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Civil Engineering Master’s Degree: Everything You Need To Earn Your Degree

Perhaps you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering (CEE) or another discipline such as mechanical engineering or chemical engineering. Maybe you’ve developed a specialization in an engineering field, from traffic and transportation to coastal and geotechnical engineering. But in your role as a project manager, designer, or consultant, you’re likely wondering about what’s next for you and the best way forward.

How will you deepen your expertise, fill knowledge gaps, and develop as a lifelong learner? For busy professionals with personal responsibilities, traditional options are limited. Full-time, on-campus graduate programs used to be one of the only proven career paths to promotions, senior positions, and licensure.

But what are some future-forward paths for civil engineers looking to advance to new levels?

One option to consider is a master’s in civil engineering (CE) online—a transformational, flexible, and affordable educational experience for busy professionals. Online degree programs offer students a more flexible learning environment and the ability to learn from top universities and faculty without the barrier of geography.

In this article, we’ll dig into all you need to know to understand how to pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering. By using Purdue University’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering as a guiding example, we will cover everything from the benefits of online master’s degrees to key features of top-ranked programs and degree requirements.

Online Master’s Degrees: The Best of Both Worlds

Top-ranked online master's degree programs offered by renowned institutions of higher education combine the best of both worlds: the flexibility of online learning and quality curriculum from world-class faculty.

When it comes to flexibility, online programs are designed to cater to working professionals. Purdue University's 30-credit-hour degree can be taken part-time by working professionals. This flexibility allows students to commit to an appropriate amount of coursework relative to their work and life commitments outside the classroom.

Purdue’s online Master of Science in Civil Engineering is top-ranked as it prepares and teaches current and future civil engineers the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the civil and environmental engineering sectors.

Since 1869, Boilermakers have been pioneers in applications that span the entire spectrum of the civil engineering profession. Students who earn a master’s degree from Purdue's civil engineering graduate program will be immersed in a curriculum covering key civil engineering concepts and fundamentals, including three interdisciplinary theme areas:

  • Sustainable Water
  • Infrastructure, Resiliency and Sustainability
  • Smart Mobility

Future-Forward Degrees: Academic Program Aligned With Industry

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), several factors will contribute to the demand for skilled civil engineers.

  • A growing population will need civil engineers to build new infrastructure systems and maintain or repair aging and neglected ones.
  • Waste treatment plants that clean the nation’s waterways will continue to need teams of civil engineers to manage the work.
  • Renewable energy projects, from wind farms to solar arrays, will need expert infrastructural oversight by civil engineers.
  • Reducing traffic congestion and traffic-related fatalities will require investments in smart mobility infrastructure, increasing the need for qualified civil engineers to develop and manage such projects.
  • Challenges posed by climate change will require dedicated civil engineers to influence the built environment and infrastructure and help engineer society’s drive toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge, from the American Society of Civil Engineers, makes clear the new and rigorous standards needed for civil engineers to be successful in the future. This higher standard “is likely to result in a heightened need for a graduate education,” according to economists at BLS. “Therefore, those who enter the occupation with a graduate degree will likely have better prospects,” BLS economists predicted.

Civil engineers looking to remain competitive in the ever-changing industry will need to seek graduate degrees designed to enhance their skills. In finding the right degree, civil engineers will need programs that provide opportunities for specialization and coursework taught by expert faculty.

Specialization Opportunities

Specialized skills and an expanded body of knowledge about civil engineering are critical factors of a valuable graduate program.

Each track within Purdue’s future-forward master’s in civil engineering online is designed to be closely aligned with in-demand industries and skills. Additionally, Purdue’s learning design for the online graduate program is uniquely tailored to meet each individual student's needs. The program is designed to prepare graduate students to find innovative solutions for real-world applications. They will learn about new smart mobile technologies, safety assessment techniques, and much more in any of the three specialization tracks:

  • Sustainable Water (SW): This theme area provides coursework related to water quantity and quality. The water quantity portion of the program is taught through coursework in hydrology and hydraulics, whereas the water quality portion is taught through coursework related to water treatment and related topics. This theme is intended for learners interested in water supply, water treatment, water reuse, and resource recovery from water, particularly as related to structural design and urban and municipal applications.
  • Infrastructure, Resiliency and Sustainability (IRS): This theme focuses on the latest advancements in the analysis, design, and construction of civil infrastructure including buildings, bridges, roadways, industrial facilities and power plants. These advancements include: sustainable materials and non-destructive evaluation, digital twinning for planning and construction, and natural hazards and resilience design.
  • Smart Mobility (SM): The Smart Mobility theme focuses on emerging technologies in transportation engineering. This includes autonomous, connected, electrified and shared micro-mobility transportation systems. Analytical theories and tools include big data analytics, econometrics, network models and optimization methods. The topics covered by this team are of interest to learners who want to plan, design, operate or manage smart mobility systems.

Expert Faculty

Highly ranked degree programs attract faculty who teach cutting-edge coursework, are leading experts in their fields, and are experienced at implementing innovative pedagogies for both on-campus classes and online learning environments.

“Our faculty are very well known in their own fields of research and expertise. We are also well known not only for doing research but also for having a strong teaching ethic,” said Professor Rao Govindaraju, who heads Purdue’s civil engineering programs. Purdue’s ability to tap into its historical strengths as a civil engineering school is just part of what has earned the online program a #2 ranking by US News & World Report.

The online program is “strongly supported by our world-renowned faculty," Govindaraju said in response to the rankings news. "This program has been years in the making to ensure our online learners get the best education possible."

Application Requirements for a CE Master’s Degree

Here are some requirements to keep in mind if you’re interested in pursuing this kind of degree:

Prerequisite courses: It’s important to note that there are prerequisites to enroll in a civil engineering master’s program. Prerequisite coursework includes math (calculus, algebra, differential equations), science (chemistry, physics), and a preferred bachelor's degree background in engineering or a related field.

GRE Scores: Many master's programs require standard examination scores for admissions, such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). However, some colleges and universities are loosening this requirement. For example, Purdue’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering no longer requires the GRE, but if you've taken the exam, you can include your scores to help strengthen your application.

Minimum GPA: An undergraduate degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.00.

Additional Requirements: Transcripts from all universities attended. For international applicants, original transcripts, as well as English translations, are both needed.


edX_Icon_LFinstantfeedback Various financial aid options exist for master’s programs and apply to enrolled online Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE) students. Learn more about the different types of financial assistance offered for Purdue’s civil engineering program.

Next Steps: Explore This Top Program

The mission of Purdue’s online master’s degree in civil engineering is to provide more civil engineering students with the preparation they need to take their careers to the next level.

The success of students is at the core of the program’s design. If you’re interested, visit the program page to learn more.

Learn More About the Program