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Literacy, Doctor of Philosophy

Education Specialties


St. John’s is a Catholic, Vincentian, and global university that, since its founding, has striven to provide an excellent educational for all, especially for those individuals lacking economic, social, and educational advantages. There is overwhelming evidence documenting the debilitating influence of poverty upon social, emotional, physical, and educational well-being of children limiting and ultimately impeding their academic performance and achievement. The Ph. D. in Literacy Program is designed to encourage proactive research that seeks solutions to these situations and advocates for equity and social justice.

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Online Program Update

The online Ph.D. Literacy program will be accepting new applications for Fall 2020. Details are forthcoming.

Offered as a fully online program, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in Literacy focusing on Diverse and At Risk Learners prepares professionals for these role options:

  • Teacher Educator: College or University Faculty for Teacher Preparation, Research, and Service
  • School Literacy Specialist: Reading or Writing Specialist or Literacy Coach Developing Literacy for All Learners
  • Literacy Leader Advocate: Agency, Community, or School District Curriculum Specialist - Developing, Organizing and Supervising Literacy Programs

If you currently hold NYSED teacher certification but are not already certified in Literacy, this program will enable you to acquire New York State certification after completing the pre-requisite coursework and meeting current state requirements including passing the NYS Content Specialty Exam in Literacy.

Department Faculty

Please see a list of our Education Specialties faculty.


Eligibility for the Program
Applicant must have an undergraduate GPA of B or better, with initial teaching certification. A minimum GPA of 3.2 is required for graduate courses.

Application Procedure

1) Submit a completed application and $70 application fee to The School of Education's Admissions Office online. Supporting documents include:

  • Official transcripts of all previous course work (A minimum GPA of 3.2 in a master’s level program is required),
  • A Statement of Goals for doctoral study,
  • A professional résumé or curriculum vitæ,
  • Miller Analogies Test (MAT), satisfactory score (generally the 50th percentile) and/or
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Analytical Written Section, satisfactory score (of at least 4)
  • Interview (as applicable)

Upon submitting the application online, we request that all supplemental material be sent to the following address:

St.  John’s Graduate School of Education
PO BOX 811       
Randolph, MA. 02368-0811

Please view the School of Education Graduate Admission Application Requirements for detailed admission information.


Download the program planning sheet (Word).

Career Outcomes

The literacy programs enable teachers to develop a repertoire of literacy strategies that enhance teaching and learning in general education, special education, resource room, and English-language learning environments. If you already have a master’s degree in these areas, the literacy strategies you learn will improve your ability to teach a diverse population of students.

Career Opportunities

  • Reading specialist and diagnostician
  • Private practice as a multisensory instructor
  • Resource room teacher
  • Conference presenter
  • Literacy coach or supervisor
  • University or college professor with Ph.D.
  • Curriculum/staff developer

Additional Information

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the admissions requirements for the program?
Submit a completed application through the St. John’s University Office of Admissions. Supporting documents include:

  • official transcripts of all previous course work (undergraduate andgraduate) that document a minimum GPA of 3.2 in a master’s level program,
  • at least two letters of recommendation from professors and/or supervisors,
  • a statement of goals for doctoral study,
  • a professional résumé or curriculum vitae,
  • documentation of full-time teaching experience,
  • a satisfactory score on the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), (generally the 50th percentile) and/or
  • a satisfactory score (of at least 4) on the Analytical Writing section of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). (Scores on the other sections of the GRE are not required for admission to the Ph.D. Program in literacy).

What types of jobs require a doctorate? Where can I find out more about such jobs?

Most full time college and university teaching and research positions require a doctorate.  Some junior colleges may not.  At times part-time faculty members, called adjunct faculty members, may be hired by some colleges without degrees if they have extraordinary knowledge or skill.  Additionally, while K-12 teaching positions may not require a doctorate, knowledge acquired from doctoral courses will enhance your classroom instruction. With higher level education, salaries tend to increase.

Can I pursue this program while I keep my day job? Can I take time off if things get tough?
All of the classes are online, so you can complete the program while you work. We also have two summer sessions for your convenience. It is possible to take time off from the program should the need arise, but this will likely delay your completion. You may maintain matriculation for up to two semesters and pay a “maintaining matriculation” fee after which you must reapply and meet entrance requirements once more.

Can I take this program if I need to commute a long distance? Are there online courses?
It will featuring prestigious faculty at St. John’s University and from adjunct faculty from around the globe assisting with the instruction remotely.

Can I transfer credits from another school or schools into the program? If so, how many?
You must take a minimum of 42 doctoral level credits at St. John’s. If you have a credits beyond a first master’s degree in literacy from an accredited college  or university, it is likely, although not guaranteed, that up to six of those credits can be transferable. You can submit official college transcripts and course descriptions for evaluation.  We allow up to six graduate credits at the doctoral level to transfer as long as they were not used towards a degree.

Is there any possibility of getting financial aid for doctoral study?

For financial aid information, please visit Financial Aid.

When may I join a cohort?

Cohorts are groups of individuals who enter the program at the same time and take the same sequence of courses. Admissions are in the summer, fall and spring terms.

How often will I meet with my advisor?
You will meet with your advisor at least once a term, but as much as you would like.

How much freedom will I have in my program to pursue my professional interests? 
The program’s mission, consistent with the University’s mission, is to graduate students who are sensitive to the needs of and advocate for at-risk (economically, socially, and physically disadvantaged) elementary, secondary, and post-secondary learners.  The influence of poverty on learning is, therefore, an overriding theme.  However, you are free to pursue your own professional interests in the field of literacy.

What is the minimum GPA for completing the program?
You must maintain at least a B in every doctoral course, throughout your program. 

Is there a comprehensive examination?
Yes, you will take a comprehensive examination that includes two parts: first, there is a research-based scenario where your abilities to design, collect data, and analyze it will be evaluated across quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods through an application-based exercise; and second, your historical knowledge of literacy as it pertains to emerging topics and issues along with your ability to identify gaps in the extant literature will be evaluated through an essay.

How long does it take to complete the program and graduate with the degree?
This depends on how efficient you are as a student.  You take two courses for seven consecutive semesters, including summer. (This is two full years and one semester of coursework.)  Then you start your dissertation study. (Assuming you have done well in the courses and are successful writing the three annual portfolios.)

Online Learning

Earn Your Degree Online

Pursue your St. John’s Ph.D. in Literacy degree entirely on your computer. Our fully accredited Online Learning programs allow you to take courses electronically. Log in at your convenience to enter our virtual classrooms, learn from our accomplished faculty, and engage with classmates.

Our online courses offer the same high academic quality that students experience on campus. Professors deliver lectures and post assignments via Blackboard, our electronic course management system. Students use it to attend virtual classes, share documents, take exams, and exchange ideas with faculty and classmates.

A Fully Academic Experience

You also enjoy the outstanding services available to all St. John’s students, for example:

  • Eligibility for scholarships and financial aid
  • Tuition and fees identical to those for on-campus courses
  • Access to library collections, career services, mentoring, and other academic resources.

Click here for more information about the Online Ph.D. in Literacy at St. John’s.

Department Contacts