Civil Engineering (PhD)

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Program Description

The Department of Civil and Urban Engineering currently offers two doctoral degree programs: PhD in Civil Engineering and PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering. Requirements for the Civil Engineering degree are detailed here. For information on the Transportation Planning and Engineering program, see the “Transportation” section of this catalog.

Areas of Concentration

Students pursuing the PhD in Civil Engineering must choose to specialize in one of the following subdisciplines of civil engineering:

  • Structural Materials and Engineering
  • Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Engineering
  • Environmental and Water Resources Engineering
  • Construction Management and Engineering
  • Highway and Traffic Engineering
  • Urban Infrastructure Systems

Other focus areas are possible and can be developed with the assistance of faculty advisers. All subject areas must be relevant to the degree sought, and a faculty member must be willing and able to guide the student’s research.


  1. Admission to the PhD in Civil Engineering requires a Master of Science in Civil Engineering or equivalent with a GPA of 3.5 or better (on a 0-4 scale).
  2. All applicants are required to submit GRE scores for consideration.
  3. International applicants must take the TOEFL examination and submit the results for consideration.

In criterion 1 above, the “equivalent” can be achieved in several ways. The candidate may have a Master of Science degree with a different title that covers substantially the same material. In more general terms, the applicant must demonstrate that he or she has the equivalent of all undergraduate and master’s-level course work to be able to pursue doctoral-level work in the chosen major area, as well as in a minor area within the umbrella of civil engineering. Further, “equivalence” is evaluated based on the totality of the student’s undergraduate and graduate record, not course by course. Thus, an applicant who wishes to pursue doctoral work in Environmental Engineering, for example, must have the entire undergraduate and master’s-level course background expected in Environmental Engineering, but need not demonstrate such a background in structures. Because admission to a PhD program requires a relevant Master of Science (or equivalent), an applicant who has not yet earned a master’s degree will be admitted as Master of Science student and is expected to earn an Master of Science degree while completing the major and minor course requirements. In rare cases, an applicant with only a Bachelor of Science degree may be directly admitted into the PhD program with the written approval of the department head.

Every PhD student upon admission is assigned an academic adviser, who is designated by the department head. Any member of the civil engineering faculty may be an academic adviser to a PhD student. The first meeting should take place shortly after receiving an acceptance letter from the Admissions Office. During this first meeting the student’s Program of Study should be established. The Program of Study should include a list of the fundamental and advanced topics that will comprise the specific courses, the subject matter for the qualifying exam and possible research areas.

In cases where a student is supported on a research contract, the principal investigator of the contract will normally be the student’s academic adviser. Where a student has a particular research interest and is working with a particular faculty member, the student may request that faculty member for his or her academic advisor. In rare cases, when a PhD student enters the program without a prior selection of a major area of study, the initial academic adviser will be the graduate coordinator of the program area. Each PhD candidate reports to two advisory committees: an Academic Advisory Committee and a Dissertation Committee.