Is a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering Worth It?

Jun 30, 2020

Deciding whether a master's degree in civil engineering is ''worth it'' is a very personal decision. You may want to consider the job opportunities and salaries that can be gained with a master's degree before making your decision. It may also help to weigh the costs of these programs versus the amount of time it takes to complete them. Let's find out more below.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering?

Position Median Salary (2019)* Career Outlook (2018-2028)*
Postsecondary Engineering Teacher $101,010 11%
Architectural and Engineering Manager $144,830 3%
Surveyor $63,420 6%
Materials Engineer $93,360 0%
Civil Engineer $87,060 6%
Environmental Engineer $88,860 5%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties for a Master's in Civil Engineering

Career options for civil engineering graduates are not limited to just the civil engineering field. The skills and knowledge you'll learn in this program can help you in several other careers.

Postsecondary Engineering Teacher

You may find that a master's degree in civil engineering fills the education requirements needed to teach at technical and community colleges. As a postsecondary teacher, you can teach engineering theories and practices to students earning certificates and associate degrees in engineering technology or a related field. You'll prepare syllabi and grade assignments completed by your students. You might also help students select the courses they need to enter the workforce or transfer to a 4-year school.

Architectural and Engineering Manager

Some engineering managers continue their education with an MBA or master's in engineering management. However, the background needed to work as a manger on a project could also be obtained through a civil engineering graduate program. Master's degrees in engineering give you additional managerial skills through coursework that emphasizes project management, leadership, and team building, which may not be found in your bachelor's program. As an engineering manager, you'll work with an entire staff to research and develop new products or designs. As a manager in the field of civil engineering, this could include planning budgets and training staff needed to build city infrastructure.


Surveyors must be licensed in all 50 states, though each state has its own educational and experience requirements. If you're interested in this profession, a master's degree in a field like geomatics civil engineering could help you meet professional licensure requirements and prepare you to work as a surveyor or consultant surveyor, as well as an engineer. Surveyors are essential in the process of establishing boundaries for deeds, establishing the location of engineering and construction projects, and preparing reports for the government.

Materials Engineer

Materials engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering. As a material's engineer, you'll learn how to evaluate the materials used in products and determine how they'll function over time. You'll study their environmental impacts, deterioration, and production costs. If you choose to earn your master's degree in civil engineering, you can concentrate your studies on an area like construction materials. While you may focus your career in one type of material, such as metal or plastics, you can use a this type of civil engineering background to help solve materials issues in civil plans.

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers are responsible for planning infrastructure. You often hear of civil engineers as those who plan and design major roadways and check the structural integrity of buildings and bridges. They also discuss what kind of stress a structure can withstand. Often, civil engineers make plans for large-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar energy fields and wind turbines. A master's degree, though not necessary, can give you the background necessary for licensing and leadership positions.

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers can hold degrees in civil engineering, and job candidates with a master's degree may be preferred by employers. As an environmental engineer, you may work on infrastructure projects with the goal of environmental protection. For instance, you may oversee or be involved in the design of systems aimed at curbing air pollution or reclaiming water. On top of this, you may help design environmental protections for corporations and the government.

What Can I Expect from a Civil Engineering Master's Program?

When wondering if a master's degree in civil engineering is worth it, you'll want to consider a few choice points about the program itself as well. Here, we've listed some important thoughts to consider about the program.

  • Many colleges and universities offer 5-year cohorts for civil engineering, where you can earn both your bachelor's and master's. Other universities offer a 1-year master's program to speed up your education. Traditionally, a master's degree program takes two years to complete on its own.
  • In general, graduate school costs are higher per credit than undergraduate schools, and tuition costs will vary by college. Duke University, for example, charged $29,088 per semester for engineering graduate school for 2020-2021. For the typical first-year course load of 12 credits a semester, the cost is about $3,230 per credit. For comparison, the University of Delaware, a public school, charged $1,898 per credit during the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) organizations often offer grants and scholarships to encourage students, particularly minorities and females, to join one of those career paths. Some of the scholarships you may find include:
    • Society of Women Engineers
    • Women Techmakers Scholars Program

Whether your master's degree in civil engineering will be worth it is really up to you. Looking at the different job options available with this degree, such as teacher, engineering manager, and environmental engineer, should help you to weigh the benefits against the costs.

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