Universities with Master's Degrees in Structural Engineering: How to Choose

Students interested in a structural engineering career may pursue either a Master of Science or a Master of Engineering in the field. The Master of Science program prepares students for a range of careers within structural engineering; the Master of Engineering program puts students on track to becoming a professional, licensed civil engineer. Most schools require about 30 credit hours of coursework and the completion of an engineering project, thesis or series of final exams.

How to Select a Structural Engineering School

Those who are looking to earn a master's degree in structural engineering may be awarded a Master of Science or a Master of Engineering. Programs are available through the engineering departments of 4-year universities and technology institutes.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Types of degrees
  • Course topics
  • Concentrations
  • Thesis options

Types of Degrees

Students interested in structural engineering should look for schools offering the type of master's degree program that will be most useful to their career goals. The Master of Science in Structural Engineering program offers students a background in civil engineering with a focus on the structural aspects. Students in this program can pursue a career as a practicing engineer but may also want to work in other areas in the structural engineering field, such as structural health monitoring. Those interested in a professional degree that is made up almost entirely of classes pertaining specifically to becoming a structural engineer and licensure preparation may want to pursue a Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering.

Course Topics

Structural engineering programs that lead to either a Master of Science or Master of Engineering cover a broad spectrum of topics within structural engineering. Students want to choose a program that trains them in design, analysis, mechanics and structural behavior among other topics. Programs should teach students how to work with a variety of structures, such as bridges, dams and buildings, and how the environment affects and interacts with these structures.


Students may want to pursue programs that allow them to choose a specialization. Prognosis, simulation and mechanics are a few options that students may select as a concentration.

Thesis Options

Schools with programs that offer a thesis option for the Master of Science may appeal to students who eventually want to earn a Ph.D. in engineering. Students who do not want to complete a thesis may choose a program that culminates with a series of final examinations. Many programs offer both options for students who have not yet decided if they would like to do a thesis or final exams.

Structural Engineering Program Overviews

Master of Science in Structural Engineering

Most program participants hold a bachelor's degree in engineering. Some programs admit students with degrees in other areas but may require additional courses to supplement the student's background. Students complete approximately 15 credit hours of study in structural and civil engineering courses. Students may also be required to take math-oriented courses. Topics of study for the structural engineering program include:

  • Structure dynamics
  • Prestressed concrete
  • Bridge structures
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Random vibrations

Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering

The Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering program focuses on preparing students for professional practice as a structural engineer. Students graduating from the program may seek licensure (P.E). Licensure requirements may vary by state and information can be found on the NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) website (

Programs often encourage or require students to minor in a subject with professional emphasis. The degree requires about 30 credit hours of coursework. At the end of most programs, students complete a structural engineering project, often accompanied by a report or presentation. Individuals may take courses in:

  • High-performance structures
  • Modeling and analysis of structure
  • Project management
  • Structural mechanics

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