The Best Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Updated November 8, 2022

Professionals with a doctoral degree in reading have specialized knowledge and practical skills in literacy research, leadership, instruction, and assessment. 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.

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Professionals with a doctoral degree in reading have specialized knowledge and practical skills in literacy research, leadership, instruction, and assessment. These experts work with diverse groups of learners in various educational contexts. Graduates of literacy doctorate programs work in classroom instruction, school administration, curriculum development, and corporate workforce training.

Earning an Ed.D. in reading and literacy can help teachers, educational leaders, and curriculum experts advance in their careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for instructional coordinators will increase 11% between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the national average for all occupations. The BLS also projects that positions for training and development specialists will see similar growth within the same period. These positions are often highly paid: School principals, for example, earn a median annual salary of $92,510.

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Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

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We selected these accredited online doctorate in reading and literacy programs based on the quality of the program, types of courses provided, faculty strength, school awards, rankings and reputation, including the reputation for providing online degree programs.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

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The Best Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

#1 The Best Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Appalachian State University

  • Boone, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Appalachian State University offers a top-ranked online Ed.D. in educational leadership program. Degree-seekers benefit from the flexible enrollment options at the public university. Doctoral students receive support services like career advising and research support.

The online reading and literacy program requires doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates complete a dissertation that contributes original research to the field. With a doctorate in reading and literacy, professionals work in academia, research, and leadership roles.

Doctoral students qualify for fellowships, scholarships, and federal financial aid programs at the accredited institution. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about financial aid opportunities and the admission process.

Appalachian State University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 4,490

Online Master's Programs: 10

Online Doctoral Programs: 1

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $4,839

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 The Best Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

Indiana University Bloomington

  • Bloomington, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online Ed.D. in literacy, culture, and language education program at Indiana University Bloomington ranks among the best in the field. Thanks to a flexible format, the public institution makes it easier to complete a doctorate. Doctoral students receive research support throughout the program.

The doctoral program incorporates advanced reading and literacy coursework. Doctoral candidates advance in the program by passing comprehensive exams and writing an original dissertation. Graduates with an Ed.D. pursue roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Online doctoral students at the accredited institution qualify for several forms of financial aid. Contact the reading and literacy program for more information about financial aid and the admission process.

Indiana University Bloomington at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 8,390

Online Master's Programs: 10

Online Doctoral Programs: 1

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $9,501

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Best Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Programs

St. John's University

  • Queens, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Ph.D. in literacy program at St. John's University uses an online learning format. Degree-seekers benefit from the flexible enrollment options at the private university. Doctoral students also receive research support, career advising, and library access.

During the online reading and literacy program, learners take doctoral courses to earn their degree. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. As the terminal degree in reading and literacy, the program leads to career opportunities in academia, research, and industry.

Online doctoral students can pay for their degree with scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid. Contact the literacy program for more information about research support and financial aid.

St. John's University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 4,823

Online Master's Programs: 10

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $28,569

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
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What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Program?

Specific requirements for reading doctorate programs differ between schools. Programs have varying practicum, capstone, dissertation, and endorsement criteria. Still, most students completing an Ed.D. in reading and literacy complete similar coursework.

Students who pursue a literacy doctorate online may take courses similar to those listed below.

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Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy

Development and Evaluation of Literacy Programs
This course provides students with an overview of literacy standards, research, and curricula. Students discuss program models and analyze issues, trends, and teaching practices for diverse educational settings. Students gain experience in curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation. This course is particularly relevant for aspiring instructional coordinators.
Electronic Assessment in Literacy Classrooms
In this course, students examine the use and implementation of electronic portfolio assessment within K–12 literacy curricula. Students discuss the benefits and applications of both print–based and technology–based assessment approaches. Students seeking careers in school administration or instructional coordination especially benefit from this course.
Instructional Approaches in Reading, Writing and Language
This course explores cognitive, physiological, and psychological theories related to reading and writing skill development. Students discuss and evaluate instructional models for reading, writing, and language development. This course is particularly valuable for aspiring reading specialists.
New Literacies and Multiliteracies in Education
In this course, students examine theories, research, and curricular elements related to the new literacy studies model. Lessons emphasize the importance of contextualized reading education. This course is especially relevant for students who hope to become resource teachers or training and development specialists.
Trends and Issues in Literary Research
This course provides an overview of the historical and philosophical concepts in major literacy research and theory. Students discuss how cognitive, linguistic, and sociocultural factors affect the development of reading and writing processes. This course is particularly beneficial for future reading specialists.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy?

A typical doctorate program takes about three years to complete. However, several factors may affect the length of an online doctorate in literacy education, including coursework requirements, research expectations, concentration options, and field experience components. Most literacy doctorate programs require degree seekers to write and defend a research–based dissertation, which may take several months or years.

Program structure is an important factor in determining length. Students who pursue an Ed.D. in reading and literacy may choose to enroll in a cohort learning program. Cohort learning requires students to work in groups and submit assignments according to a predetermined timeline. Students who desire a more flexible learning schedule may opt for an individually paced program. These programs allow students to progress through courses as quickly as they would like.

Accreditation for Online Reading and Literacy Doctorate Degrees

Students who decide to earn an Ed.D. in reading and literacy should consider the accreditation status of their prospective school before committing to a program. External accreditation is an indicator of academic rigor and quality. Many students seek doctoral credentials for career advancement purposes, and employers prefer to hire candidates with accredited degrees.

It is best for students to enroll in a regionally accredited literacy doctorate program. There are six regional accreditation bodies in the United States, and each oversees schools within a specific region. Regional accreditation is more rigorous and widely respected than national accreditation. Academically–oriented universities and colleges typically maintain regional accreditation. Regionally, accredited schools may not accept credits from nationally accredited institutions.

National accreditation is common among for–profit and career–based colleges. These schools typically accept transfer credits from both nationally and regionally accredited programs. Two organizations oversee national accreditation: the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ED distributes federal education funds, collects school data, and enforces education laws. CHEA is an association of U.S. colleges and universities; it supports self–regulation through voluntary accreditation.

The ED oversees the funding and legal compliance of educational institutions, while CHEA evaluates their adherence to quality standards. Both organizations maintain online lists of accrediting agencies and accredited schools.

Some degrees also hold special programmatic accreditation. Students should seek an Ed.D. in reading and literacy accredited by Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP evaluates and accredits educator preparation programs based on content and pedagogical knowledge; clinical partnerships and practice; and candidate quality, recruitment, and selectivity.

Careers With a Doctorate in Reading & Literacy

Students who complete an online doctorate in literacy education are qualified to work in various fields. Some Ed.D. holders continue their classroom work as reading specialists or resource teachers, while others become elementary, middle, or high school principals. Some graduates apply their specialized knowledge of literacy acquisition and curriculum design to careers as instructional coordinators. Others become trainers for businesses or governments.

Reading education professionals who complete an online literacy doctorate program may seek employment in one of the positions listed below.

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal
These administrators oversee school operations. They create class schedules, implement curricula, advise students, and evaluate teachers. Principals also assess testing data, discuss student progress with teachers and parents, manage school resources, and determine security protocols. School principals typically possess a graduate degree in education.
  • Median Annual Salary: $94,390
  • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Instructional Coordinator
These professionals help schools develop and implement curricula and teaching standards. They analyze student achievement data, research and suggest educational resources, mentor teachers, and develop procedures for curriculum implementation. They may recommend changes to teaching practices or coordinate educational technology training. Instructional coordinators usually hold a graduate degree.
  • Median Annual Salary: $63,750
  • Projected Growth Rate: 11 %
Reading Specialist
These specialists assess literacy needs, develop and improve reading curricula, and advise teachers on student differentiation and reading education strategies. They typically work in elementary and middle schools, though some work in high schools or childcare centers. Employers may require reading specialists to hold a graduate degree.
  • Median Annual Salary: $50,274
Resource Teacher
These educators teach students with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. They maintain educational classroom resources, help teachers implement differentiated curricula, deliver instructional programs, assess student progress, and track assessment data. They may specialize in working with an age group. Resource teachers usually have an advanced education degree.
  • Median Annual Salary: $48,253
Training and Development Specialist
These specialists help organizations train employees. They assess training needs, develop and select course materials, deliver instructional programs, and evaluate training effectiveness. They may also perform administrative tasks related to program budgeting, scheduling, and enrollment. Many employers prefer training and development specialists with backgrounds in education.
  • Median Annual Salary: $60,360
  • Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Doctorate in Reading and Literacy Salary

Salaries for literacy education professionals can vary significantly by education level, professional experience, employer type, and geographic location. Some of the top–employing industries are elementary and secondary schools, colleges, educational support services, and state governments.

The table below contains BLS salary data for instructional coordinators who work in the highest–paying U.S. states for literacy professionals. On average, the District of Columbia offers instructional coordinators the greatest yearly compensation, at $89,190 annually. Connecticut and California trail closely behind at $85,220 and $80,140 respectively, with New Jersey and Alaska offering wages at $76,780 and $76,730. Some of the lowest–paying states for instructional coordinators are Kansas, Montana, and Florida.

Instructional Coordinator Salaries by U.S. State

State Mean Annual Salary
District of Columbia $89,190
Connecticut $85,220
California $80,140
New Jersey $76,780
Alaska $76,730
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Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Reading and Literacy

Students who choose to complete an online doctorate in literacy education should begin researching financial aid opportunities as early as possible. Universities often offer aid to students with financial need or academic merit. Some schools even maintain program–specific scholarship funds. Students seeking an Ed.D. in reading and literacy may also pursue aid through community programs, professional associations, or private scholarship foundations.

Many U.S. students qualify for need–based grants or low–interest loans from the government. Students seeking enrollment in a literacy doctorate program may determine their eligibility for federal financial support by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Occasionally, degree–seeking teachers may obtain assistance through their employers. Because highly qualified teachers are great instructional assets, some schools offer partial or full tuition reimbursement to educators completing graduate studies.

Some students pursuing an online doctorate in literacy education may choose to participate in the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, which provides student loan forgiveness to eligible teachers who work in low–income institutions. Similarly, graduates who work in the public sector may enroll in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

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The 30 Best Online Master’s in Reading Programs

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