STEM Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in STEM Education is a degree program that examines how people learn STEM subjects and how teachers, schools, and communities can inspire learners of all ages in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

  • The program is designed for students who are preparing for research careers.
  • 63 hours of coursework (including dissertation) are required for the degree, 12 of which are graduate coursework in a discipline area (science, mathematics, engineering).
  • The discipline content hours may be waived for students who have a master's degree in a content area (e.g., mathematics, not mathematics education).
  • The typical timeframe for completing the degree is 4-6 years.
  • The Ph.D. degree requires active engagement with faculty and a research group on campus, and therefore it is not usually recommended for students who are working full time or not in residence at UT Austin.
  • Although some GRA positions are available, they are typically reserved for students who have already participated in pilot studies or faculty research support.

Students in the Ph.D. STEM program will learn about and participate in cutting edge research that explores ways in which to make STEM education more effective, inclusive, and transformative. The overall focus of the program is ensuring that all learners have an equitable opportunity to learn. Our faculty are involved in research across a range of topics, including how people learn core ideas and practices in STEM, how the nature of learning environments affect STEM student access, opportunity, and identity, the preparation and professional development of STEM teachers, and the role of STEM learning in informal spaces.

Please note: Required STEM Ed Core and Advanced Topics courses must be taken for a letter grade. Other coursework (including content courses, research methods, and supporting coursework) may be taken as credit/no credit with instructor permission. However, no more than 20% of a student’s program of work (no more than 9 credit hours for Ph.D. students; no more than 6 credit hours for master's students) can be taken as credit/no credit.

Minimum Requirements

  • Core courses: 12 hours
  • STEM content courses: 12 hours
  • Research Methodology courses: 12 hours
  • Research Practicum: 9 hours
  • Advanced Topics courses: 6 hours
  • Supporting course work: 6 hours
  • Dissertation: 6 hours
  • Total: 63 hours

Core Courses: 12 hours

All doctoral students are required to take four core courses:

  • STM 385 Knowing & Learning in STEM Education
  • STM 386 Curriculum History and Development in STEM Education
  • STM 390-1 Equity in STEM Education
  • STM 390-2 Research on Teaching and Teacher Development in STEM Education

STEM Content Courses: 12 hours

Students must take a minimum of 12 hours of courses in one or more STEM content areas. This requirement is waived for students who have a master’s degree in Science, Math, Engineering, or Computer Science. Other kinds of degrees or course work are considered on a case-by-case basis.

If students are preparing to teach at the post-secondary level, they will be advised to study one particular discipline in depth. If they are preparing to work at the elementary or secondary level, a broader program of study is recommended.

Research Methodology Courses: 12 hours

A minimum of 12 hours of courses in research methodology is required. All students must enroll in a qualitative and a quantitative course or courses sufficient for competent technical review of manuscript articles and proposals.

In addition, students must have a methodology specialty that will be used in dissertation research. A course in program evaluation can also be used to satisfy this requirement.

Students who enter the program with a Master’s degree in Education will have one, 3-hour Research Methodology Course waived.

STEP 1: 6 hours

  • EDC 385R  Introduction to Quantitative Research Design
    Other course choices for this requirement must be approved by the Graduate Advisor
  • AND EDC 386R  Introduction to Qualitative Research; other course choices for this requirement must be approved by the Graduate Advisor.

STEP 2: 6 Hours

Two Advanced Research Courses—either Quantitative, Qualitative or Mixed-Methods. Courses that meet this requirement are at the consent of the student’s Faculty Advisor and the Graduate Advisor.

Examples of Advanced Quantitative Research Choices

  • EDC 387R  3-Survey Research Methods
  • EDC 387R  4-Mixed Methods Design-Based Research
  • ELP 392P   Advanced Quantitative Research Design

Examples of Advanced Qualitative Research Choices

  • EDC 388R  1-Narrative and Oral Tradition
  • EDC 388R  2-Discourse Analysis
  • EDC 388R  3-Ethnographic and Qualitative Research methods

Research Practicum (9 hours)

  • STM 396 T* Directed Research in STEM Education (9 hours)

Note: These 9 credit hours are to be completed over the course of at least three different semesters.

One course (3 hrs) is a content- Specific Education Course; students choose a content area in which they want to focus in terms of education research (e.g. math education, science education, physics education, engineering education) and sign up for an independent study to work with a faculty member to read key research in the field. Recommended that students do this the summer of their first year or beginning of the second year. For the remaining two courses (6 hours total, but to be taken in separate semesters), students join and actively participate in a faculty member’s research working group. Recommended that students enroll in these courses during the second year of coursework.

Advanced Topics Courses: 6 hours

Faculty will provide regular advanced topic courses on special areas of interest or on emerging areas of research. These courses appear under the STM 390T heading in the online course schedule.

Students who enter the program with a Master’s degree in Education will have one 3-hour Advanced Topics Course waived.

Supporting Courses: 6 hours

Students are expected to broaden and deepen their program of work through taking a variety of related course work consonant with their scholarly interests, in consultation with a graduate adviser. 

Students who enter the program with a Master’s degree in Education will have one 3-hour Supporting Course waived.

Dissertation: Minimum 6 hours

Students are required to continuously register for at least three credits of dissertation once they have advanced to candidacy

You must register in X99W (399, 699, or 999W) in each semester of candidacy until you graduate.

Please Note: Students receiving fellowships, assistantships, or other financial aid, may be required to take 9 hours of dissertation credit each semester.

Prerequisites for Admission

Prerequisites for admission to the doctoral degree program are a baccalaureate or master’s degree and prior course work in one or more STEM fields. The amount of prior course work expected depends upon the student's grade-band of interest. Teaching experience is highly desired.

Admission into the doctoral program is not automatic for STEM Masters graduates. A STEM Master’s student applies to the doctoral program by completing the full application process. This requires submission of three letters of recommendation (as many as possible from professors on our faculty attesting to your ability to fulfill the requirements for a Ph.D.), transcripts, and a personal statement. The personal statement should address why you want to pursue a Ph.D., what you plan to research, which faculty members you wish to work with on research and why, and what you anticipate doing with a Ph.D.

Graduate students wanting to pursue a degree in STEM Education will matriculate once a year, during the fall semester. Graduate students may transfer from other programs within the Graduate School to a degree plan in STEM Education. In order to transfer, students must apply to and be recommended for admission into the GPSME. Transfer student applications from other programs in the Graduate School will be handled in a manner consistent with the policies established above for regular applicants. In addition, students should follow current Graduate School policies regarding transferring to UT.

Additional Information

Additional Information is available on the STEM Education Wiki.