STEM PhD programs are terminal degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Doctorate Programs in Math Science Engineering tend to deliver curricula that could develop students’ breadth and depth of knowledge. Therefore, graduates of the various programs might forge new ground in the development of theories, designs, and practical solutions for future generations.
written by Rana Waxman
Students interested in STEM PhD programs could look for two types of doctoral degrees: (1) a research PhD or (2) a practice Doctorate. Research-focused PhD programs in STEM fields typically expect students to contribute original insight into their technical field. Practitioner-focused doctorate degrees in fields such as computer science look to candidates to solve problems in their field through the application of current data.
Doctorate programs in math, science and engineering vary in their admission requirements. Some programs are small and competitive. For instance, they might admit about ten PhD students into their program annually. Most math, science and engineering PhD programs presume a minimum education of a bachelors degree in a related major. However, there are also programs that prefer students to have a masters degree and some prior experience with research and writing.
Beside transcripts and prior education, some universities ask candidates to submit any prior (un)published research, reference letters and a personal essay. In the essay, a university may want to know why a student feels the program is a ‘fit’ and/or whether a candidate has the potential to conduct scientific research. Below are some other material students may have to furnish for some PhD programs in math, science and engineering.
Ultimately, it is a good idea to plan, so a glance at an ‘admission requirements’ section of a university program could provide the most details.
One could study to earn a STEM PhD in areas from biology and biostatistics, to chemistry, neuroscience, technology management, and more. Each discipline and program may have distinct degree requirements, courses and expectations. Below are some examples of sponsored PhD in Math, Science, Engineering Programs. Easily compare programs in the same category.
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Chemists and materials scientists with a PhD and postdoctoral experience typically lead basic- or applied-research teams.i
A PhD in Biomedical Engineering could meld engineering principles with medical and biological sciences. Students might analyze how to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare. Doctoral students may complete core courses in topics such as human biology for biomedical engineers. Other credits could be allotted to dissertation research. Typically, students conduct in-depth research where they show a contribution to the advancement of knowledge in their field of study. They may also be expected to understand the development of technologies for the healthcare industry.
Since research plays a central role, some biomedical PhD students might look to see what some of the active faculty research projects are. These areas vary, but could include medical imaging and analysis or computational engineering and modeling.
A PhD in Biology could enable students to build research and science-focused communication skills. Aside from core courses, biology-approved electives, and research, students might have several laboratory rotations. These rotations could help students explore diverse areas of research and identify what lab environments are suitable for their independent thesis research. In addition to these requirements, there is often a period of teacher assistantship.
Biology PhD students often anchor their research in a specific area. These areas vary between universities. Computational biology, microbiology and infectious disease, cell and developmental biology are some examples.
A PhD in Biomedical Science could include a variety of required courses, laboratory rotations, and research methods. Since it is a potentially interactive program, students might have the opportunity to engage in clinical care experiences such as contact with patients and clinical research faculty. Moreover, candidates might gain the ability to write grants, manage a laboratory and take part in translational research.
A curriculum could get started with core courses in biology. These may discuss genes, proteins, cell biology, and developmental biology in-depth. Other course modules could focus on hematology, cancer, immunology and infectious diseases. Students could reasonably expect to study pharmacology and chemical biology as well as biostatistics and bioinformatics.
A PhD in Biostatistics is often intended for students with a strong undergraduate preparation in mathematics. Students could study biostatistical methods, theory and practice. To earn their PhD, students may need to complete about 133 credits of courses, electives, reading, research, and a final dissertation. This may take a full-time student about 4-5 years to complete post-bachelor's degree.
Coursework could center around several key areas such as statistical computing and the use of software packages. Candidates might also research into the development of applied methodology, and take part in research with other biomedical scientists and clinicians. Collaborative research might explore areas such as transplants, patient care, molecular genetics and more.
Applicants may need a Bachelors in mathematics or a closely related field, and ideally would have a strong interest in biostatistics and biomedical applications.
A PhD in Chemistry could enable students to enhance their knowledge in the traditional areas of analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry, as well as other relevant subjects. For instance, students might pursue interdisciplinary studies in biological chemistry, biochemistry, and materials chemistry.
A PhD in Civil Engineering could enable students to build a solid knowledge base in science, technology, civil engineering, and mathematics. Applicants might need a bachelors degree, although some universities might prefer candidates who also have a masters degree.
Often an interdisciplinary program, students might collaborate with other university departments such as electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering and mathematics. Civil engineering PhD students might therefore look for active faculty research in areas such as geophysical imaging, construction management, transportation engineering, or pavement design.
A Doctor of Computer Science (DCS) is a professional degree designed to help candidates develop theoretical, research, and application capabilities in the field. Students could study advanced topics in databases systems, business intelligence and analytics, or big data. Applicants may need a relevant masters degree.
Some DCS programs are planned-out in a three-year format. Year one could focus on computer science and information systems topics as well as instruction in research and writing at the doctoral level. In the second year, students might develop an in-depth grasp of the research methods needed in their niche field. Coursework in the final year typically adds research courses and focused courses so that students could complete their final research and dissertation. The dissertation could focus on literature review and proposed solutions to issues related to big data analytics.
A PhD in Electrical Engineering is an individualized program where students analyze current doctrine and literature, develop theory, perform experiments and develop their own research studies. For instance, candidates might have the opportunity to complete a PhD in several distinct areas of research. These could span topics such as wireless communication, shipboard crane control, and humanoid robotics among others.
A PhD in Engineering might address both fundamental and applied research problems in areas such as transportation, energy, communications and healthcare. A curriculum might be both disciplinary and interdisciplinary as students may be expected to build technical strength and to conduct independent, collaborative and original research.
Core courses might therefore include interdisciplinary research methods and engineering analytics. To build depth of knowledge, students might take foundation courses in a specific engineering discipline (e.g. mechanical, electrical or computer engineering). Focus areas build upon and broaden the student's depth of knowledge as they prepare to complete PhD level research for their dissertation.
A PhD in Engineering Management program covers how to assess the potential of innovative ideas, protect an organization’s intellectual property, and bring new ideas to fruition. Applicants may need a master's degree.
Engineering management PhD students might be expected to develop a broad grasp of both business and technology management as well as more focused knowledge in one area of study. Curriculum might allow students to choose courses in quality management, engineering law, data warehousing, or IT project management.
A PhD in Environmental Engineering could explore an individualized study plan. Students might conduct research in areas such as the tracking and treatment of pharmaceuticals, industrial waste management, or floodplain delineation among many others. To develop their plan of study, students often meet to discuss a possible program requirement sequence with a program coordinator.
A PhD in Mechanical Engineering might enable students to design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
Mechanical engineering PhD students might conduct research in areas such as bio-fluidics, biomechanics, nano synthesis, dynamics robotics and more. Some universities have specific research support and thus may have equipped laboratories and active faculty projects.
A PhD in Mathematics might enable students to research areas such as Geometry/Topology, Number Theory/Representation, and Theory of Algebraic Geometry. To earn their PhD, mathematics students might need to take graduate level courses in algebra, real and complex analysis, number theory, and geometry. Some Mathematics PhD programs include various exams. Qualifying exams test course content synthesis and a language exam might consist of translating math from French or German into English. In their final year, students take a comprehensive exam, may take part in assistant teaching, and prepare their dissertation.
A PhD in Neuroscience could enable students to research closely with a faculty advisor to study things such as the neurobiology of motivation or visual memory. Students might apply to one of the psychology departments in which they want to receive their PhD, or take part in an interdisciplinary program. Areas of research could include behavioral or cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and quantitative or social psychology. Within each area, there could be active faculty research interests that might align with a students’ personal goals.
A PhD in Physics might include theory and experimental research. Students might focus their degree in several areas (dependent on school). These might include photonics and plasmonics, renewable energy materials, biological physics, and topological materials.
Students often first take graduate level courses in topics such as classical mechanics, statistical physics, quantum mechanics, mathematical physics and electromagnetic theory. Once a candidate has passed the comprehensive exam, they submit a research proposal.
A PhD in Physiology may entail a holistic education in whole animal physiology as well as cellular and molecular physiology. Students might therefore be required to take a set sequence of courses over a two-year period. Other overall requirements could include a course in bioethics. Students may also need to complete laboratory rotations to help them decide on a primary lab for their PhD research. Areas for research might include circulatory, computer simulation of biological systems, genetics, endocrinology and renal among others.
Applicants may need some undergraduate courses in biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, algebra and calculus.
Interested students could look for STEM PhD programs at regionally accredited colleges and universities. This level of approval speaks to faculty, student resources, and the school’s fiscal stability. Some schools may also offer individually accredited programs, which means they have been approved by specific agencies. Usually, this type of approval looks more at what is studied (academic and professional courses). For instance, biomedical engineering and bioengineering programs are accredited by ABET.ii
While students may not always have a choice in every math, science and engineering discipline, some STEM PhD programs may be available in different formats. Campus programs might allow the most contact with faculty and research mentors. Also, they might suit the programs that require assistant teaching and lab work. By contrast, online PhD programs could allow working students to conveniently access coursework. Whatever your preference, use these filters to narrow down doctoral degrees in your field of interest.
We have covered some of the sponsored STEM PhD programs, but there are more to discover. Easily compare Doctorate Programs in Math Science Engineering in any category with the help of the on-page menu. Find a PhD program you want to apply to or learn more about? Great – use the on-page form to contact schools right away. Take the next step now!
[i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemists-and-materials-scientists.htm#tab-4 | | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm#tab-4