Best Online PhD in Reading and Literacy

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Educators with a Ph.D. in reading and literacy degree can pursue various career paths, depending on their professional interests and objectives. They can apply their expertise in the curriculum and development, education administration, teacher training, or research field.

March 2021 PayScale data reports a reading specialist average midcareer salary of $53,640. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary teachers or higher education administrators earn significantly more — $79,540 and $95,410 median annual salaries, respectively.

Literacy remains a fundamental component of education and learning at any level. Educators with a specialization in this area can look forward to various high-paying career opportunities with ample room for professional growth and personal fulfillment.

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Answers to Questions About Earning a Ph.D. in Reading Literacy Programs

  • What can I do with a Ph.D. in reading and literacy?

    A Ph.D. in reading and literacy can lead to jobs such as a multisensory instructor, literacy coach, reading specialist and diagnostician, and curriculum developer.

  • How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?

    Degree-seekers typically take 2-6 years to complete a Ph.D. in reading and literacy, depending on their educational and professional background.

  • What is the highest-paying job in reading and literacy?

    High-paying Ph.D. reading and literacy jobs for graduates include postsecondary education administrator ($95,410), college English and literature professor ($81,340), and instructional coordinator ($67,490).

  • Is an Ed.D. the same as a Ph.D.?

    An Ed.D. prepares graduates for education leadership positions such as a school principal or college administrator. A Ph.D. focuses on preparing graduates for research and teaching roles.

Why Get a Degree in Reading and Literacy?

Advanced leadership and top research jobs in education usually require a doctorate. A Ph.D. in reading and literacy opens career paths primarily in academia and educational research. However, the degree can also qualify learners for practice-oriented jobs, depending on their work experience and professional interest.

BLS data demonstrate that professionals with a doctoral degree earn a higher median weekly salary than professional and master’s degree-holders — $1,883 versus $1,861 and $1,497, respectively. Doctoral degree-holders also enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate (1.1%) among all workers including master’s-trained practitioners (2.0%) and graduates holding professional degrees (1.6%).

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How Much Does a Reading and Literacy Degree Cost?

According to 2018-2019 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, public four-year institutions include a $12,170 price tag. Students enrolled at private institutions pay considerably more at $27,776. NCES did not break down graduate students into master’s and doctoral candidates. A Ph.D. in reading and literacy typically does not require additional expenses such as laboratory fees or special equipment.

Some universities offer an online reading and literacy degree at the doctoral level. Students who choose this option can save significantly since they do not incur additional rent, board, and transportation expenses. Additionally, many online programs follow an asynchronous delivery format, which allows enrollees to continue working while pursuing their studies. As such, students can circumvent income loss or career interruption.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

Students who wish to compare program costs at different schools can use the calculation tool below. Most colleges and universities make the required information readily available on their websites. In a bid to attract qualified students at the doctoral level, many schools maintain fellowship programs specifically set aside for them. These funds can reduce a program’s cost, so be sure to include them in the calculation tool.

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How Much Do Reading and Literacy Majors Make?

Doctoral degree-holders in this field often meet the educational and professional requirements for top-level reading and literacy jobs. They can explore career options in the private sector along with in-state and federal agencies directly connected with the education field.

Graduates pursuing careers as English language and literature instructors at the college level earn a median annual salary of $69,000, which is nearly twice the median annual salary of $39,810 for all other occupations. States with the highest employment levels for this occupation include New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. English language and literature instructors earn the highest salaries in California ($124,250), New York ($107,330), and Rhode Island ($94,400).

Degree-holders can look forward to career paths with opportunities for job growth and higher-than-average salaries.

Courses in Reading and Literacy

Foundation courses in a well-developed Ph.D. in reading and literacy program give students the chance to deepen their knowledge in the field and develop research, analytical, and communication skills. Most schools also grant Ph.D. candidates the opportunity to enroll in courses supporting their specific career objectives.

  • Historical and Social Perspectives on Literacy

    The course provides a historical and cross-cultural lens through which students can examine the norms and practices continuing to inform and impact the teaching practices of literacy and reading today. Students learn about the role literacy plays in various social settings such as school, work, and the home.

  • Multicultural Issues in Education

    Students examine various problems and different perspectives impacting multicultural education. They analyze race and culture issues and identify elements of both that present obstacles for full participation in the educational process. The course also presents a review of educational practice and policy across a historical and contemporary landscape.

  • Theories of Reading

    The course gives enrollees the opportunity to engage in critical comparative analyses of research paradigms and theoretical frameworks in the field. Students examine equality, representation, and ethics issues through the lens of feminism and culturally-focused literature. The course allows students to explore the interrelationships of key elements such as reading theories, current practice, and pedagogy.

Certifications and Licensure for Reading and Literacy

All states require licensure for prospective teachers. Reading and literacy specialists who wish to pursue a career in teaching must maintain their state license. However, most states do not require certified reading and literacy practitioners in nonteaching positions to obtain a teaching license.

AAPL Rater Certification

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages administers this certification. The credential attests to the practitioner’s ability to assess the proficiency and performance of K-12 language learners. Candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a language-related field, prove proficiency assessment capabilities in a web-based environment, and, preferably, demonstrate a teaching background.

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Board Certification in Special Education

A joint effort from the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, this credential caters to reading specialists focusing on special education. Candidates must hold at least a master’s degree in a related field, show completion of required coursework, and pass the certification exam.

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Certified Structured Literacy/Dyslexia Specialist

Candidates must complete a minimum of 135 supervised training hours and hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a reading- or education-related field. Center for Effective Reading Instruction offers the program, requiring candidates to complete a practicum experience and pass the Knowledge and Practice Examination for Effective Reading Instruction.

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Scholarships for Reading and Literacy

Many universities provide financial support for doctoral enrollees through various fellowship and grant programs, some of which come with teaching or research responsibilities. Reading and literacy doctoral candidates can also explore additional financial assistance from state and federal agencies, private nonprofit groups, and professional organizations with strong ties to the education field.

  • Marie Silverman Scholarship Award

    Who Can Apply: The Florida Reading Association sponsors this award for full-time or part-time students pursuing a graduate degree related to reading. Candidates must attend or plan to attend a Florida university and submit a resume, recommendation letters, and a copy of a program acceptance letter.

    Amount: $500-$1,000

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  • TOEFL Graduate Student Research Grant

    Who Can Apply: The Educational Testing Service welcomes applications from master’s and doctoral students pursuing a program focused on literacy and other related fields. Research proposals must target topics listed on the application form.

    Amount: $5,000

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Best Online Ph.D. in Reading and Literacy 2021

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