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Geotechnical Engineering Schools: How to Choose

Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that specializes in the relationship between man-made structures and the geology of the area they are built on. Geotechnical engineering programs can be found at 4-year colleges and universities.

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When reviewing geotechnical engineering programs, be sure to select one accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), a national accrediting organization for engineering, technology and applied science programs. Accredited programs in geotechnical engineering are generally considered civil engineering programs.

Top 10 Civil Engineering Schools

Civil engineering degrees are offered by these universities.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition
(2015-2016)*
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,431 (In-state); $38,139 (Out-of-state)
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $15,054 (In-state); $30,214 (Out-of-state)
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $46,320
University of Texas - Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $9,806 (In-state); $34,676 (Out-of-state)
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $12,204 (In-state); $32,396 (Out-of-state)
Purdue University - West Lafayette West Lafayette, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,002 (In-state); $28,804 (Out-of-state)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,856 (In-state); $43,476 (Out-of-state)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,704
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $50,665
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Civil Engineering Technology
  • Construction Engineering Technologies, General
  • General Construction Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Structural Engineering
  • Transportation Engineering
  • Water Resources Engineering

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in geotechnical engineering programs may want to keep these considerations in mind.

  • Look for schools with geotechnical or civil engineering student organizations, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, that provide networking and team project opportunities where students can learn about the latest research.
  • To prepare students for their future careers, look for faculty who have expertise in a variety of interest areas, such as dams, geosynthetics or offshore structures.
  • Programs should be accredited by the national accrediting organization for engineering: the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
  • Many programs allow students to gain experience through internships.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Students pursuing a bachelor's degree program begin their major coursework by taking engineering science and mathematics classes offered to other civil engineering majors. In the final two years, the program focuses on geotechnical engineering topics. Many programs also require the completion of a senior project or an internship.

Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree program in geotechnical engineering typically offers students the option of completing either a thesis or a technical report to graduate. Some programs also give students the option to choose a coursework-only option.

Ph.D. Programs

Students interested in pursuing careers as scientific researchers in geotechnical engineering will need to earn a doctoral degree. Ph.D. requirements typically include comprehensive oral and written exams, as well as the completion of a dissertation or thesis based on original research. Areas of focus at the doctoral level include deep excavation design and the interaction between a building, its foundation and the underlying soil during an earthquake. Doctoral candidates may incorporate other engineering sciences and mathematics into their dissertations.

Many institutions offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in civil engineering, so students may want to consider other factors when choosing a program, such as location, tuition costs, and the expertise of the faculty. Other things to consider include networking opportunities through student organizations and whether the program is accredited.

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