PhD in STEM Education

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education programs involve collaborations with Tufts departments of Child Study and Human DevelopmentBiologyChemistryMathematicsPhysics & AstronomyComputer Science, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach.

The PhD in STEM Education program prepares educators, researchers, and university faculty in the areas of Mathematics Education, Science Education, or Engineering Education. The program is for students committed to advancing knowledge in STEM Education through original research.

The program enrolls a maximum of five full-time students per year. Students typically have backgrounds in Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Technology, Engineering, Education, Learning Sciences, Psychology, Child Development and other areas relevant to STEM Education. Part-time students are less common, but may be admitted based on recommendations from faculty in the program, with the approval of the STEM Education Program Committee.

Students with strong backgrounds in physics may also consider the Physics Education track, which we offer in collaboration with the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Students interested in cognitive science may consider the joint Cognitive Science PhD program.

Candidates without a baccalaureate in Mathematics, the Sciences, or Engineering will be required to take additional graduate-level courses in their focal content area in order to reach a level of expertise that, at a minimum, is equivalent to that of a Tufts BA/BS major in that content area.

Upon entry into the program, each student is assigned two program advisors, one from the Departments of Education or Child Study and Human Development and one from the Mathematics, Sciences, or Engineering Departments. 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.

Job Placement

Graduates from our PhD program work in all corners of PreK-16 STEM education. All graduates for whom we have data are employed in the field. About 25% of our PhD graduates are K-12 educators, about 40% teach in higher education institutions, and about 35% have research or administrator positions in educational institutions including museums and universities. Our PhD alumni include tenured and tenure track faculty at research institutions around the country, a Research Scientist at ETS, the Manager of Research and Evaluation at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL, and the Director of STEM Elementary Education at Tufts University. To learn about our alumni visit the Meet Students and Alumni page.

Course Requirements

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

  • 12 courses from Groups A, B, C, D, and E (at least one course from each group is required);
  • 2 courses from Group F (Program Seminar);
  • 2 graduate courses in the Mathematics, Sciences or Engineering departments;
  • 2 courses for dissertation work.

These requirement can be adjusted, depending on the student's background, as evaluated by their advisors and by the STEM Education Program Committee. For instance, a student with a master's degree may be granted waivers for up to eight courses. Transfer of credits depends on the content of the course, the student's performance in the course, and the relevance of the course to the student's plan of study, as judged by the student's advisors or the Chair of the Dissertation Committee and by the STEM Education Program Committee.

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. Students consult with their advisors about productive and appropriate topics. Ideally, qualifying papers lead to professional presentations and publications and into the dissertation project.

Download STEM PhD Program Requirements.

Program Objectives

The objectives of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Doctor of Philosophy 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