Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

By Brandon Mario D`Souza

Updated March 21, 2024

Brandon Mario D’Souza

Brandon is a registered social worker with Social Work England. He obtained his master’s in social work (personnel management & industrial relations) and used it in fields such as water treatment, construction, software, and education. Then he transitioned to the health and social care sector with an M.Sc. in health psychology. Brandon loves to write, cook, and play musical instruments (piano, guitar, melodica, ukulele, and kazoo) and enjoys the calmness and serenity of nature.


Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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A Ph.D. in civil engineering is a comprehensive program that studies the development, design, and maintenance of natural and physical infrastructure. This doctoral degree is research-oriented, and it explores advanced-level concepts in the field of civil engineering. By doing a doctorate in civil engineering, scholars are encouraged to participate actively in research projects. After graduating from the program, students can take up several roles like building control surveyor, building services engineer, etc., or enter academia and industry in teaching or managerial positions. The employment outlook for civil engineers is 7% as fast as average, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read on to discover all about the Ph.D. in civil engineering program.

Civil Engineering

Best Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

A Ph.D. degree increases a student’s knowledge, research work, and career options. Finding a Ph.D. in civil engineering degree online could be difficult for students because of weighing factors like the availability of labs and resources, the infrastructure of the college, the quality of faculty, accreditation statuses, availability of internships or field experiences, research facilities, etc. Based on these and other critical components, the teams at Find Best Degrees have combed through several universities and narrowed down the best Ph.D. programs in civil engineering in the United States. Here is the list: *

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley, Berkeley, Cal, or California), established in 1868 as the University of California, is a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California. The university comprises 14 colleges and schools that enroll over 45,000 students.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
University of California(ONCAMPUS) 200 California Hall, Berkeley, California 94720 $11,442 93%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

The Ph.D. civil engineering is designed to give candidates comprehensive training in research methods and knowledge of their professional field. The degree focuses on the prospective student’s ability to grasp the subject matter of the broad field of civil engineering and their ability to do independent research. Students also acquire the ability to express their thoughts clearly, both orally and in writing.

Each college has different requirements which students must meet for a doctorate in civil engineering. The curriculum ranges from 50 to 75 credits, much of which can be completed online. But in general, the civil engineering Ph.D. is usually an on-campus program because of the many technical requirements that require one’s physical presence. The curriculum focuses on quantitative research methods, and intensely specialized classes cover crucial aspects of civil engineering.

Some of the essential components of the doctorate in civil engineering curriculum would be:


The course selection for a civil engineering Ph.D. is very broad. They can choose their courses from one civil engineering concentration; however, this might differ from program to program. The coursework must align with the student’s professional objectives to help them in their dissertation.


Teaching is not compulsory; however, in most colleges, teaching experience is highly recommended for students who have not taken up the option of Graduate Teaching Assistantship. This option is also recommended for students who want to become professors in their careers further.


Students are usually required to complete certain hours of prescribed graduate-level coursework, although they could be exempted if they have an assistantship. Some programs require a mandatory full-time residency for a particular duration, which may also be a qualifying criterion for taking the comprehensive exams.

Comprehensive Exams

Students become eligible to take comprehensive examinations after completing all the coursework. They usually pick up topics of their choice to write a manuscript and are subsequently required to defend it orally when presenting it to the committee or department.


The Ph.D. candidate collaborates with their advisor or guides to choose a topic for their dissertation that aligns with their professional objectives. The dissertation includes defense and sometimes a publication.

Field Experience

Students are encouraged to participate in independent research to combine and integrate their research and classroom theory with different field activities. They can engage with different scientific communities by collecting and researching data from various sources specifically for these purposes.

Examples of research interests and topics include but are not limited to:

  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Reinforced Concrete
  • Hydraulic Modeling
  • Coastal Ocean Modeling
  • Watershed Management
  • Structural Health Monitoring
  • Soil And Structural Dynamics
  • Nonlinear Structural Analysis
  • Sensors and Data Analytics for Infrastructure
  • Traffic Safety
  • Geotechnical Materials
  • Subsurface Conditions and Soil Testing
  • Stormwater Management
  • Construction Engineering

Read the Guide to PhD Programs to understand more about doctoral programs.

Areas of Specialization in Ph.D. in
Civil Engineering Programs

Specializations could be a course of study or a major subject on which a student focuses to gain specific insights. They help students gain expertise in a particular area of research and help in increasing their career prospects. Many schools have different specializations or concentrations depending on the curriculum and program. Here are a few examples of specializations in the Ph.D. in civil engineering:

Area of Specialization Description Career Options
Construction Engineering and ManagementIn this specialization, students focus on learning about producing projects that would meet the requirements of the clients. Students learn about productivity, planning, cost analysis, construction methods, and equipment.Associate Director of a construction project and civil construction manager
Hydraulic and Hydrologic EngineeringIn this specialization, students learn about preventing floods, supplying water for cities, irrigation and industry, treating wastewater, managing and redirecting rivers, and protecting beaches.Hydraulic engineer and associate group engineer.
Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Water ResourcesThis program is an interdisciplinary field that balances conflicting strategies like socio-economic use, environmental protection, and hazard mitigation. It also focuses on eco-hydro-morphological processes.Water resources manager and fluid mechanics engineer
Geotechnical EngineeringThis program focuses on understanding soil mechanics and behavior and applied soil mechanics. Students learn about excavation and support systems, earth dams, deep foundations, and rock mechanics and behavior.Senior geotechnical engineer, project engineer, and geotechnical research engineer
Next-Generation Transportation SystemsIn this specialization, students learn to use different advanced networking systems that individuals could use to travel, like subways, railroads, seaways, and airways. They also learn about the efficient and safe movement of people.Transportation management application support engineer and transportation and logistics software development engineer
Structural EngineeringThis specialization focuses on dealing with large modern buildings and structures. It involves applying mathematics, physics, and empirical knowledge to design elements of man-made structures.Structural analysis engineer, civil and structural engineer, and senior structural engineer

Some of the other specializations students could consider include but are not limited to:

  • Structural Materials and Engineering
  • Construction Management and Engineering
  • Numerical Study of Complex Fluid-Structure Interaction
  • Environmental and Water Resources Engineering
  • Geotechnical and Geo-Environmental Engineering
  • Urban Infrastructure Systems
  • Intelligent Infrastructure
  • Highway and Traffic Engineering
  • Ground Engineering and Engineering Geosciences
  • Geofencing Systems
  • Civil Engineering and Surveying
  • Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Biomechanical Engineering
  • Built Environment
  • Territorial Engineering
  • City and Regional Planning

Why should I do a Ph.D. in
Civil Engineering?

Students pursuing an online doctorate in civil engineering learn reasoning, scientific concepts, skill, and the methods and principles of teaching civil engineering. The education students get throughout their program will help them acquire knowledge and skills to work as postsecondary civil engineering teachers, independent scientists, or both. Most online Ph.D. in civil engineering graduates have gone on to work in research and teaching. Since this is a lucrative field, students have many job options even before completing their programs.

The Ph.D. in civil engineering degree is suitable for students with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering and those who want to pursue employment in fields related to basic and applied research, advocacy, information technology, teaching, government, or other advanced positions in scientific institutions. Apart from the prestige that comes with it, a doctorate can lead to rewarding careers and experiences in academic positions for higher education, postdoctoral positions in related fields to civil engineering, and advanced positions in the private and governmental sectors.

Upon graduating, regardless of the concentration one is pursuing, graduates of the online Ph.D. in civil engineering would have the ability to:

  • carry out original research and impart it to peers through scientific and technical journals;
  • display professional behavior and ethics consistent with principals deemed of high quality;
  • actively participate in construction companies and assist engineers in tasks like soil and material testing, project layout, supervision of projects, and construction cost estimation in their respective fields;
  • analyze and use knowledge and expertise to design civil projects, including structures like dams, homes, power plants, airports, bridges, railways and pipelines, and other design services clients request;
  • converse appropriately with other professionals about content, analysis, design, and techniques;
  • effectively communicate the technical concepts, information, and solutions related to different stakeholders
  • demonstrate the ability to work in an accurate, precise, and transparent manner showing utmost professionalism; and
  • show in-depth knowledge of several aspects of civil engineering, urban development, transportation, environmental planning, and soil engineering, and develop frameworks for an organization with these aspects. 

Free Courses for Ph.D. in Civil
Engineering Students

Several reputable platforms offer free Ph.D. in civil engineering online courses. These free courses do not lead to certification or are not recognized by academic institutions or employers. However, they do provide additional civil engineering information, which may be helpful for research, exams, and assignments. Here are a few free courses students can explore:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Mastering StaticsIn this course, students will learn the conditions under which a structure or object is subjected to time-invariant forces in equilibrium and the conditions under which an object moves or remains stationary.Coursera
Modern Building DesignIn this course, students learn how technology, climate change, and regulation are altering the designs of buildings and professional practice in the construction field. Students also explore trends and problems in this field.FutureLearn
The Industry and Profession in Construction ManagementIn this course, students learn about the different roles and responsibilities individuals would play in being a construction manager. Students will distinguish the characteristics that define construction management organizations.edX

How to get into the Ph.D. in Civil
Engineering Program?

Most institutions have a list of admissions criteria a student must meet to pursue a Ph.D. in the civil engineering program. To begin with, applicants must have a master’s degree from a regionally accredited program and a Grade Point Average (GPA) of usually 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Prospective students at some schools may need to identify which faculty they would want as an advisor or guide throughout their dissertation. Apart from these, some of the most common Ph.D. in civil engineering admissions requirements are:

  • Online Application and application fee
  • Academic transcripts from each university or college attended
  • An undergraduate and graduate degree with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or more
  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test scores no older than 5 years
  • At least 2 or 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • A Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose
  • A Graduate Résumé or Curriculum Vitae
  • A writing sample or presentation of any research work done in the past
  • Proof of English proficiency is the native tongue is not English

Phd in Engineering No
GRE Programs

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) assesses a student’s ability to complete their coursework independently. Many institutions across the United States do not require GRE scores as a minimum requirement for admission. While some colleges may waive the GRE requirement in some instances, others would be more selective and have stricter requirements like a higher GPA, additional recommendation letters, plenty of work experience, etc. Some examples of colleges offering Ph.D. in civil engineering no GRE programs are the University of Central Florida, the University of Michigan, and the University of Delaware.

How Long does it take to complete a Ph.D. in
Civil Engineering?

The average time to finish a Ph.D. in civil engineering program is between 5 and 7 years, but it can also be completed in 4 years, while others could take up to 6 years. When selecting a civil engineering Ph.D. program, students will have to evaluate how much time they want to spend on their coursework or dissertation, which will directly influence the duration of the Ph.D. Here is a quick overview of the duration of a civil engineering Ph.D. program:

  • Minimum time required for a full-time Ph.D. in civil engineering: about 4 years.
  • Maximum time required for a Ph.D. in civil engineering: up to 7 years.
  • Typical duration to complete a Ph.D. in civil engineering: between 5 to 7 years.

Accelerated Ph.D. in Civil
Engineering Programs

Accelerated Ph.D. programs help students complete their studies in a lesser time than the stipulated 5 to 7 years. With accelerated degrees, students can complete the full doctoral coursework and research work in as little as four years. However, the dissertation may take an additional year to finish on top of the coursework. Some colleges also allow students to begin their Ph.D. program while still completing their master’s degrees. As a result, the master’s thesis can be upgraded or expanded to serve as Ph.D. research work in some cases; this, however, will depend on the institution’s and program’s requirements.

Accreditations for Ph.D. in Civil
Engineering Programs

Accreditation is a process led by non-governmental and nonprofit bodies to ensure that institutions of higher learning adhere to certain accepted educational standards and procedures. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits Ph.D. programs in civil engineering based on student outcomes, student performance, facilities, resources, faculty, and curriculum. In addition, colleges are also accredited nationally or regionally by independent organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Regional accreditation is more frequent and may be awarded by one of the following agencies:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Read the Guide to College Accreditation to understand more about accreditation and its importance.

How to Pay for a Ph.D. in Civil
Engineering Program?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the typical annual fee for a Ph.D. in the U.S. could be between $12,000 and $45,000 per academic year. One of the reasons why students hesitate to pursue higher education is because of the exorbitant fees. Fortunately, there are various means by which students can pay for college. Students can take up part-time and full-time jobs to fund their studies, but other than that, some other options to fund their Ph.D. civil engineering degree are:


Scholarships are money that does not need to be repaid unless the student fails to meet the award’s requirements. They are frequently given out by individuals, ethnic groups, for-profit and non-profit organizations, the government, etc. 


Grants are awarded based on merit and need. They are given by federal and state governments, non-profits, and educational institutions. Grants can be used for any type of educational expense and do not need to be repaid.

Private Student Loans

Students can take out a loan to help pay for their Ph.D. studies. Many banks, financial institutions, and the federal government offer education loans with added interest. Several Grants for Student Loans and Donors for Student Loans are available to avoid repaying loans.

Federal Direct Loans

Loans offered by the federal government are low-interest loans. The primary feature of these loans is that students do not need to pay back the loan till they graduate from their program and have found employment. 


The Free Application for Federal Student aid or FAFSA is an application form for federal financial aid. This is available to prospective or current college students. Students can check the FAFSA student aid guide to understand what it is about. 

Read about financial aid and find out everything there is to know about college funding in the How to pay for college guide.

Fully-Funded Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

Fully funded full-time students receive full tuition reimbursement along with an annual stipend or compensation for the 3 to 6 years they spend pursuing their doctorate. Typically, funding is provided in exchange for graduate assistantships in teaching and research related to one’s program. Here are examples of universities offering fully funded Ph.D. in civil engineering programs:

University/College Description
Northwestern UniversityAll civil engineering Ph.D. students at Northwestern University receive a combination of grants, internal and external fellowships, and teaching and research assistantships to fully support them throughout their studies.
Cornell UniversityAll civil engineering Ph.D. students at Cornell University are fully funded by various sources, including graduate teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and external and internal fellowships. The funding includes tuition, a stipend, and health insurance.
Texas A&M UniversityTexas A&M University’s department of civil and environmental engineering offers many fully funded fellowships for graduate students pursuing Ph.D. degrees. These four-year scholarships will provide tuition, fees, a stipend, and opportunities for professional growth.

FAQs Related to the Ph.D. in
Civil Engineering Program

How to do a Ph.D. in civil engineering?

Some of the crucial steps to obtaining a Ph.D. in civil engineering include:

  • Taking the preliminary examination
  • Selecting and appointing the dissertation committee
  • Completing the curriculum and other requirements
  • Progressing into candidacy
  • Defending the research proposal
  • Taking the final oral or written exam or both
  • Finishing the dissertation

Can you get a Ph.D. in civil engineering online?

What courses are there in a civil engineering Ph.D.?

How long does a Ph.D. in civil engineering take?

Is a Ph.D. in civil engineering worth it?

What is the Ph.D. in civil engineering salary?

Can I do a Ph.D. in civil engineering without a master’s degree?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after a Ph.D.
in Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering Ph.D. programs represent the field’s extensive scope, including designing, building, and upgrading society’s infrastructure. Doctorate holders will be prepared for positions in consulting businesses, civil and construction-related industries, academic institutions, and local, county, state, and federal government agencies. While many take up civil engineering research careers in the private sector, it is not uncommon for some to teach at the university level. Here are some roles graduates frequently take up that serve as good indicators of what one can expect after completing their Ph.D. in civil engineering program:

OccupationJob DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Civil EngineersCivil engineers are responsible for designing, constructing, and maintaining the infrastructure of various projects and systems. They supervise and direct building projects of all sizes and scopes.Problem-solving skills, writing skills, decision-making skills, organizational skills, speaking skills, math skills, leadership skills$88,0507% (as fast as average)
Top ExecutivesHigh-level executives create and implement strategies and procedures to ensure that an organization’s goals are realized. They manage and direct a firm’s financial and budgetary activities and coordinate and direct various activities of businesses and organizations.Communication skills, problem-solving skills, leadership skills, decision-making skills, time-management skills$98,9808% (as fast as average)
Postsecondary TeachersTeachers or professors at the postsecondary level instruct students in varied academic disciplines beyond the high school level. In addition, they may research, write scholarly articles and books, create courses and assignments, and supervise graduate teaching or research assistants.Speaking skills, writing skills, interpersonal skills, critical-thinking skills, resourcefulness$79,64012% (much faster than average)
Construction ManagersConstruction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and monitor construction projects from start to end. They manage and supervise a wide range of projects, including the construction of residential, commercial, industrial, and public facilities and highways and bridges.Technical skills, analytical skills, decision-making skills, communication skills, business skills, leadership skills$98,8908% as fast as average
Urban and Regional PlannersUrban and regional planners analyze community needs and propose short- and long-term solutions to help cities and areas improve and regenerate. They design land use plans and programs that aid in the formation of communities, the expansion of population, and the revitalization of physical facilities.Decision-making skills, analytical skills, leadership skills, communication skills$78,5004% (as fast as average)

Certifications and Licensing for Ph.D. in
Civil Engineering Students

Professional certifications represent the technical and intellectual skills of students who have finished a Ph.D. in civil engineering online. They demonstrate one’s knowledge and competence to the general public as well as potential or present employers. Including one or more certifications on one’s résumé is always smart because they lead to higher salaries and better professional opportunities. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) lists various civil engineering professional certifications. Civil engineers can also consider adding other professional certifications useful for their careers, such as:

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most prominent project management credential in the world. It certifies project leadership experience and expertise in any working method, including predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches. It propels project leaders’ careers across industries and assists organizations in finding the talent they require to work smarter and perform better.

The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) Certifications

The AACE professional certification program is linked to Total Cost Management and related practices. It encourages certifications for individuals and corporations to advance the cost management profession. Certifications include:

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) Certified Quality Engineer (CQE)

A Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) is an expert in the principles of product and service quality evaluation and control. This accredited certification demonstrates impartial, third-party confirmation that it has satisfied established national and worldwide credentialing industry requirements for program conception, implementation, and maintenance.

As for licensure, for civil engineering professionals to advance their careers into supervisory and managerial roles, a professional license is becoming more critical. If applicants complete specific requirements, including passing the written test given by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), state licensing boards will award the Professional Engineer (PE) license.

Additional Resources for Ph.D. in
Civil Engineering Students

Apart from academic and college training, joining a professional group or association helps students understand their area and gain practical knowledge. Students pursuing civil engineering Ph.D. degrees can consider joining reputable organizations to help them advance professionally. The advantages are numerous, ranging from access to conferences and training to networking possibilities and access to other resources. Here are a few to consider:

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) is the only national organization dedicated to addressing the professional problems of licensed professional engineers in all disciplines. It is a non-technical organization that represents the interests of licensed professional engineers.
American Concrete Institute (ACI)The American Concrete Institute (ACI) is a world leader in developing, disseminating, and implementing consensus-based standards, educational, training & certification programs, and technical resources.
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a premier provider of professional and technical conferences and continuing education and the world’s largest publisher of civil engineering content. It is also an authoritative source for public-safety codes and standards.
Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is a UK-based professional membership body that gives out professional credentials, encourages discussions about infrastructure and the built environment, and offers education, learning, and thinking on civil engineering matters.
International Structural Engineering and Construction Society (ISEC)The International Structural Engineering and Construction Society (ISEC) is an international platform for civil, structural, and construction engineering experts. It hosts seminars and educational conferences to promote communication and the exchange of new advancements in various fields.

Author Bio:

Brandon Mario D’Souza

Brandon is a registered social worker with Social Work England. He obtained his master’s in social work (personnel management & industrial relations) and used it in fields such as water treatment, construction, software, and education. Then he transitioned to the health and social care sector with an M.Sc. in health psychology. Brandon loves to write, cook, and play musical instruments (piano, guitar, melodica, ukulele, and kazoo) and enjoys the calmness and serenity of nature.


Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.