Civil engineering is a broad, complex field of study, with many specializations. This technical field requires advanced training and education to succeed, making a master’s degree in civil engineering program important for advancement in civil engineering.
Master’s in Civil Engineering Online Program Overview
Civil engineering is the design and construction of physical structures and systems. It’s one of the oldest types of engineering, with project examples that include roads, bridges, buildings, transportation systems, pipelines and dams. Qualified civil engineers can use their skills in many ways, allowing those with a master’s degree in civil engineering to pursue careers in both the public and private sectors, including construction and transportation.
Why Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering?
Civil engineering is a highly technical field that involves the construction of critical structures. Miscalculations can cause major disasters, resulting in the loss of life and great financial cost. Qualifications are therefore a critical requirement for civil engineers to ensure they have an advanced understanding of multiple academic disciplines.
A master’s degree in civil engineering provides many possible benefits, such as improving salary and other aspects of your job. It can greatly expand your knowledge in this field, allowing you to specialize in fields like construction or transportation. A master’s degree also includes training in ancillary skills for civil engineering, such as project management.
Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Degree Programs
The following universities have some of the top-ranked online master’s degree programs for civil engineering in the US:
- Stanford University
- University of Washington
- Columbia University
- University of Virginia
- Johns Hopkins University
- North Carolina State University
- Texas Tech University
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne
- University of Southern California
- Purdue University
Stanford’s program for a master’s in civil engineering consists of a hybrid curriculum that includes many on-campus courses. This degree requires 45 credits and offers concentrations in atmosphere and energy, environmental engineering, structural engineering, and sustainable design. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.75 to earn this degree.
Admission requirements for this master’s program include a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, along with undergraduate transcripts and GRE scores. Stanford’s School of Engineering also provides a small number of institutional fellowships each year for its civil engineering students. Stanford provides students with multiple resources that prepare them for success, beginning with a detailed orientation guide. Additional resources for engineering students include Stanford’s BEAM, an online hub that lists job opportunities, workshops and career counseling sessions.
University of Washington
The University of Washington (UW) offers an online master’s program in civil engineering with two tracks, including a research-based academic track and a program for students who plan to become professional civil engineers. The academic track prepares students for the doctoral program in civil engineering, while the professional program allows students to enter or advance in the workforce without the need to complete a thesis. Students on both tracks can select concentrations such as construction, energy, sustainable infrastructure and transportation engineering.
UW’s career center provides online resources like a blog on career trends in civil engineering, a series of informational videos and many virtual workshops. UW doesn’t require students in the master’s civil engineering program to hold a bachelor’s degree in this field, although those students will need to take additional courses. Online students who reside outside the state can still pay the in-state tuition. UW provides most students on the academic track with some institutional financial aid.
Columbia University (CU) offers a master’s in civil engineering program that consists of 30 credits and a fully online curriculum. Required courses include advanced mechanics, theory of vibrations, and elastic and plastic analysis of structures. Students will also select four electives from a choice of 16 courses to create their own concentration for this program.
CU’s career center provides students with advisors who provide guidance on writing cover letters and resumes, in addition to conducting mock interviews. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or related subject with a minimum 3.0 GPA, in addition to a GRE score. CU charges all students the same tuition regardless of their location, but New York residents are eligible for state education grants.
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia (UVA) offers a master’s program in civil engineering that allows students up to five years to earn their degree, which can benefit part-time students. Participants in this program can select a concentration from the options of environment, infrastructure systems, structures, transportation and water resources. Electives allow them to further personalize their education.
Over two-thirds of the graduates from this program find a job in this field or enter a doctoral program within six months of graduation. Resources like resume guides, a mentoring program and networking resources also help increase the chances of a positive outcome after graduation. Applicants for this program must hold a bachelor’s in engineering with a minimum 3.0 GPA, provide three letters of recommendation and make a personal statement. Virginia residents receive a discount on the tuition for UVA’s master’s program in civil engineering.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins offers a master’s in civil engineering program with hybrid and online-only pathways. The core coursework includes topics like mathematical modeling for engineers and structural mechanics. Students also select a concentration from the choices of geotechnical engineering, ocean and coastal engineering, and structural engineering.
Students have access to resources like tutoring, training videos and webinars to assist them in finding a job, in addition to Johns Hopkins Handshake job portal. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students who belong to a racial minority may qualify for financial aid, and veterans can get tuition assistance from Johns Hopkins’ Yellow Ribbon Program.
North Carolina State University
North Carolina (NC) State’s master’s degree in civil engineering is a 30-credit curriculum that doesn’t require a thesis. Concentration options for this program include construction engineering, geotechnical engineering and water resources. Classes start on four days throughout the year.
The average starting salary for graduates is $100,000 per year. NC State’s website provides students with the opportunity to look for jobs through online career fairs and obtain career advice. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree in engineering with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, but a GRE isn’t needed. North Carolina residents pay lower tuition than students who reside out-of-state.
Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University (TCU) offers an online pathway for its master’s degree in civil engineering program that’s top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report. It doesn’t require students to visit the campus at all and includes thesis, report and coursework options for completing this 30-credit program. TCU is a state school, so its tuition is quite low for Texas residents.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne
The University of Illinois (UI) has an online master’s degree in civil engineering, with concentrations that include construction management, transportation engineering and water resources engineering. Full-time students can earn their degree in two to three years, but they’ll need more time to earn one of the optional certificates. Specific courses are offered on a rotating basis.
The TCU website offers students templates for resumes and cover letters, which are available for download. The College of Engineering also hosts an annual job fair that attracts top employers, along with internship opportunities and critiques of personal statements. A bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA is the primary requirement for admission to this program, which also requires an acceptable GRE score and three letters of recommendation. Applicants may also qualify for an institutional fellowship program.
University of Southern California
Students at the University of Southern California (USC) who are already studying to become structural engineers are eligible to apply for its online master’s degree program in civil engineering. Required courses in this 42-credit curriculum include solid mechanics, finite element analysis and structural dynamics. Electives like earthquake engineering and soil mechanics are also available for this program. Almost all graduates experience a positive outcome within six months of graduation. USC’s career center contributes towards this success by offering virtual workshops.
USC doesn’t have minimum requirements for undergraduate GPAs or GRE scores, although they’re still required for admission. It also requires two letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Financial aid counselors can provide information on available fellowships and scholarship programs.
Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers a non-thesis path for a Master of Science (MSCM) degree. This 33-credit hour curriculum is taught entirely online, with core courses that include Value Engineering & Visualization for Sustainability, Construction Management Training & Development and Sustainable Site Development. These virtual courses take place in the evening and are 15 weeks long. Students also have access to all student resources offered by PPI.
Master’s in Civil Engineering Curriculum & Common Courses
Individuals interested in earning a master’s degree in civil engineering should be prepared to take a diverse array of courses across a wide variety of disciplines. Major topics of study include the following:
Architecture. The study of graduate-level architecture typically emphasizes emerging procedures practiced by private firms. It should also focus on the role of the practicing architect, including project management, office management and navigation of the legal and regulatory landscape.
Construction. These courses include project management with a focus on quantitative and qualitative resources such as time and money. Common topics also include planning, scheduling, critical path analysis, payment scheduling and record keeping.
Environmental systems. These courses study the impact of the environment on construction, including analysis of climate change, availability of natural resources and energy technologies. Specific topics include climate science, natural and artificial energy sources, greenhouse gas emissions and public policy.
Geotechnical engineering and geomatics. These courses cover aerial surveys for the purposes of topography, construction and earthworks. Data collection sources include sight, lasers and global positioning system (GPS) equipment.
Hydraulics. In addition to ground water hydraulics, these courses study hydrologic cycles, well design and construction, and pollution sources. Topics are often specific to the college’s location.
Materials and construction. Common topics include models for material management, vendor analysis and construction models. Automated methods of tracking and handling materials, current issues and practical solutions to real-world problems are also covered in these courses.
Infrastructure. Infrastructure within the context of advanced civil engineering includes structures, roads, water and electrical systems. These courses also cover future engineering problems in civil infrastructure, environmental and social sustainability, and life-cycle assessment.
Energy infrastructure and systems. These topics include energy infrastructure changes in the 21st century, especially the planning, design, construction and management of these projects.
The above topics are only general areas of study for a master’s degree in civil engineering. Not every school will cover all of these topics, depending on specializations such as environmental, structural and transportation engineering. These specializations will require more coursework in these areas.
Accreditation for Master’s in Civil Engineering Degree Programs
Civil Engineering programs have many sources of accreditation. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) is the primary accrediting body for civil engineer education in the US.
ABET is a non-governmental organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in disciplines that include computing, engineering, engineering technology, and natural and applied sciences. This body also provides leadership through workshops, memoranda of understanding (MoU) and mutual recognition agreements like the Washington Accord. ABET also evaluates education programs and provides the results online.
What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering?
Individuals who already hold an undergraduate degree in civil engineering or related discipline typically pursue a master’s degree to hone their skills and increase their salary potential. Civil engineers can work in both offices and construction sites, whether it’s for a private company, local government or university. Projects include new infrastructure and improvements to existing infrastructure. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that these jobs will increase by 8 percent, or 25,000, between 2020 and 2030.
Civil engineers design and construct civil infrastructure, including structures, bridges, tunnels, roads and utilities. They also use their knowledge of construction and engineering design to obtain approval for plans, which requires them to consider government regulations and environmental factors. The BLS reports that the median master of civil engineering salary in the US was $88,050, as of May 2021.
Environmental engineers are knowledgeable about the environmental issues of construction, especially building infrastructure in environmentally friendly ways. For example, they look for environmentally sustainable solutions for controlling air pollution and processing water. The median salary for a master of civil engineering online degree for environmental engineers in May 2021 was $96,820, according to the BLS.
Maritime engineers design, build and maintain ships, from sailboats to tankers. They usually work in offices with software and other modern tools that allow them to analyze problems and design solutions. Maritime engineers occasionally work on ships during testing or maintenance phases. The median annual wage for these engineers was $93,370 in May 2021, according to the BLS.
Civil engineers often advance to a managerial role after several years. Competitive candidates for these positions must be able to oversee other civil engineers, provide leadership and coordinate with them on projects. Some engineering managers also review plans for accuracy and oversee budgets. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for engineering managers was $152,350 as of May 2021.
Construction managers oversee projects to build infrastructure such as buildings, public utilities and transportation systems. They work closely with architects and engineers in addition to managing subcontractors to ensure the project is built according to its design. Obtaining permits is also a major part of a construction manager’s job. The median annual salary of a construction manager was $98,890 in May 2021, according to the BLS.
How Much Do Civil Engineers Make?
Starting Salary for Civil Engineers
The average annual starting salary for civil engineers in the United States is $73,501 as of February 27, 2023, with a typical range from $67,201 to $80,701. Factors that can affect a civil engineer’s starting salary include advanced education, certifications and additional skills.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Civil Engineering
Salaries for civil engineers vary widely depending on education level, employer and location. There are also many specializations within civil engineering, and civil engineers work in a broad range of industries. The median salary for civil engineers in the US was more than $88,000 in 2021, according to the BLS.
What’s the Most a Civil Engineer Makes?
As of 2021, civil engineers in the top 10 percent earned more than $133,320 per year, while those in the lowest 10 percent made less than $60,550. The median salary of those who worked in environmental engineering was $96,820 per year, but the top earners made annual salaries above $153,200. Urban and regional planners had median salaries of $78,500 in 2021.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
The best way of getting a raise in civil engineering is to become your company’s go-to person. Most construction firms depend on a small number of people to take on tough assignments that go beyond their job descriptions. A master’s degree and certifications for specializations can also help you get a higher salary.
Continuing Education after a Master’s in Civil Engineering
Some civil engineers may want to continue their education after they earn their master’s degree. Universities and companies within the industry offer additional certifications in civil engineering, typically for subject matter specializations or other advanced skills. Some universities also offer doctorate degrees in civil engineering.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) provides board certifications for civil engineers who demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills within their specialty. ASCE certifications in the following engineering disciplines can help civil engineers take their careers to the next level:
- Coastal Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineering
- Navigation Engineering
- Ocean Engineering
- Ports Engineering
- Water Resources Engineering
Civil Engineering Certification, Inc. (CEC) oversees ASCE certifications, which must be approved by the Council of Engineering & Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB). The ASCE Board of Direction founded the CEC in 2004 as a means of providing post-licensure certification of civil engineers for various specialties. CEC members develop individual certification programs in collaboration with the appropriate ASCE technical unit.
Doctorate in Civil Engineering
A doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree is for civil engineers who want to continue their formal education. Its requirements are typically more flexible than those of a master’s degree because these students have undergraduate degrees in a wider range of subjects that often include economics, mathematics and other scientific disciplines. Concentrations for a PhD program in civil engineering include the following engineering specialties:
Financial Aid Information
Students have a strong incentive to earn a degree in civil engineering, due to the potential for a high income and gaining experience in emerging technologies. The education and passion needed to succeed in this discipline is difficult to come by, but students also need to worry about the cost needed to obtain a master’s degree in civil engineering. Many programs currently exist for offsetting this cost, which may be sponsored by the government or private organizations. Financial aid is available to students of all backgrounds, whether they’re loans, scholarships or internships.
Student loans are usually the least popular option for financial aid because borrowers must repay them. However, student loans are often necessary to cover the tuition and other costs of a master’s degree, although students often struggle with the complex landscape of repayment. Interest rates and repayment rules vary considerably, depending on the lender. Loans funded by the federal government typically have lower interest rates and more flexible terms for repayments, so they’re the most popular. Private lenders also offer student loans, but the interest rates are significantly higher than government loans.
Most scholarships for civil engineers are intended for graduating high school students and undergraduates. They’re also aimed at US citizens or permanent residents of the US. Students in accredited engineering programs have much greater access to scholarships, although they still have restrictions on grade level and location. Furthermore, scholarships for civil engineers often require that applicants belong to the ASCE.
For example, the B. Charles Tiney Memorial ASCE Student Chapter Scholarship is open to students who are already enrolled in a civil engineering or similar program, and members of an ASCE Student Chapter. Application requirements include a college transcript, resume, two letters of recommendation and a detailed annual budget. The amount of this scholarship varies each year.
The Eugene C. Figg, Jr. Civil Engineering Scholarship is available to students who are enrolled in a civil engineering degree program and plan to specialize in bridge design or construction. Application requirements include official transcripts, a resume, two letters of recommendation and an annual budget. Applicants must also write a statement describing their interest in bridge design or construction. The amount of this scholarship varies each year, but is usually around $3,000.
The John Lenard Civil Engineering Scholarship consists of two separate awards each year. This scholarship is only granted to each winner for one year, although the same student can win it multiple times. Applicants must be members of the ASCE and majoring in civil engineering with a focus on environmental engineering or water supply. Application requirements include official transcripts, a resume and two letters of recommendation. Applicants must also provide statements detailing their financial needs, education plans and the reasons they should receive the scholarship.
The number of opportunities available in civil engineering make it an exciting field with many possible concentrations. Internships are a great way of gaining practical experience and helping you decide which areas interest you the most. Interns can connect with many professional civil engineers who show you what it’s really like to work in this profession. They can also serve as mentors by teaching trade secrets in their area of expertise. Some of these internships are paid positions, but they typically pay less than market value.
A good civil engineering internship can also strengthen your resume and provide opportunities to obtain letters of recommendation. Some positions can even become full-time jobs upon successful completion of the internship. As a result of these benefits, internships are a routine part of a civil engineer’s training.
How Much Does a Master’s in Civil Engineering Cost?
The cost of obtaining a master’s in civil engineering varies greatly between schools, although the range is usually between $10,000 and $30,000. You should therefore compare many programs to identify the best one for your budget, interest and career goals. Financial aid is also a critical consideration in calculating the net cost of this degree, as a scholarship at an expensive school can often result in a lower cost than the other candidates.
Virtually all schools offer options for financial aid, so counselors should be able to identify the best opportunities for you, whether that aid is based on merit or need. If you’re already working as a civil engineer and need a master’s degree to advance, ask your employer for help in covering tuition costs. This option is particularly likely to succeed when a vacant position requires a graduate degree, as the US has a particularly acute shortage of civil engineers in 2023.
A master’s degree for engineers is another possibility for civil engineers who need an advanced degree, but don’t need to specialize in a particular engineering discipline. Online programs have more flexible scheduling than an on-campus degree path, allowing students to obtain a master’s degree while working. This approach lets you attend school without giving up your income. In addition, online programs can be less expensive than in-person schools, which may require other expenses like living on campus, travel and supplies.
Is a Master’s in Civil Engineering Degree Worth It?
Civil engineering is a broad field that incorporates a variety of skills, giving it many applications across a large number of sectors. Earning a master’s degree in civil engineering can help you earn a higher salary, and it can also ensure that you get a job in a growing field. If you have the skill set to work in civil engineering, you can make a good living due to the current demand for professionals in this occupation.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering?
The length of time needed to earn an online master’s degree in civil engineering is typically two to three years. The exact time is primarily dependent upon the school and the availability of courses required for this degree. The student’s academic ability and schedule are also critical factors for the completion time of this degree. Online programs that provide greater scheduling flexibility can reduce the completion time, especially for busy students who can only attend school part-time.
Is a Master’s Degree Required to Advance as a Civil Engineer?
A master’s degree isn’t necessary to get a job as a civil engineer, but it can make you stand out from the other applicants. This is especially true for high-level jobs such as the manager of an important project, which are more likely to have a high number of qualified applicants. A civil engineering master’s program also provides more networking opportunities with faculty and peers, who may become civil engineering professionals. In addition, many schools offer programs that help students find jobs, either directly or through contacts.
Are Civil Engineers in Demand?
Cities require more infrastructure as they grow, whether it’s entirely new or a replacement for existing infrastructure. Civil engineers can thus expect to remain in demand during the coming years. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs in this profession will grow by 8 percent between 2020 and 2030, resulting in the creation of about 25,000 new jobs for civil engineers during this period.
What Industries Are Hiring Civil Engineers that have a Master’s Degree?
Earning a master’s degree in civil engineering qualifies you for jobs in many sectors, including construction projects in the field, office work, education and research. Most graduates with this degree begin their careers working for private companies or government organizations, although some may take jobs with nonprofit organizations. After a few years, they may pursue managerial roles where they oversee the work of others. Common occupations for a master of civil engineering in academia include laboratory work or teaching.
Is an Online Master’s in Civil Engineering the same as an On-Campus Degree?
Prospective civil engineering students who pursue a master’s degree often have concerns about how an online degree path compares with an on-campus path.
The biggest single advantage of an online path is that students who already have jobs can continue working while they study. A master’s degree program should take at least two years to complete when studying part-time, so income is a critical factor to consider. When considering an online program, it’s also important that you ensure the coursework, professors and accreditation is the same as an on-campus program.
Another common concern is whether a prospective employer will be dismissive of an online degree, which depends primarily on the employer. For example, government employers tend not to care how candidates earn their degree as long as it has the proper accreditation. On the other hand, a consulting firm in the private sector is more likely to prefer an on-campus degree. This difference will disappear after a few years, when experience becomes more important than formal education.