Civil Engineering Degrees

What degrees can I earn?

Students seeking an engineering degree in civil engineering will have multiple options available to them. While the top civil engineering degrees are either bachelors in engineering or bachelors in science with an engineering focus, many universities also offer associates and doctoral degrees, in addition to civil engineering graduate programs.

Certificate

Certificates in engineering are available to graduates of bachelors and masters degree programs in engineering, and typically require a candidate to have already completed an undergraduate program. A certificate is often highly specialized for a particular discipline, with a focus ranging from alternative energy technology to telecommunications engineering. Most certificate programs are 12 to 18 credit hours and take approximately 2 to 3 semesters to complete if you take 1 course per quarter.

Associates degree

A campus-based or online engineering associates degree program is typically earned in 2 years and 60 to 80 credit hours. It is most commonly offered as an associates in engineering or an associates in science with an engineering concentration. Programs may require completion of a beginning calculus or trigonometry course but some students may have the option to take a qualification test in an attempt to waive mathematics requirements.

Bachelors degree

Students interested in earning a bachelors degree are able to pursue a bachelors of science in civil engineering or a bachelors of engineering with a civil engineering focus. Common prerequisites for admission include advanced math, chemistry and physics courses. A campus-based bachelors program typically takes 4 years to complete 120 to 140 credit hours, although it may be possible to earn an online engineering bachelors degree or accelerated bachelors in less time.

Masters degree

A civil engineering masters can be earned as a master of science in civil engineering or a master of engineering with a civil engineering concentration. An onsite or online engineering masters degree may offer a thesis or non-thesis option ranging from 30 to 40 credit hours, with the non-thesis option requiring a final project. Programs typically take 2 to 3 years to complete, but students interested in performing extended research, or who are looking to transition into a PhD program, may take 5 years or more.

PhD

A final option for civil engineering education is the PhD in engineering. The length of time for a civil engineering PhD program varies widely due to the high level of written and scientific research that may be necessary to complete the program. Credit hours can range from 50 to 120 hours beyond a bachelors degree, and depending upon the length of the research project can range from 2 to 8 years for completion.

Are there any programs online?

Civil engineering degree programs online have become a popular offering as colleges and universities work to increase student admissions. You can find a program that is offered completely online or a partial or hybrid program that will require you to do some work on campus. Online programs may be offered by private online colleges but can also be found at nonprofit brick-and-mortar institutions.

Online degrees

If you are currently researching an online civil engineering associates degree, be sure to research accredited online civil engineering colleges that offer the opportunity to transition into a bachelors and masters in engineering upon completion of your degree. Most brick-and-mortar institutions allow for a seamless transition between the associates and bachelors degrees, and knowing whether you will have that option could save you time and money if you decide to further your studies.

Students interested in pursuing an online civil engineering bachelors degree will want to seek out networking opportunities outside of your education program. While attending a campus-based program allows for networking opportunities with faculty and other professionals in the field, it may be more challenging to make the same connections while attending an online program. Seek out professional associations, and attend conferences and networking events so that you do not miss out on these opportunities.

Likewise, earning your online masters degree may make it more challenging to connect with student and faculty engineers with whom you can pursue research projects. Talk with the program director at your online program to see how well the university works to enhance student engagement and research opportunities.

Earning a PhD in civil engineering will likely require a great deal of research, and one of the challenges of attending civil engineering schools online is the potential lack of laboratory resources that will be available to you. The best online programs will accommodate your research needs and work with you to ensure that you have access to the facilities you need.

What kinds of classes will I take in my program?

There are several courses that you will most likely be required to take during your bachelors program. Whether you choose to take onsite or online engineering courses, in addition to required science courses such as chemistry and physics, common courses will include advanced calculus, dynamics and fluid mechanics courses.

As a graduate student in a civil engineering program, you will be taking courses that are more specific to your chosen area of specialization. Some of the most common campus-based and online courses may include transportation planning, environmental systems and atmospheric chemistry, among others.

Finally, as a PhD candidate, your work will focus upon independent research on a topic related to civil engineering. Your earned credit hours during this program will likely focus on taking a PhD qualifying examination, your project proposal and your dissertation defense.

What careers can I choose from?

Civil engineering jobs typically fall into 1 of 3 core areas. Like many of the best careers in civil engineering, there is a great degree of overlap among these 3 areas.

Geotechnical engineer

A geotechnical engineer works with soil and rock to make sure that buildings, tunnels, slopes and retaining walls are laid upon a solid foundation that will not ultimately erode and cause structural issues. Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Geotechnical engineering jobs typically have a strong preference for engineers with a masters or even PhD but will consider candidates with a 4-year degree plus strong work experience. Salaries for a geotechnical engineer range from $40,000 and $80,000 depending upon education and experience.

Structural engineer

Structural engineers design and analyze the strength and durability of structures used in everyday life, from buildings and machinery to automobiles and medical equipment. There are many opportunities available to structural engineers with bachelors degrees in civil engineering, although licensure is typically required. A civil engineering salary in structural engineering typically ranges from $48,000 to $94,000.

Transportation engineer

A transportation engineer plans, designs and assesses projects related to transit, including railways, buses, highways and airport systems. Jobs for transportation engineers typically require a minimum of a bachelors degree and pay an average salary of $48,000 to $83,000.

Is there anything else I should know about getting a degree in civil engineering?

While not all engineers choose to pursue licensure, many civil engineering jobs require applicants to have a Professional Engineer license. The first step toward this licensure is to take the Fundamentals in Engineering exam in order to be considered an engineer-in-training until you become eligible to sit for your licensure exam.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has partnered with organizations to offer engineering certification in 3 areas of civil engineering. Exams for certification of water resources engineering, geotechnical engineering and certification for coastal, ocean, port and navigation engineers are available to engineers with 10 years of experience and a masters in engineering. The Society also offers continuing education courses that include licensure exam review and face-to-face seminars with professionals in the field.