of Appalachian's Ed.S. program. Prospective students should request an interview prior to submitting an application. Applicants must submit a letter of intent, four reference letters, a resume, and recent GRE scores (preference is given to students who earn a score of 4.0 in the writing portion of the GRE). Appalachian State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)
Available Concentrations: Educational administration; interdisciplinary studies; higher education; instructional technology leadership; literacy in exceptionalities
Tuition: $266/credit in-state; $895/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 4-6 years

Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements
Standardized Tests: GRE

Phone: (828) 262-3113
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Concordia University-Chicago

River Forest, IL Cost: $$$$$

A Christian liberal arts university located in River Forest, Illinois, Concordia University Chicago was founded in 1864 and is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. CUC's doctor of education in leadership with a specialization in reading, language, and literacy focuses on a theoretical and practical framework for literacy instruction and assessment. Graduates of this program pursue careers as reading specialists, literacy coaches, and research-based literacy program developers.

The Ed.D. curriculum emphasizes research in reading and writing through courses on trends and issues in literary research, development and evaluation of literacy programs, cultural and socioeconomic perspectives of literature and literacy, and philosophy of scientific knowledge. Students gain experience implementing intervention techniques with other students and receive ongoing observations and feedback from highly qualified supervisors.

Earning this doctorate in reading and literacy online requires 61-67 credits, including 30 semester hours of core courses; 12 semester hours of foundations, philosophy, and ethics coursework; 10 semester hours of research; and 9 semester hours of dissertation work. The final capstone experience is embedded in a two-semester internship. Students are required to take a final comprehensive examination.

Applicants to CUC's doctoral program must hold a master's degree from a regionally accredited university with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Prospective students must have at least two years of lead teaching experience plus experience in an education- or literacy-related field. Applicants must submit recent GRE scores. Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Program Overview
Program Name: Ed.D./Ph.D., Leadership: Reading, Language, and Literacy Specialization
Tuition: $710/credit
Credit Requirements: 61-67 credits
Program Length: 4-6 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE
Work Experience: 2 years

Phone: (708) 957-5994
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Indiana University Bloomington

Bloomington, IN Cost: $$$$$

Indiana University Bloomington serves more than 40,000 students. The largest within the Indiana University system, the school values innovation, creativity, and academic freedom. IU Bloomington's Ed.D. in literacy, culture, and language education is designed for working literacy and language practitioners. With a holistic and integrative focus, the curriculum prepares students to bridge the gap between research and practice.

Notable classes in this doctoral program include strategies for educational inquiry, theoretical issues in the study of language and literacies, and methodological approaches to educational inquiry. Students discuss critical literacy, children’s and young adult literature, and ESL/EFL education. In this program, online learners are required to take two research seminars in literacy, culture, and language education, and choose a complementary minor. With a cohort format, online students forge strong, collaborative relationships.

IU Bloomington's online doctoral program in reading and literacy requires 60 credits, including three credits of dissertation proposal preparation and six credits of doctoral thesis work. Students typically complete the pre-dissertation coursework in three years. Distance learners are required to attend an on-campus conference in the spring semester.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.75. Prospective students must submit two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and GRE scores. Incoming students can transfer up to 18 graduate credits. IU Bloomington's School of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and Indiana University Bloomington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Overview
Program Name: Ed.D in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education
Tuition: $429/credit in-state; $1,428/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 4-6 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Phone: (812) 856-8270
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

St. John's University

Queens, NY Cost: $$$$$

A private Catholic university in New York City, St. John's University serves as a global university with campuses in Rome and Paris. St. John's Ph.D. in literacy with literacy specialization represents one of the best online doctoral programs in reading and literacy. With a focus on K-12 education, this degree optimizes graduates' understanding of reading, language arts, and writing instruction.

Notable classes in the curriculum include literacy leadership, educational research and data analysis, and models and processes of reading and writing acquisition and competency. Students complete a specialized course in the approaches, materials, and performance evaluation in literacy and English language arts development. Graduates pursue careers as professors, school district literacy leaders, literacy specialists, and literacy coaches.

The degree requires 42 credits, including 18 credit hours of core coursework, 15 credit hours of research, and nine credits of literacy specialization courses. Students complete a dissertation seminar and a dissertation project course, both of which require continuous enrollment until the dissertation is completed. Students can complete the program in 2.5-3.5 years with no residency requirements. Online coursework is delivered asynchronously with no specific log in times.

Applicants must hold a master's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.2. Prospective students must submit a statement of goals, resume, and GRE or MAT scores. Some applicants may be eligible for a test waiver. This literacy program is accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, and St. John's University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Overview
Program Name: Ph.D. in Literacy
Available Concentrations: Educational leadership; literacy; special education; TESOL and bilingual education
Tuition: $1,265/credit
Credit Requirements: 42 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.2 minimum
Standardized Tests: MAT or GRE

Phone: (844) 393-1677
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Doctorate in Reading & Literacy Programs of 2018
School Location
Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL
Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN
St John's University-New York Queens, NY