STEM Education, Ph.D.

STEM Education, Ph.D.

The PhD in STEM Education?

PhD in STEM Education

The PhD in STEM Education is designed for those who seek to increase their competence in a selected area of STEM education (e.g., science education, mathematics education, educational technology), including competence in a particular STEM field (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Recipients gain appropriate knowledge and skills for teaching, supervisory, research, and administrative positions in higher education, including college and university STEM Education programs, and programs in STEM fields in community and state colleges, liberal arts colleges, and universities.

There are three primary specializations within the PhD in STEM Education program: Science Education, Mathematics Education, and Educational Technology.

Who May Apply for This Program?

Admission to this PhD program requires completion of a Master’s degree. Program requirements include completion of:

  • a major technical area (MTA), with 21 graduate credits in a STEM field beyond the Bachelor’s degree; and
  • a minimum of 42 credits of PhD coursework and research.

In addition, Master’s graduates who have a strong background in their content field because of their Bachelor’s degree and graduate coursework have been admitted into this PhD program. For example, doctoral students with a background and interest in Environmental Education have pursued their PhD studies in Science Education.

Although it is advisable that Master’s students seeking to pursue a PhD complete a research experience, students with non-thesis research experience have been allowed to pursue PhD study in STEM Education.


There are three phases of study in this PhD program:

  • Phase 1 consists of coursework, both for the MTA requirement and in educational theories and trends, research, and statistics. The coursework in Phase 1 is designed to broaden and deepen students’ knowledge in their STEM field and in education, as well as prepare them for dissertation research. Upon completion of the coursework, PhD students take their doctoral comprehensive exams.
  • Phase 2 involves the development and defense of a research proposal, with guidance from your major advisor and committee. The preparation and defense of a proposal ensures that each student is able to translate their knowledge into a coherent and feasible research plan.
  • Phase 3 involves carrying out all aspects of the proposed study, collecting and preparing data, running analyses, and completing and defending a dissertation. Students enhance their understanding of what goes into the conduct and reporting of educational research in an area of STEM education.

Typically, Phases 1–3 require at least four years of full-time effort, but can require more time.

The knowledge and experience gained in this program are useful to graduates as teachers, consumers of research, researchers, and research advisors.

Do Cutting-Edge, Real-World Research

The PhD program in STEM Education is designed to emphasize coursework and research; unlike Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, it does not include an internship opportunity. However, courses in educational theories, research, and statistics engage students in projects, and these can be as real-world as students wish. MTA coursework often includes lab and fieldwork.

In addition, although dissertation studies usually emphasize theory and research, many PhD students also design their study to address needs within a particular area of educational practice.

Internationally Recognized Faculty

Among the faculty who teach in this program, Dr. Thomas Marcinkowski has received the Walter E. Jeske Award (2010) and the award for Outstanding Contributions to Research in Environmental Education (1994), both from the North American Association for Environmental Education. His emphasis is on assessment, evaluation, and research studies in the areas of environmental literacy, responsible environmental behavior, and environmental quality. He has been involved in the development of assessment tools in these areas and, more generally, in program evaluation studies.

Samantha Fowler has received the Outstanding Position Paper Award (2013) from Southeastern Association for Science Teacher Education. She focuses on socio-scientific reasoning—how the general public uses scientific information in their day-to-day lives and how policy-makers use scientific evidence in their decisions. She is currently researching how social media effects socio-scientific reasoning, particularly regarding controversial issues. She also explores the effectiveness of new pedagogy styles in lecture and laboratory classes.

Career Benefits

This PhD degree is not designed to help doctoral students satisfy credentialing requirements—that is undertaken at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. However, from both an occupational and a professional perspective, one of the benefits of completing a PhD is to become more competitive career-wise, which is vital in today’s challenging job environment. The research background and experience students gain in this PhD program adds depth to their teaching, and provides them with insights that aid them in their future research and research advisory work.