A civil engineering bachelor's degree program emphasizes topics such as structural analysis and engineering materials. In a master's program, students explore advanced civil engineering theories and complete a thesis project. Students in doctoral programs conduct research to prepare for careers as professors, researchers, or consultants.
Students are required to complete research and a doctoral dissertation that makes a contribution to the field of civil engineering. Both bachelor's and doctorate programs have many specialization options. Experienced graduates of these programs who pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination can become licensed.
Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering
Students in a bachelor's degree program in civil engineering study the research, design, planning, and construction processes for projects that adapt the natural environment to meet the needs of human populations. The curriculum in a civil engineering program features coursework that helps students develop the technical expertise needed in the engineering profession, along with incorporating social awareness about contemporary human issues. Bachelor's programs will require students to be high school educated before enrolling.
Some civil engineering bachelor's degree programs allow students to choose a specialty track in environmental engineering, water resources, structural engineering, or geotechnical engineering. Students can expect these programs to require a minimum of four years to complete. Students will take mathematics, chemistry, and physics classes, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences. Examples of course topics include:
- Civil engineering measurements
- Structural analysis and design
- Fluid mechanics
- Engineering materials
- Hydraulic engineering
- Advanced mathematics
Master's Degree in Civil Engineering
A 2-year master's degree program in civil engineering provides advanced training in professional civil engineering practices. Master's programs applicants will need a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and preparatory coursework in engineering, science, and mathematics.
Courses provide students with specialized technical knowledge in topics relevant to structural, environmental, transportation, and geotechnical engineering. Students work closely with a faculty adviser to customize their civil engineering curriculum to complement their area of focus. Common graduate civil engineering courses include:
- Water resources design
- Dynamics of structure
- Structural systems design
- Engineering construction management
- Transportation engineering
Ph.D. in Civil Engineering
Students pursuing a doctorate will need a relevant master's degree. A Ph.D. in Civil Engineering degree program is intended for students interested in advanced research opportunities in civil engineering. In a Ph.D. program, students can concentrate their studies on construction, hydraulic, structural, transportation, or geotechnical engineering. Civil engineering coursework at the doctoral level is research based and focuses on the latest developments in the field. Advanced coursework may include:
- Traffic engineering
- Groundwater engineering
- Structural evaluations
- Numeric analysis of engineering
- Research methods
Popular Career Options
With a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, graduates can apply for entry-level careers designing and planning construction and maintenance projects such as roads, bridges, dams, water systems, and airports. Although a master's degree in civil engineering is not required for most entry-level positions in the field, a master's degree is often essential for research, teaching and development positions. Earning a Ph.D. in civil engineering prepares graduates for careers in the private sector or government agencies. Graduates are also qualified to educate future generations of civil engineers by becoming teachers. Job opportunities include:
- Project managers
- Adjunct faculty
- Senior engineering technicians
- University faculty member
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for civil engineers were projected to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The rise in employment for civil engineers is due to continued population growth, and the need to repair and improve our infrastructures. In May 2015, the BLS reported civil engineers earned an annual median salary of $82,220.
Certification and Continuing Education Information
According to the BLS, all 50 states require engineers who offer their services directly to the public to be licensed as Professional Engineers (PEs). Licensure requirements usually include a degree from an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), four years of professional experience, and a passing score on the State examination.
Newly graduated civil engineers can begin the licensure process by taking the initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam immediately after graduation. After acquiring the required work experience, candidates are then eligible to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to complete their licensure requirements. Most states require licensed engineers to participate in continuing education opportunities in order to renew and maintain license.
Professional organizations, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, provide a variety of learning opportunities through regional seminars, workshops, online learning and national conferences. Professional associations may also offer voluntary post-licensure certification options that can help advance career opportunities. Professional engineers seeking career advancement may also benefit from pursuing a master's degree in civil engineering.
Degrees in civil engineering have different options for specialization and teach students about planning and constructing buildings and other infrastructure. Engineers have various continuing education opportunities and will need to be licensed in order to practice.