PhD Programs in Civil & Environmental Engineering

Aug 07, 2019

If you want a doctoral program that lets you research structures and mechanics, this might be the right one for you. Find out information about a PhD in civil and environmental engineering, including research tracks and admissions requirements for universities.

Many PhD programs in civil and environmental engineering have focus areas of research tracks that let you specialize in an area you choose. This can lead you to a career in a specific field or give you an individual expert area if you decide to turn research into a career as a teacher.

Research Areas in Civil & Environmental Engineering

When you begin a PhD program in civil and environmental engineering, you'll probably work with the department to determine a concentration within the field. This choice will typically determine some of the lecture courses you take, and your selection could help you determine your dissertation research area, such as the examples that follow.


Working with mechanics and computing means you'll probably look at the development of methods used to solve problems. As a researcher in mechanics, you might focus on numerical methods and computer science. You may choose to look into structural systems, the behavior of mechanical components as they function within a system, or how well a structure can withstand pressure from the elements. Some of your course topics in this track can include software design,. fluid dynamics, functional analysis, and scientific computing.

Geotechnical Engineering

This branch of engineering often looks at different aspects of the environment and their relation to structures. You could investigate soil systems, the mechanics of rocks and soil, and waste disposal. Global health issues are often at the center of this branch of research. Many different fields of study intersect in geotechnical engineering, and you might utilize concepts of physics and mathematics while determining what to research for your dissertation. Your classroom courses may include topics like ecohydrology, thermodynamics, wave propagation, and computational methods.


Inside this field, you commonly look into options for safety and accessibility around the world. You could look into public train engineering principles or the United States' policies toward traffic and highways. You might choose to perform research in sustainability, human influence, or travel behavior. Depending on your preference, you might interact with several international universities and share your findings with other students and faculty members.


Studying infrastructure systems often allows you to analyze information on several different kinds of buildings and facilities. You might analyze research related to environmental regulation, telecommunications, and electric power grids. Decision making and risk assessment are typically significant components of this area, where you might study maintenance and durability within existing structures.


In hydrology, your research can cover water resources and water quality. You could use numerical modeling to predict processes, such as glacial runoff and the effects of a drought in a normally humid climate. You might also choose to study the risk of a flood on a given population or environment, as well as interactions between the surface and subsurface of a body of water. During your time in lectures, you can study topics that include hydrometeorology, numerical methods, and applied differential equations.

Admissions Requirements for PhD Programs in Civil & Environmental Engineering

Before applying to any PhD programs, you'll need a bachelor's degree, even if it isn't directly related to civil or environmental engineering. If you haven't previously majored in the subject, you'll probably need to take courses in the field to prepare for your application. Some schools have a preliminary exam for you to take before an offer of admission. A GPA of at least 3.0 in your undergraduate courses may be recommended for a PhD application, and you'll often need to submit your GRE scores to each school, along with official copies of your transcripts. Make sure your letters of recommendation come from professors/teachers who are familiar with the highest level of study you've completed.

A PhD in civil and environmental engineering covers many different interdisciplinary areas, from hydrology to mechanics. You could discover many opportunities for research as you explore transportation systems or human-environment interaction.

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?