Whether it's a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or a doctor of education (Ed.D), earning a doctorate in reading and literacy online opens the door to rewarding careers and lifelong learning. For example, doctoral graduates may take positions as professors at colleges and universities, where they can carry out research and present their findings in academic journals and at conferences. Postsecondary teachers enjoy many job opportunities, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% job growth for postsecondary teachers through 2026.
This guide reviews literacy doctoral programs, including job opportunities, curricula, and outcomes.
Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Literacy?
Students who want to dedicate their careers to literacy research, whether at higher education institutions or in other settings, benefit from online doctoral programs in reading and literacy. A doctorate can help job seekers secure non-research jobs as well, including leadership and consulting positions. These roles involve creating, supervising, and evaluating literacy programs, which means they require high levels of expertise and critical-thinking skills.
Ph.D. students may spend 4-7 years -- and sometimes up to 10 years -- working on their degrees.
Prospective students should consider whether they can commit to a Ph.D.'s timeline. Ph.D. students may spend 4-7 years -- and sometimes up to 10 years -- working on their degrees. The timeline depends on several factors, such as enrollment status. It also depends on the student's dissertation and the time they can commit to their research.
What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Literacy?
Pursuing a doctorate in reading and literacy online prepares students for a variety of careers. Ph.D. graduates frequently find work at colleges and universities, where they carry out research, teach courses, and contribute to publications. Additionally, graduates can find positions at non-academic institutions, like nonprofit research institutes or government agencies.
Sometimes Ph.D. programs allow students to choose a concentration in educational or literacy leadership, which equips them with administrative skills. For example, people who follow this path might lead a nonprofit educational foundation that focuses on teaching literacy to children with learning disabilities. They may also work as instructional coordinators, developing literacy curriculum plans for schools. Additionally, these graduates might work as consultants, helping shape literacy programs to become as effective as possible.
Graduates may also take jobs as reading specialists, literacy coaches, educational diagnosticians, and reading interventionists. Even though these jobs do not require a doctoral degree, a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. can lead to better pay and more advancement opportunities.
Executive Director, Nonprofit Organization
Literacy Ph.D. Program Overview
This section offers details about what students can expect from online doctoral programs in reading and literacy, like admissions requirements and what type of degree -- a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. -- might work best for them. The section also outlines common courses and how the skills developed in a doctoral program transfer to particular jobs.
Types of Doctoral Degrees in Literacy
Prospective students interested in pursuing a doctorate in reading and literacy online can opt for either a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in reading and literacy. Both degrees include research components and courses on reading instruction, but focuses differ.
A Ph.D. prepares graduates to work in research positions, focusing heavily on research and theory. When writing dissertations, Ph.D. students focus on a specialized academic area of interest, which they may continue to research after graduation.
When writing dissertations, Ph.D. students focus on a specialized academic area of interest, which they may continue to research after graduation.
An Ed.D. typically focuses more on the practice of literacy. Students learn about how literacy learning occurs in schools, colleges, and other institutions. They might also focus on government reading and literacy policies at the local, state, and federal levels. Although Ed.D. students also carry out dissertation research, they may not continue with research in their careers. Instead, they typically take positions in education administration or policy.
Sometimes schools include other differences between Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs. For example, a school might allow Ed.D. learners to study part time, whereas Ph.D. students must enroll full time. Additionally, a Ph.D. may take longer to complete. However, not every school makes these distinctions, so students should research each prospective program's requirements.
Application Requirements and Admission Criteria
To apply to a Ph.D. in literacy program, candidates need bachelor's and master's degrees. Many schools allow prospective students to apply without a related academic background, but some prefer applicants with teacher certifications or degrees in teaching or literacy. Candidates may also need to meet GPA requirements -- usually between a 2.75-3.5 minimum. Schools typically require GRE scores and a resume as well.
Additionally, prospective students usually submit 1-3 recommendation letters. Sometimes admissions representatives ask applicants to send in an academic writing sample or a personal statement outlining their academic and career goals. Those who learned English as a second language need a strong TOEFL score. Applicants may also need to partake in an interview, which can occur online or in person.
The curricula for online Ph.D. programs vary, but there are several standard inclusions. Most programs require research methods courses and a culminating experience. The culminating experience is usually a dissertation project during which students carry out research within a specialized area of the field.
Before dissertation research begins, learners take a dissertation proposal course, which helps them craft their research concept and question. After students write their dissertations, they defend them in front of a committee. Students may also need to pass a comprehensive examination before they graduate.
Online doctoral programs in reading and literacy often include concentrations, like educational leadership, special education, or English as a second language. Candidates hoping to work as reading specialists or literacy teachers may complete an apprenticeship, internship, or supervised work experience. Distance learners can usually fulfill this requirement by working with an approved organization in their local areas.
The following courses are common among online doctoral programs in reading and literacy.
Learning to Read
Social Science Research
Literacy Development for Second Language Learners
Analysis of Research in Literacy
Students earning a doctorate in reading and literacy online focus on research and analysis. Learners study advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods, like multivariate statistics, participant observation, and textual interpretation. They also learn about current trends and research questions. Graduates may find jobs at universities, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Research professionals contribute to publications and present at conferences, expanding the scope of knowledge within the literacy field.
Some universities offer online doctoral programs in reading and literacy that emphasize leadership and administration. Students in these programs study practical skills like how to analyze the effectiveness of literacy programs, leading to administrative and leadership positions.
Accreditation for Online Literacy Doctorate Programs
Accredited schools voluntarily undergo a third-party evaluation to ensure they meet high academic standards. Accredited schools have more financial aid options and greater educational and professional opportunities for their graduates than unaccredited schools. When researching schools, prospective students should look for regional accreditation. Each regional agency accredits schools within a specific area of the United States.
Prospective students should also look for programmatic accreditation, which deals with a specific program within a school. Accrediting agencies for reading and literacy programs include the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the National Council for Accreditation in Teacher Educators, and the University Council for Education Administration.