Civil Engineering is the oldest discipline of engineering. While most people think of everyday infrastructure that we see such as bridges and roads, civil engineers also create and manage the unseen infrastructure such as waste removal systems, energy creation powerplants, and even technology used in the aerospace industry.
Civil Engineering is a very wide and practical hands-on field that is ideal for people who wish to engage with the community and see how their work directly affects the people around them.
In general, civil engineers create, survey, plan, and manage infrastructure projects in both the public and private sector. Major specializations of Civil Engineering include coastal, geotechnical, environmental, and structural and materials engineering.
A good civil engineer must not only have good technical skills and knowledge, but also have good communication, problem-solving, and people skills.
What kind of Civil Engineering degree should you get?
While most Civil Engineering degrees will holistically integrate the major specializations of civil engineering listed above, some programs allow students to concentrate on a certain area.
For example, geotechnical engineers use soil and rock mechanics to decide which materials and what types of infrastructures will be best for a certain area.
Structural engineers oversee major building projects to ensure strength and reliability. Before choosing a concentration, students should think about which type of branch within Civil Engineering is most interesting to them and possible career paths.
Depending on if the student plans on working during completion of the master’s, an online option may be best. Most online Civil Engineering courses are asynchronous, meaning that students can log in any time within the dedicated time to watch lectures, contribute to class discussions, and complete tests and homework. This is especially ideal for working professionals and/or students who may already have a family of their own.
If you’re looking for other online graduate programs, then take a look at College Choice’s list of the Most Affordable Schools for a Graduate Degree.
How much money do people make with a degree in Civil Engineering?
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, civil engineers with a master’s degree make an average starting salary of $49,393. In 2009, it was reported that those with a master’s make an estimated $2,000 more than those with only a bachelor’s during their first year. The average median salary of a civil engineer was $83,540 in 2016.
According to Payscale, the median salary for a structural engineer is $65,921 and the median for a geotechnical engineer is $66,185. While specific occupations may vary in salary, it is also important to note that other factors such as location influence pay as well.
According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics, jobs within civil engineering are expected to experience a growth rate of 19 percent due to the nation’s aging infrastructure that constantly needs to be maintained and repaired. In 2016, more than 300,000 people were employed as civil engineers.
What can you do with a degree in Civil Engineering?
Civil engineers can work both in the public and private sector, usually within construction or engineering firms. They can also work for city or state-controlled resource management groups, such as electricity, gas, and water companies.
Other than performing the hands-on work that it takes to physically build infrastructure, civil engineers spend plenty of time within offices planning and managing the projects and firm. Managers may even move from site to site to oversee different locations.
Some common jobs for those with a master’s in civil engineering include contracting civil engineer, building control surveyor, water resource engineer, engineering geologist, etc.
Many jobs require a Professional Engineer (PE) license to practice, which most Civil Engineering degrees prepare students for. In order to pass, students must graduate from an ABET-accredited (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, have four years working experience as an engineer, and pass the Professional Engineering final exam.
What are the requirements for a degree in Civil Engineering?
In order to apply for a master’s in Civil Engineering, a student must have a bachelor’s from an accredited university in Civil Engineering or other related engineering field with usually a minimum 3.0 GPA out of a 4.0 scale. International students or those whose English is not their native language must also submit their TOEFL or ILETS score. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is usually waived for those who already hold an engineering degree.
Schools may offer both a thesis or non-thesis option to graduate, while others may just have one or the other. Some schools may even allow work or internship experience to count as their “thesis” option as opposed to a typical paper. Generally, students must take a minimum amount of core classes, and then choose electives depending on their specialization to finish the major.
What are the most affordable online master’s in Civil Engineering?
College Choice has compiled a list of the most affordable online master’s in Civil Engineering compiling data from individual colleges’ websites, PayScale, the U.S. News & World Report, and the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database. Schools were ranked depending on their overall return on investment and institutional excellence. Some data points that were used in this survey included things such as expected early salary career for graduates, average indebtedness after graduating, and average financial aid received.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Washington
Average Net Price: $10,068
The University of Washington is a public research university located in Seattle. UW was ranked number 13 in the world for the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities. Established in 1861, it is one of the oldest universities on the West Coast, with both undergraduate and graduate/professional and continuing education programs. UW Online ensures that all students gain the same education and opportunities as any traditional on-campus student.
UW’s online MS in Civil Engineering: Construction Engineering principles of engineering and management to prepare students for the heavy construction industry.
- Duration: 2-3 years
- Sample Courses: Design & Construction Law, Cost Analysis & Management, Pavement Construction, Utility System Construction, etc.
- Employer financial assistance and graduate student funding support available
Some potential jobs after completion of this degree include senior construction managers, project engineers, etc. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction managers earned a median salary of $89,300 in 2016, while civil engineers earned $83,540.
University of Houston
Average Net Price: $11,628
Known for empowering its students, promoting diversity, and its award-winning faculty, the University of Houston was founded in 1927. The Cullen College of Engineering, which offers degrees both on-campus and online, is ranked as one of 2017’s best engineering schools according to the U.S. News & World Report. Currently the college has over 4,600 students enrolled in its engineering programs.
UH’s online MS in Civil Engineering is a flexible program designed for already working engineers who wish to expand their knowledge in structural, environmental, mechanical, etc. engineering.
- Sample Courses: Water Quality, Computational Mechanics, Constitutive Modeling of Materials, Advanced Steel Design, etc.
- Thesis and non-thesis option
- Estimated 3-year completion time
Graduates will be prepared to enter into the private and public spheres of civil engineering. The city of Houston, known as the energy capital of the world, offers graduates numerous job opportunities upon graduation compared to any other U.S. city.
The University of Texas at Arlington
Average Net Price: $11,952
The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research institution located in North Texas. Originally founded as a small college in 1895 in a rural town, UTA has grown to become a large university with over 58,000 students enrolled. Currently, its graduate school is ranked among the best for this year according to the U.S News & World Report. UTA is also recognized as having the second-lowest average student debt in the country.
UTA’s online MS in Civil Engineering trains students in the technical side of engineering to advance graduates in their careers.
- Sample areas of study: Construction Engineering and Management, Geotechnical, Water Resources, Structures and Applied Mechanics, etc.
- Sample Courses: Traffic Engineering, Fundamentals of Finite Element Methods, Intro to Air Pollution, Physical Chemical Processes, etc.
- Departmental scholarships available
Undergraduate seniors studying Civil Engineering at UTA have the option of applying for the Fast Track Program, which gives students graduate credit for up to six hours of coursework. Those that meet the required coursework and GPA should apply during their final undergraduate semester.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Average Net Price: $13,066
North Carolina State University at Raleigh is a research-focused institution that was formed in 18887. NC State is also a land-grant university that was founded to transform higher education. Today the university is ranked the Best College For your Money in the state according to Money Magazine. It is also ranked number nine in the nation for its online engineering programs according to the U.S News & World Report, with its Civil Engineering program 17th in the nation for the year of 2017.
NC State’s online Master of Civil Engineering is designed for undergraduate engineers who want to specialize in their career. All classes are delivered using the WolfWare website.
- 30-credit hour program
- Topics: Engineering and Management, Geotechnical, Structures and Mechanics, Transportation Systems, and Water Resources
- No-thesis required
As a very affordable school, NC State offers competitive tuition rates as well as financial aid. Students who qualify may also apply for graduate fellowships and grants.
Iowa State University
Average Net Price: $13,623
Iowa State University is a land-grant university located in the city of Ames. It was founded in 1858 originally as an agricultural college. With over 27,000 enrolled students, Iowa State is ranked as having the best college value in the state according to Money Magazine. Its civil engineering program is also ranked among the top 25 programs among public universities for the year of 2018 by the U.S. News & World Report.
Iowa State’s online Master’s in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Construction Engineering and Management is focused on developing students’ problem solving and creative thinking skills.
- Study Areas: Management Techniques, Construction Operations, Construction Methods
- 30-hour credit program
- Coursework only or creative component option (research)
- Classes delivered online via streaming
Iowa State’s Construction of Engineering and Management program is one of only five schools in the nation to be recognized by The Association General Contractors of America.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Average Net Price: $13,874
Missouri University of Science and Technology is a leading public technological research university that was founded in 1870. Its vision is to seek new creative and innovative ways of meeting the world’s challenges. Missouri S&T is currently ranked among the “Best Investment” schools according to Newsweek among public universities for out-of-state students. Its engineering college is also the third best in the nation.
Missouri S&T’s MS in Civil Engineering focuses on problem-solving within the field using the latest technology and procedures.
- Areas of Study: Environmental, Structural, Geotechnical, Water Resources, and Construction Engineering
- Sample Courses: Public Health Engineering, Advanced Hydrology, Air Transportation, Biological Operations in Environmental Engineering Systems, etc.
- Graduate certificates available for those who have not taken the GRE
Missouri S&T offers a standard $1,200 credit hour tuition rate for all Distance programs. A discounted credit hour tuition rate of $734.94 is given to those in the military.
University of Florida
Average Net Price: $14,761
The University of Florida is a public research university with over 160 years of history. It is the third largest university in the state, as well as the eighth largest single-campus university in the nation. Currently, UF is ranked as the ninth best public university in the country according to the U.S. News & World Report. UF EDGE, a distance learning program that is offered through the Herbert Wetheim College of Engineering, is ranked the 16th best online public engineering graduate education for the year of 2018.
UF’s online Master’s in Civil Engineering is a flexible program that is delivered via streaming or DVD. Students learn from the same distinguished faculty that teach regular on-campus classes.
- Estimated completion time in as little as 24 months
- Sample Courses: Foundation Design, Public Works Planning, Freeway Operations and Simulation, Traffic Flow Theory, etc.
UF’s College of Engineering is the number one engineering school in the state. In addition, the Department of Coastal and Civil Engineering which houses this program is ranked among the top ten in the nation.
University of Idaho
Average Net Price: $14,787
The university of Idaho is a land-grant university that was founded in 1889. Its goal is to provide students with higher education that will prepare them to take on real-life problems and be successful in the workforce. U of I offers both in-person and online undergraduate, graduate, professional, and continuing education programs.
U of I’s online ME in Civil Engineering is ideal for those who already have a strong background in engineering and wish to specialize in their career.
- 33-credit program
- Emphases: Environmental and Sanitary, Geotechnical, Hydraulics and Water Resources, Structural, and Transportation Engineering
- Sample Courses: Engineering Properties of Soils, Fluid Transcients, Design of Water and Wastewater Systems, Steel Design, etc.
Students can apply for admission into this program three times a year (fall, spring, or summer). Those who have missed the deadline can apply as a non-degree student and complete courses until his/her graduation application is accepted.
Texas Tech University
Average Net Price: $15,235
Texas Tech University is a public university that is the sixth-largest school in the state. Its bustling campus is known for its state of the art research, active student organizations, and strong commitment to community outreach. Texas Tech is currently the number one Best College for the Money in the Southwest in 2018 according to College Factual. It was also ranked among the top fifty schools for the best return on investment among all public schools in the nation according to Payscale for the year of 2017.
Texas Tech’s online Master of Civil Engineering combines theories in structural and construction engineering with management principles.
- Three Options: thesis, report, course-only
- Sample Courses: Advanced Mechanics of Solids, Structural Reliability, Construction Cost Estimating and Control, etc.
All courses are designed with working individuals in mind, therefore all participation is asynchronous, meaning students can finish their degree at a time that is most convenient for them. All tests are also completed completely online.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Average Net Price: $15,406
New Jersey Institute of Technology is a public research university with over 130 years of experience educating the next generation of leaders. Founded in 1881, NJIT is currently ranked among the top ten universities in the nation for the best return on investment. In addition, its extensive online program is also nationally recognized, with its Engineering programs ranked among the best grad schools in 2017 according to the U.S. News & World Report.
NJIT’s online MS in Civil Engineering prepares students to plan, design, construct, and operate different infrastructures. All aspects of this program are designed for career-driven students who wish to excel in their career as professional engineers.
- Specialties: Construction Management, Transportation, Structural Design & Construction
- Sample Courses: Short Span Bridge Design, Project Planning and Control, Construction Cost Estimating, Legal Aspects of Construction, etc.
- Opportunity to qualify for the Professional Engineer (P.E.) license
NJIT’s College of Engineering was ranked among the best by the U.S. News & World Report in 2013. In that same year, Payscale also ranked NJIT in the nation’s top one percent of the best return on investment out of over 1,500 higher education institutions in the nation.
Mississippi State University
Average Net Price: $15,628
Mississippi State University is a large research university located in Starkville, an agricultural-commercial-industrial city. Offering a wide range of degrees and programs, including on-campus on online, students have the opportunity to learn from dedicated faculty as well as with a diverse student body. The James Worth Bagley College of Engineering offers several distance learning programs so that students can complete their degree virtually anywhere. According to a survey done by the college, 93% of students said they would recommend Bagley’s online programs to a friend.
MSU’s online M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) prepares students to enter careers that promote public safety, community development, and higher living standards.
- Specializations: Construction Engineering and Management, Construction Materials, Environmental, Geotechnical, Structural, Transportation, and Water Sources Engineering
- Over 800 companies employ CEE alumni
- Awards amounting up to $50,000 given annually
Assistantship programs, where graduate students work to receive money that goes towards their education, are available for qualifying students. There are Graduate Research, Graduate Service, and Graduate Teaching Assistantships.
University of Maryland
Average Net Price: $15,757
The University of Maryland is a public research university located just outside Washington D.C. Starting in 1856, the school had 34 students, but has grown to over 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. UMD is also the nation’s first “Do Good” campus that contains an institute purely dedicated to philanthropy and social change. UMD is also ranked the eight best value college according to the Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.
UMD’s online master’s certificate in Civil & Environmental program is designed for people who are pursuing their master’s degree in engineering who wish to specialize in this area.
- 30 credit-hours
- Specializations: Geotechnical and Pavements, Structures, Environmental and Water Resources, and Transportation
- Sample Courses: Structural Reliability, Earth Retaining Structures, Bioremediation, Freight Transportation Analysis, etc.
The A. James Clark School of Engineering is currently ranked as having the 24th best graduate engineering programs for 2018 according to the U.S. News & World Report. It is also ranked 23rd for the best online graduate engineering programs.
University of Virginia
Average Net Price: $15,945
The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. It contains eleven schools in the city of Charlottesville and the College at Wise in Southwest Virginia. As one of the first universities to employ cross-disciplinary studies, UVA’s well-rounded curriculum creates emerging leaders who will shape the future of the nation, just as Jefferson had hoped. UVA is currently ranked the third best public college for value for 2018 by the Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, as well as the third best public national university by the U.S. News & World Report.
UVA’s online ME in Civil and Environmental Engineering is a hands-on degree that teaches students how to problem solve in industries related to infrastructure and development.
- 10 courses
- Sample Courses: Traffic Operations, Stochastic Systems, Environmental Systems Modeling & Management, Structure and Properties of Materials, etc.
- Can take up to half of courses through partner institutions
UVA’s online engineering programs were ranked 12th nationally and 1st in the state of Virginia according to Best Colleges. In 2016, these programs were also ranked among the most affordable online master’s according to Grad School Hub.
The University of Alabama
Average Net Price: $16,092
Established in 1831, the University of Alabama is the state’s oldest public college. Through quality teaching, research, and service, the university aims to be a student-centered research university that creates educational opportunities for all. UA has ranked among the top 60 public universities by the U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade.
UA’s online master’s of Civil Structural Engineering is ideal for those who wish to earn a professional engineering certificate.
- Completion time in as little as 19 months
- 30-credit hours
- Graduates can take the Professional Engineer Exam and the Structural Engineering Certificate Exam upon completion of the degree
- All students are eligible to pay in-state tuition
UA’s online graduate engineering programs were ranked 28th in the nation in 2017 by the U.S. News & World Report.
Colorado State University - Fort Collins
Average Net Price: $16,232
Colorado State University – Fort Collins is the Colorado State University’s flagship university that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees within its eight colleges. The university also offers several online programs that can be completed anywhere. All CSU online courses use the Canvas learning platform, that allows students to access live videos, podcasts, and text assignments.
CSU’s online ME with a Civil Engineering Specialization and MS in Civil Engineering trains professions about building and sustainable infrastructure.
- ME: 30-credit program; MS: 32-credit program
- Estimated completion time: 3 years
- Sample Courses: Pipe System Engineering and Hydraulics, Wells and Pumps, Computer-Aided Water Management and Control, etc.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in civil engineering are predicted to experience a 19% growth rate within the coming years. During this program, students are encouraged to connect with faculty about future job opportunities.