Best Online Ph.D in Reading and Literacy Degrees

Online Ph.D in Reading and Literacy Degrees

An online doctorate in literacy education serves students interested in careers as professors, deans, or scholars in the literacy realm. Doctoral programs require students to complete coursework and a dissertation, so prospective students should have dedication to their reading and literacy program. Ideally, they should also hold strong analytical and research skills. A doctorate in reading and literacy leads to limited opportunities, but those that do exist — such as professor and dean positions — often incur lucrative salaries.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy

An advanced degree in reading and literacy provides students with unique career opportunities that they may not otherwise access with only an undergraduate degree. Students deciding between ending their education with a master’s degree or further pursuing a doctorate should know each degree level opens different career opportunities. Students in master’s programs train to become reading specialists, literacy coaches, and teachers, while doctoral students train to become professors and deans, whose research and work experience aid in advancing the field.

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

A doctorate in reading and literacy does not always lead to a defined, structured career path. Few job postings would use the title “reading specialist,” instead, most employ broader titles, like “university professor,” which allow professionals to hone their literacy and reading expertise. Job titles vary widely in the literacy field, and may not always relate directly to literacy, but the relevant expertise and skills prove useful in many positions. Job titles can range from consultants to experts in government agencies, and scatter across the spectrum, from local and general to broad and prestigious. Due to the variation in job titles, graduates with literacy doctorates should know how to present their resumes and skills to demonstrate how they might make the most of their particular degree. These graduates boast excellent communication and analytical skills, plus the capabilities to perform in-depth research and effectively and eloquently report their findings. These skills may prove beneficial in a variety of industries and career paths.

Career Subfields for Reading Specialists

CONSULTING:External contractorGOVERNMENT:Specific sector or branch
ACADEMIA:Education, Universities, ResearchINDUSTRY:Within an organization
Source: BLS

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Graduates with their online doctorate in literacy education can pursue a variety of different career opportunities with the diverse skills they develop in their program. Opportunities vary depending on each individual’s location, prior experience, and focus area. Below are some of the top opportunities for graduates with this particular degree.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher

Median annual salary: $52,100

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills including writing, reading, and speaking English. They also work with individuals to help them earn their high school equivalency diplomas.

University Professor

Median annual salary: $76,000

University professors, also called postsecondary teachers, instruct students in a variety of technical and academic subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct in-depth research to publish books and scholarly papers.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Median annual salary: $92,360

Responsible for supervising academics, student services, and faculty research at colleges and universities, postsecondary education administrators maintain a variety of responsibilities including student life, admissions, and the registrar’s office.

Salary Progression

Salaries vary depending on many variables, such as location. Each state entails a different cost of living, which is why average salaries vary between states. Employers also offer different salaries. Moreover, profitable, successful employers are more likely to pay high salaries. Professionals with their doctoral degrees make three times the annual salary of those with their bachelor’s, but experience can impact salary as much as education. Some doctoral graduates might have more hands-on experience than others, providing them with better opportunities to earn higher salaries.

Reading and Literacy Doctoral Program Requirements and Outcomes

Admissions standards vary between programs, but many schools impose similar requirements. Typically, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also submit a personal statement, letters of recommendation, transcripts, GRE scores, and their most recent professional resume. Credit requirements vary between programs, but most require students to complete 60-70 credit hours of coursework.

Full-time students can expect to take about 2.5 years to finish their doctoral programs. Some programs allow students to increase their course load beyond full-time, in which case students might earn their degrees in as little as two years. Part-time students, on the other hand, usually take closer to three years to graduate. Some programs feature fully online programs, while others may require some in-person requirements, such as internships and dissertation supervision meetings with faculty members.

Common Courses

  • Trends and Issues in Literary Research
    In the trends and issues in literary research course, students learn about the philosophical and historical study of the major empirical research and theories used to describe the linguistic, cognitive, socio-cultural, and motivation of reading and writing processes.
  • Instructional Approaches in Reading, Writing, and Language
    Focusing on the major theories and perspectives of language, the instructional approaches in this course reviews impacts on the learning process related to the psychological, cognitive, and physiological development of reading and writing in educational settings.
  • Development and Evaluation of Literacy Programs
    Focusing on the standards, materials, curriculum, resources, and research for state-of-the-art literacy programs, the development and evaluation of literacy programs course pushes students to analyze the issues, trends, and current practices in literacy education models and programs, emphasizing diverse settings.
  • Policy and Politics of Reading, Language, and Literacy
    In the policy and politics of reading, language, and literacy course, students focus on studying connections between policy, politics, reading, language, and literacy. Students explore the empirical evidence within foundational theories, and practice communication with policy makers and public officials.
  • Cultural and Socioeconomic Perspectives of Literature and Literacy
    The cultural and socioeconomic perspectives of literature and literacy course teaches students about the historic, current, and changing demographic factors that influence and impact literacy practices. They also learn to examine literature and literacy successes through the eyes of diverse learners.
  • New Literacies and Multiliteracies in Education
    Teaching students how to examine and compare theories and research in new literacies, this course allows students to create a literate environment to foster reading, writing, and communication competencies in diverse contexts and settings.
  • Literacy Supervision, Leading, and Coaching
    This course explores experiences and issues with supervision, leading, and literacy coaching models. Students examine the literacy processes through knowledge and understanding of acquisition, instructional, and assessment delivery systems.
  • Writing Research, Theory, and Application
    Diving into perspectives on writing instruction, this writing research, theory, and application course connects practical experience in professional and career writing for budgets, grants, and academic publications.

Other Requirements


Online doctorate in literacy education students often must complete an internship requirement to graduate. This usually requires two consecutive semesters, in which students complete reading, language, and literacy clinical experiences that require extensive, diverse, and intensive assignments focused on evaluation, instruction, and leadership. Internship locations require department approval.

Comprehensive Exam

During the last semester of a literacy doctorate program, students typically complete a comprehensive exam. These exams allow students to demonstrate what they learned throughout their program. Testing formats vary, but testers must usually complete a written portion to demonstrate how their writing skills developed over the course of their degree.


Doctoral students must complete a dissertation at the end of their program. Typically, dissertation research takes students a year or more to complete. Dissertations should reflect detail-oriented, in-depth examinations of specific topics related to literacy and reading. Students should make a point to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in their writing.

Dissertation Supervision

Dissertation requirements in these doctoral programs require students to research and write a dissertation and meet with faculty members to discuss their research and progress. These supervision meetings help keep students focused and ensure they complete their work in a thorough, polished, and detailed manner.

Skills and Competencies

Students pursuing their online doctorate in literacy education develop a variety of useful skills that help them thrive in their reading and literacy careers.

  • Engage with students:
    Students learn to use literacy practices to engage with students in their classroom to develop understanding, awareness, and respect of societal differences.
  • Use instructional approaches:
    Reading and literacy students learn use instructional approaches and materials to balance their curricula in support of student learning in writing and reading.
  • Leadership:
    Students in this program learn to become strong leaders who view professional learning and leadership as a career-long responsibility and effort.
  • Understanding evidence-based foundations:
    Students develop an ability to understand evidence-based and theoretical foundations of writing and reading processes and instruction.
  • Using assessment tools and practices:
    This program teaches students how to use assessment practices and tools to evaluate and plan effective reading and writing instruction.
  • Create a literate environment:
    Students learn how to create a literate environment that fosters writing and reading by integrating foundational knowledge, instructional practices, approaches, and methods.

Reading and Literacy Licensure

Most professionals working as teachers or postsecondary professors must have licensure. However, much of their work and research does not require licensure. Specific licensing requirements vary by state, and individuals can access the Education Commission of the States’ website to find information about their state’s licensing requirements. In order to gain licensure to become a postsecondary professor, individuals must first decide what and where they want to teach, to determine which state certification requirements they must meet. They can then find a fitting teacher preparation program, which provides preparatory coursework for candidates to complete before obtaining licensure.

Before beginning a program, candidates must research eligibility requirements to make sure they qualify. Requirements might include tests, a background check, and fingerprints. Students can complete the rest of their state requirements during their program, then apply for their initial credential through the state. Credentialed professors must then renew their licensure, or else obtain permanent credentials.

Once they’ve taught for three years, professors can consider obtaining certification from the National Board. Attending an accredited program remains crucial, since employers in the field must grant their approval to accredited institutions. The Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) serves as a primary accrediting body for reading and literacy programs.

Reading and Literacy Professional Organizations

Reading and literacy professional organizations provide a variety of benefits for professionals in the field. Networking opportunities prove one of the most beneficial components of joining a professional organization. Many organizations host events and seminars to connect members with each other, providing opportunities for members to learn from others and cultivate lasting business connections, which may lead to job opportunities and recommendations. Members can also volunteer their time and service as board members, creating even more opportunities for professional development.

  • International Literacy Association
    The International Literacy Association, a global membership and advocacy organization, serves more than 300,000 literacy educators, experts, and researchers, with experts in 86 different countries. ILA sets the standard for how literacy is taught, evaluated, and defined.
  • National Council of Teachers of English
    Created to amplify the voice of educators through collaboration, personal connection, and a shared mission to improve the learning and teaching of English and language arts at all levels, the National Council of Teachers of English provides advocacy and resources to English teachers.
  • American Library Association
    The American Library Association, founded in 1876, remains the oldest and largest library association in the world. The association provides leadership for the promotion, development, and improvement of information and library services and the librarianship profession to enhance learning and ensure accessible information for everyone.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
    Dedicated to excellence in teaching, learning, and leading, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ensures every child is safe, engaged, supported, healthy, and challenged. The association boasts a professional community of 114,000 teachers, superintendents, principals, and administrators.
  • The International Dyslexia Association
    The International Dyslexia Association works to create a future for every individual struggling with dyslexia and other reading differences to ensure they live rich, robust lives, with access to the resources and tools they need.

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