CU Boulder to offer PhD in engineering education starting in '24-25 school year

May 3—A new PhD program in engineering education will be offered at the University of Colorado Boulder beginning in the 2024-2025 academic school year, allowing students to pursue research and learning opportunities while strengthening the undergraduate engineering program.

The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to approve a new doctorate degree in engineering education at CU Boulder. Angela Bielefeldt, a professor in civil, environmental and architectural engineering, was part of the group that spearheaded the program.

Bielefeldt said graduate students with a passion for engineering education — including teaching, policy, directing programs — will soon have the flexibility to create a program that matches their interests.

The existing path to pursue research in engineering education requires doctoral students to complete separate coursework and exams in another engineering discipline before returning to their desired research area. The PhD program in engineering education would remove the barriers to conducting research in this field and encourage students to pursue it, according to the program proposal.

"The college views the degree program as an opportunity to improve engineering education, increase undergraduate student retention and attract a diverse graduate student population and faculty who will contribute to the research and evaluation of engineering education, while enhancing the ability of faculty to actively attract funding through research and programmatic grants," said CU Boulder Chief Financial Officer Todd Haggerty in a letter of support for the degree program.

The proposal for the degree program includes research carried out by the Office of Data Analytics that forecasts a growth in employment opportunities for graduates in the field who hold doctoral degrees. The data also shows the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in engineering continues to grow, and according to Bielefeldt, the need for quality educators also will continue to rise.

The program will have a curriculum consisting of courses in education theory and practice in the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, in addition to the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Career options for graduates with a PhD in engineering education include positions in colleges and universities as well as positions in policy organizations and governmental agencies.

Some costs associated with the new degree will be absorbed into existing classes and the utilization of existing faculty. Additional costs include the hire of three tenured or tenure-track faculty over the next three academic years.

"I am very happy to see this program approved," Bielefeldt said. "Colleagues in engineering at CU first starting working on a proposal for engineering education PhDs back in 2009. So it has been a long journey. This will help raise the profile of all of the great engineering education research already being conducted at CU Boulder, and allow us to attract motivated graduate students to help us in this work."