PhD in STEM Education

The PhD in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education offers students the opportunity to advance knowledge in STEM Education through original research. Graduates of this program pursue careers as researchers and educators dedicated to improving STEM education.

STEM Education is an interdisciplinary program. We conduct research in many different STEM learning environments including, college-level STEM courses, K-12 classrooms, makerspaces and afterschool programs, and community-based collaborations. We work collaboratively across other departments at Tufts and with the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) and the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction (IRLI). 

The program enrolls five students each year on average. Both full-time and part-time options are available. Full-time PhD students receive full tuition support for five years, a stipend, and health coverage.

We encourage interested students to look over faculty research areas and email a potential mentor, providing a brief summary of your background and research interests, before the application deadline. Admissions decisions are made by the STEM Education faculty as a whole.

Message from Program Director

Julia Gouvea
Director, STEM Education Program

Program of Study

Upon entry into the program, each PhD student is assigned two program advisors, one of whom is a faculty member in STEM Education and serves as the student’s primary mentor. Program advisors help students choose courses, internships, and research activities. These advisors can be changed at any time within the program.

PhD students generally work in research assistantships on externally funded projects and may also have opportunities to serve as teaching assistants, either in education or in STEM courses. We also encourage students to apply for a teaching fellowship through the GIFT Program.

Course Requirements

Students are required to complete 18 courses to fulfill requirements for the PhD in STEM Education degree. These include:

  • 12 graduate-level courses in Education
  • 2 graduate-level courses in a STEM discipline
  • Enrollment in the STEM Education program seminar for 2 years (2 courses)
  • Two courses in dissertation work

These requirements can be adjusted, depending on the student's background as evaluated by their advisors and by the STEM Education Program Committee. Students who have taken graduate-level coursework in education or in STEM may reduce the number of required courses by applying for a transfer of credits. No undergraduate courses will count towards the PhD degree.

Research/Internship Requirement

PhD students must complete an original research study for their dissertation. The program is built around a set of experiences designed to help students reach this goal. In addition to coursework, PhD students complete two qualifying papers. Ideally, qualifying papers lead to professional presentations and publications and into the dissertation project.

Read more about STEM PhD Program Requirements.

Job Placement

Graduates of the STEM Education program pursue careers in many areas of PreK-university STEM Education. About 40% of graduates conduct research or teach in higher education institutions. About 25% of graduates are K–12 educators. And about 35% have research or administrator positions in educational institutions including museums, non-profits, and universities.

Examples of positions held by alumni of the STEM Education PhD include:

  • Program Coordinator for Math and Science at Lakes Region Community College
  • Research Scientist at Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Manager of Research and Evaluation at the Museum of Science and Industry
  • Tenured and tenure track faculty at research institutions around the world

To learn about our alumni visit the Meet Students and Alumni page.

Related and Joint Programs

Students interested in cognitive science may consider the joint Cognitive Science PhD program. In order to apply to this program through the Education Department, you must identify a primary mentor in the STEM Education program who is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program.

Students may also consider applying to graduate programs in STEM disciplines, many of which have formal or informal opportunities to conduct education research. Students with strong backgrounds in physics may consider the Physics Education track, which we offer in collaboration with the Department of Physics & Astronomy. 

Students with a strong background in biology may consider the Biology Education Research concentration offered through the Department of Biology. We encourage prospective students to discuss these options with potential advisors.

Program Objectives

The objectives of the PhD STEM Education program will allow students to do the following:

  • Develop and exhibit a deep understanding of the:
    1. Theory and research on learning, development, and teaching; cognitive science; and the sociocultural foundations of education, both broadly and within their discipline
    2. Developmental, pedagogical, content specific, and sociocultural challenges inherent in teaching and learning
    3. Research methods and results appropriate for the development of studies that will contribute to new theoretical insights and practical approaches to education
    4. Knowledge and practices in their respective disciplines
    5. Theory and research on learning and teaching in their disciplines
  • Develop abilities to:
    1. Express themselves and disseminate effectively within professional research communities through oral presentations and manuscripts submitted for publication in peer-reviewed venues.
    2. Address questions of educational and social relevance grounded in disciplinary knowledge, where relevance refers both to the field at large and to students' particular professional experiences and interests
    3. Collaborate with others on joint research projects
    4. Situate their research within a global and international community
  • Understand the importance of respecting the children, teachers, students, and educators with whom they work
  • Build on the work of others and eventually contribute to the corpus of human knowledge and understanding in their fields
  • Formulate researchable questions, design methods for addressing them, execute empirical studies, and validate conclusions

Program Faculty

Meet our STEM Education Faculty