5 Best Grad Schools with Online Doctorate in Reading & Literacy

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Updated: March 13, 2024, Reading time: 14 minutes

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Reading and literacy are part of our everyday lives. According to a study, about 130 million Americans struggle with low literacy skills—54% of teens and adults are reading below the sixth-grade level. Those struggling in these areas risk falling behind in academics and life in general. 

A doctorate in reading and literacy program is best pursued by those who want to gain the appropriate abilities to analyze current theories and apply literacy research to develop more effective strategies in teaching reading and literacy to all age brackets. 


An online Doctor of Reading And Literacy degree program provides students with the same on-campus curriculum. While having different focuses, EdDs and PhDs in literacy education prepare professionals for literacy instruction, educational leadership, and curriculum development positions.

This doctorate helps students gather the skills and knowledge necessary for research to advance language development and literacy acquisition.


The Best Online Doctoral Degree Programs in Reading and Literacy online were picked based on the following factors:

Read our Methodology for more details on our ranking process.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top 5 Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership: Emphasis on Literacy in Exceptionalities

Appalachian State University’s online EdD in Literacy and Exceptionalities is among the top programs for graduate students seeking advanced reading and literacy education training. The program’s coursework focuses on teaching education professionals to use multimodal expressive arts theory and inquiry in pre-K-12 settings. Students will receive training that allows them to apply for leadership positions in this setting.

The core coursework of the program includes Theoretical Frameworks for Social Inquiry & Practice, Educational Organizations and Technology, and Curriculum History, Theory, and Practice in Educational Organizations. Upon completing the required courses, students must intern in a prekindergarten setting for a year. The learner will participate in exercises to make the connection between theory and practice crystal evident.

A master’s degree from an accredited school, and with a GPA of 3.0 or higher is required. Prospective doctoral candidates must also submit their GRE scores, a statement of intent, and letters of recommendation.

St. John’s University

St. John’s University

Doctor of Philosophy in Literacy

St. John’s University’s PhD in Literacy allows students to complete coursework online. This program focuses on advancing literacy instruction in various settings, whether within formal or informal education settings. While being one of the most research-intensive doctorates, students who enroll full-time can complete the degree in as little as three years. The program fosters collaboration with peers, teachers, faculty, and administrators.

Students have two concentration options within the literacy education doctorate. They can specialize in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or Literacy (focused on kindergarten to high school literacy instruction).

Students in either concentration must complete 42 credit hours, including a dissertation. Core literacy courses include Foundations of Literacy Inquiry and Professionalism, Models & Processes of Reading & Writing Acquisition & Competency, and Literacy Leadership.

Prospective students must have a graduate degree (master’s or specialist) in any field with a 3.2 GPA or higher and a MAT/GRE score. Additional application requirements include a resume/CV, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts of all previous degrees and coursework.

Capella University

Capella University

Doctor of Education in Reading and Literacy

The online EdD in Reading and Literacy at Capella University is designed for students seeking to enroll in a practice-based doctoral program. The program requires students to complete 64 credit hours—with zero transfer credits—including a Capstone: doctoral project, which requires students to choose a specific literacy issue and conduct research to help solve it. The program’s curriculum is designed to help with literacy assessment in P-12 to adult education settings.

Using industry standards to support career advancement, students will explore courses discussing equity and social justice, theoretical and historical reading foundations, reading and literacy evaluation, assessment, and decision-making.

Online students can apply for scholarships and savings opportunities to reduce the overall cost of their education. Students can tailor their degrees by choosing a specialization with the help of the program’s academic coaches and faculty.

Although GRE and GMAT scores are not required for admission, interested applicants must have a minimum of 3.0 GPA in their official master’s transcripts. All previously earned degrees should be from accredited institutions.

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading and Literacy

Texas A&M University’s online Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction offers a Reading and Literacy Education designed for students seeking literacy processes, literacy teaching, and literacy assessment preparation.

Due to the nature of Ph.D. programs, prospective students should expect a research-based curriculum that explores literacy theories and research in-depth. Students will receive training in various research methodologies and a possible mentored residency experience.

Emphasizing Advanced Literacy to Teach and Learn Across Disciplines, Practicum in Literacy Intervention, Organization and Supervision of Reading Programs, and Literacy and Language are some required reading and literacy coursework.

Students can choose their electives to align the program with their career aspirations. Electives include Children’s Literature and Literacy; Multicultural Children’s Literature and Literacy; Writing: Development, Assessment, and Instruction; Elementary Literacy Instruction for Facilitating STEM Learning; and STEM Teaching and Learning.

Applicants must have a master’s degree from a regionally acknowledged institution. Additional requirements include official transcripts, writing essays, resumes/CVs, and purpose statements.

Indiana University Bloomington


Doctor of Education in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education

Indiana University Bloomington’s EdD in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education is among the most comprehensive online reading and literacy doctorates. This is a 60-credit hour doctorate dedicated to advancing students’ leadership abilities in environments that produce and provide inclusive educational resources.

Students participate in research and advanced study in literacy practices and policies focusing on comprehending and meeting the requirements of learners from various backgrounds.

This online degree explores courses in curriculum design, language development, multicultural education, and the influence of culture on learning and literacy acquisition. The maximum time frame for this degree is seven years.

However, students who follow the suggested course sequencing can complete coursework in three years. Doctoral students can apply for up to 18 transfer credit hours from their master’s degree to reduce the required credit hours of the doctorate program.

A bachelor’s degree with a 2.75 GPA is required in addition to a master’s degree—both must be from a reputable accredited institution. However, students with a degree from a non-accredited institution can be considered if they meet high GRE scores. Supplemental requirements include a personal statement, resume, and letters of recommendation.

Common Coursework in Online Doctorates in Reading and Literacy

Assessment and Diagnosis of Reading Difficulties

Students learn about numerous evaluation techniques and instruments to spot reading issues and disabilities. They learn how to decipher evaluation findings and formulate effective intervention plans.

Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Literacy Education

The effect of language and culture on the development of literacy is examined in this course. Students investigate methods for assisting different students in literacy lessons.

Digital Literacy and Technology Integration

Students investigate how to incorporate digital resources to enhance their reading and writing skills and explore the role of technology in literacy instruction.

Language Development and Linguistics

Students gain knowledge of language acquisition and the function of linguistics in teaching literacy. Phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics are all covered in this course.

Literacy Instruction and Curriculum Design

This course focuses on teaching literacy effectively, including fostering students’ reading, writing, and understanding abilities. Students investigate research-based teaching strategies and create a literacy curriculum.

Literacy Intervention and Remediation

This coursework aims to develop and put into practice targeted treatments for students who struggle with reading, including those with dyslexia and other learning impairments.

Literacy Program Evaluation and Assessment

Students study the evaluation and assessment of these programs to determine the efficacy of literacy programs and make fact-based judgments.

Research Methods

This explores the research methods employed in literacy studies. They acquire the skills to plan and conduct empirical research in reading and literacy.

Literacy Theories and Models

Students will learn about several theoretical models and frameworks that support literacy development and instruction. It looks at reading and literacy from both historical and modern viewpoints.

Admission Requirements for Online Doctorates in Reading and Literacy

Admission requirements for online doctorates vary from school to school. For example, some schools only accept students with master’s degrees from accredited colleges and universities, while some accept applicants with non-accredited master’s degrees as long as they have high GRE scores.

Furthermore, departmental requirements may or may not require doctoral applicants to have teaching experience, licenses, and certifications. 

However, the most common requirements include:

Most doctoral degree programs, online and on-campus, have a holistic approach to their admissions process. These schools evaluate students based on their overall capacity to succeed in the program instead of just looking at their undergraduate and graduate degree GPAs. 

To increase your chances of gaining admission to a doctoral program, you need to secure at least two recommendation letters from well-established professionals in education. LORs will highlight your achievements, strengths, and suitability for the program. You can ask your previous instructors or employers to write you a recommendation letter. 

Schools will also look at your writing skills. Students in doctoral programs must do original research, prepare a dissertation, or complete other research-intensive coursework. For complex research findings, analyses, and conclusions to be appropriately communicated clearly and cohesively, excellent writing abilities are necessary. 

Certifications and Licensure for Reading and Literacy

Certifications and licensures are great additions to formal degrees. These credentials will further prove your skills, knowledge, and dedication to the field. There are several certificates and licenses for reading and literacy professions. The most common ones are listed below.

State Teaching License with a Reading Endorsement

Teaching licenses, required in many states, offer additional endorsements in particular disciplines, including reading. Having a license to teach in reading shows your competence in educating students at all grade levels in reading and literacy.

Literacy Coach Certification

Literacy coaches are instructional leaders who help and guide other teachers as they put good literacy research into practice in the classroom. Certification as a literacy coach shows you know about coaching techniques and literacy training.

ESL/Bilingual Certification

Certifications focused on teaching language and literacy to non-native English speakers are available for teachers who deal with English language learners (ELLs) or bilingual pupils.

Reading Specialist Certification/Licensure

This credential is intended for teachers who focus on working with and assisting kids who struggle with reading or require additional literacy support. Reading specialists frequently work in schools to help students improve their reading abilities and offer specialized intervention and instruction.

International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Certifications

The IDA offers several credentials and titles for professionals in the dyslexia and literacy fields, including the Certified Dyslexia Practitioner (CDP) and the Structured Literacy Teacher (SLT) credentials.

Common Career Paths with a Doctorate in Reading & Literacy

Obtaining a doctorate in reading and literacy opens various career opportunities in education, research, and advocacy. Following are some typical career choices for those with this degree:

College or University Professor

Postsecondary teaching is the most common path pursued by Ph.D. graduates. These professionals instruct courses on literacy instruction and carry out related research. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field will grow by 8 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Median Annual Wage: $80,840

Director of Literacy Programs

Educational directors are responsible for monitoring and directing literacy initiatives at educational institutions. Their primary duty is to ensure the institution follows best practices and caters to the requirements of its diverse learners. Various academic institutions hire literacy program directors, including districts, schools, and organizations. 

Median Annual Salary: $62,123

Curriculum Developer

Those with an EdD in reading and literacy degree can work as curriculum developers, creating and implementing literacy programs and resources for educational publishers or classrooms.

Median Annual Salary: $82,449

Reading Specialist

The primary responsibility of a reading specialist is to assist children in developing their reading and literacy skills. These professionals frequently observe students in their classes or give tests to determine whether pupils have reading and writing difficulties. They use their knowledge to create lesson plans, relevant learning activities, and personalized learning targets for students who require support.

Median Annual Salary: $67,289

Literacy Coordinator or Coach

Literacy coordinators or coaches assist teachers in implementing evidence-based literacy practices. They offer tools, professional development, and coaching to enhance reading instruction across all schools.

Median Annual Salary: $64,950

Educational Consultant

An educational consultant plays a significant role in updating and maintaining a school’s curriculum. The role of the consultant is to collaborate with administrators and teachers to assess student needs, keep an eye on a teacher’s delivery of teaching, and enhance already implemented school initiatives. 

Median Annual Salary: $75,570

Literacy Policy Advocate

Holders of a doctorate can serve as advocates for literacy projects and policies, working with legislators and educational institutions to advance good literacy practices and resolve literacy-related problems in the community.

Median Annual Salary: $58,958

Researcher in Reading and Literacy

Doctorates can help with research projects and increase reading and literacy instruction understanding. This could entail looking into efficient teaching strategies, literacy interventions, or literacy policies.

Median Annual Salary: $79,887

Professional Associations for Reading and Literacy Education

American Educational Research Association (AERA)

AERA is a large research organization dedicated to advancing knowledge in education. It includes a special interest group focused on Reading and Literacy.

International Literacy Association (ILA)

ILA is a global organization that promotes literacy education and supports literacy professionals. Members get access to webinars, conferences, publications, literacy journals, and practice resources.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

ISTE is dedicated to integrating technology into education, including literacy instruction. You’ll benefit from resources and professional development related to technology-enhanced literacy practices.

Literacy Research Association (LRA)

LRA is an organization that promotes research and scholarship in literacy education and organizes an annual conference and publishes the Journal of Literacy Research.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

NAEYC focuses on early childhood education, including literacy development in young children. They offer resources, publications, and conferences related to early literacy.

International Dyslexia Association (IDA)

IDA helps individuals with dyslexia and related learning difficulties. They offer resources, professional development, and certifications for educators specializing in dyslexia intervention.

Reading Recovery Council of North America (RRCNA)

RRCNA is an organization that supports and advocates for Reading Recovery programs. They offer professional development opportunities and resources for educators involved in early literacy intervention.

Online Doctorate in Reading & Literacy - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need teaching experience to apply for an accredited online doctorate in reading and literacy?

The majority of graduate programs require applicants to have professional experience. Some schools even go so far as to state a specific minimum experience requirement, such as two years of full-time teaching before applying to a doctoral program in reading and literacy instruction.

Who should apply for doctorates in reading and literacy programs?

Teachers with good communication skills, patience, and passion committed to enhancing kids’ lives through the power of reading and learning are the best fit for reading and literacy doctorates. 

What’s the difference between EdDs and PhDs in reading and literacy programs?

An EdD in reading and literacy program is a professional practice program that focuses on how existing research can improve literacy instruction. On the other hand, PhD programs are established doctorates in social science emphasizing original research.  

Key Takeaways

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