Earning a Ph.D. in Reading and Literacy Online

Become Team
Become Team
Updated November 17, 2021

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Accredited literacy doctoral programs prepare students to help others learn to read and write. Students explore teaching strategies and literacy theories. They also learn how factors such as developmental stages, learning disabilities, and cultural backgrounds influence literacy learning. A literacy doctorate can lead to various careers in education. For example, graduates may become instructional coordinators for school systems or teach literacy in elementary classrooms. Graduates can also help adult learners gain literacy skills to prepare for standardized tests.

Ideal candidates love reading and excel at communicating ideas to groups. Literacy students need patience and adaptability to create and modify literacy programs based on student needs. Because online programs require computer literacy to complete coursework, distance learners develop the technological skills needed to create materials, organize student data, and prepare presentations.

This page explores common elements of literacy and reading doctoral programs and lists beneficial certifications and and potential careers for graduates.

What Can You Do With an Online Ph.D. in Reading and Literacy?

Professionals with an online doctorate in literacy education can work in various settings. Graduates may improve the literacy of elementary students by teaching classes or advising schools on effective techniques. Doctorate holders also qualify to teach at the college level, training education students to deliver literacy concepts. All professions in the field require strong communication skills and patience to train learners from different backgrounds.

Instructional Coordinator

Annual Median Salary: $63,750
Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Instructional coordinators evaluate student performance and suggest curriculum changes for school districts. These professionals may advise schools about textbooks, construct educational materials, and train teachers in new techniques. Instructional coordinators may also monitor student progress to determine the effectiveness of curriculum modifications. Graduates of reading doctoral programs are qualified to advise schools about literacy curricula.

Adult Literacy and High School Diploma Equivalency Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $52,100
Projected Growth Rate: -5%

These teachers prepare adult learners to earn equivalency diplomas. They also provide guidance on essential life skills, such as literacy. These professionals create lesson plans, determine student needs, and modify teaching techniques when necessary. Because literacy is crucial to passing equivalency exams and pursuing professional goals, an online doctorate in literacy education prepares candidates for these positions.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Postsecondary teachers educate students at the college level. These educators generally teach multiple courses within their discipline. They create lesson plans and evaluate student success. Postsecondary teachers may also help students select courses, provide feedback on department curricula, and conduct research. Most postsecondary teaching positions require a doctorate, such as an online doctorate in literacy education.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics / PayScale

The Top-Paying Industries for Adult Basic and Secondary Education Literacy Teachers

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Traits of a Successful Reading and Literacy Graduate

With additional qualifications, professionals with a literacy doctorate can become literacy teachers. These educators must be able to infer when students need reading or writing assistance, and they must understand how to create plans and curricula to meet student needs. These professionals need strong communication skills to deliver clear instructions.

Good organizational and technical skills help educators manage classrooms. For example, teachers should understand spreadsheets to maintain records. Literacy teachers must also understand educational strategies, boast strong reading and writing assessment abilities, and excel at training individuals in new concepts. These professionals should be able to think innovatively and to creatively solve problems.

These educators should understand literacy theories, techniques for preparing lesson plans, and learning tools. Teachers should communicate ideas in terms that learners can grasp.
Teachers must listen to comments and questions from students, teachers, and parents. Active listening techniques allow literacy professionals to identify each learner's weaknesses and to determine effective teaching strategies for individual students.
Professionals with an online doctorate in literacy education should understand techniques for teaching students to read and write, and they should possess the analytical skills to identify the best strategies to use in different situations.

Salary by Experience Level

Graduates with an Ed.D. in reading and literacy can become reading specialists. These professionals assist children, teachers, and school districts in matters related to literacy education. According to PayScale, entry-level reading specialists earn an average salary of $42,000 per year, with most professionals increasing their earning potential as they gain experience and expertise in the field. Reading specialists with 20 or more years of experience earn an average of $22,000 more per year than entry-level professionals.

Pay by Experience Level for Reading Specialists

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Reading and Literacy Prepares For

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Reading and Literacy Online

Credit and program requirements for accredited literacy doctoral programs vary by school. Departments may also offer concentrations, which include specific coursework and may require unique admission requirements. The following section provides an overview of common program traits.

Find the Right Program for You

Candidates should consider the cost, curriculum, and format of each potential program. For example, students who cannot visit campus should choose a fully online program. Learners should also choose a school that offers a concentration relevant to their career goals, such as adult literacy. Students should also consider each program's admission requirements, such as standardized test scores.


Candidates submit applications, which take about one hour to complete, and application fees that often exceed $60. Many universities require applicants to submit resumes and transcripts, and they may also require standardized test scores, such as the GRE. Candidates may need to provide recommendation letters that address their character and work ethic. Reading doctoral programs may require writing samples, such as personal statements or essay responses. Students should allow several weeks to complete applications that incorporate recommendation letters and writing samples.

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

To earn an online doctorate in literacy education, candidates may need to complete a capstone, which can include a research project, presentation, or exam. Some departments, however, require a dissertation or thesis, during which candidates research and write a lengthy paper. A dissertation is typically longer than a thesis and may include more original insights, but any of these projects verify the candidate understands literacy elements and can to apply them to practical situations.

Fellowship or Internship

Through internships at literacy-related organizations, students gain practical experience and knowledge in the field. Fellowships are ideal for candidates who already have field experience; fellows grow professionally through research or projects. Undergraduate students often pursue internships, while graduate students generally complete fellowships. Both internships and fellowships allow students to demonstrate their ability to apply classroom knowledge.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Reading and Literacy

  1. Development of Literacy Programs: Students pursuing a literacy doctorate often study the development of literacy programs. This class explores literacy curricula and academic plans. Topics may include cultural issues and modern theories in literacy. Learners also learn how to assess the value of literacy programs. This class prepares learners to become instructional coordinators.

  2. Issues in Reading Literacy: This course examines complications and concerns related to teaching individuals to read and write. Students review historic and modern views on literacy education, and they explore changing technology, policy, state regulations, and academic standards. Students also learn strategies to help struggling learners to prepare for careers as educators and reading specialists.

  3. Reading Research Design: Students learn to assess and apply research data to enhance literacy education in personal practices and school districts. This course covers the history of literacy research and examines modern complications in the field. This information benefits educators, instructional coordinators, and reading specialists.

  4. Literacy Coaching: This course prepares students for literacy coaching positions; students learn about related responsibilities, strategies, and credentials. Learners also explore literacy theories and research, and they may review insights from current literacy coaches. Students learn to build effective coaching plans that meet the needs of students and school districts.

  5. Reading Theories: Students in this course learn strategies for guiding learners toward literacy, including methods for improving students' reading comprehension. This class may focus on a specific group, such middle school students. The course prepares learners for positions as teachers and instructional coordinators.

Become Team
Become Team
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