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An online master’s in civil engineering will prepare students to plan, build, and repair critical infrastructure like bridges, roadways, buildings, and more.

Most online civil engineering graduate programs take two to three years to complete, although some universities offer an accelerated one-year program. The best online master’s in civil engineering programs require between 36 and 42 credit hours.

Civil engineers earn an annual average salary of $88,000. Career paths in this industry include geotechnical engineers, structural engineers, construction managers, and urban planners. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost for a master’s degree in the 2020-21 academic year was $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private institutions.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Program

Choose your area of study

Clarifying educational and career goals can help students choose an area of concentration within a master’s of civil engineering degree program. Popular areas include construction, structural, public works, transportation, and geo-technological engineering.

When choosing an online master’s in civil engineering program, answer the following:

  • Do you want to work in an office, outdoors, or both?
  • Which area is most in demand?
  • Which courses interest you the most?
  • What are the education requirements for the career you want?
  • What concentration matches your skill sets?

Choosing between a master’s in engineering and a master’s in science degree will help narrow the study area.

Research schools and programs

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the starting point for all research efforts. ABET accreditation is verification that a school meets quality standards and programs to help students succeed. Also, check the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) to confirm that the school offering the program has regional accreditation.

Students can research online by studying a school’s website, interacting with students on social media, taking virtual program tours, and video-calling school representatives. Before research begins, create a list of questions to answer that will help narrow the options, including the following:

  • What is the cost of the program?
  • Does the program format meet your needs?
  • What student support services are available?
  • What are the faculty members’ credentials?
  • What are the graduation requirements?

Prepare for tests and applications

Students should create a spreadsheet, checklist, or both to help them stay organized during the application and admission process. While it may be tempting to apply to multiple schools, try to narrow the options to a few to save money on application fees unless you can get an application fee waiver.

Each school can require different tests and application materials, but common items typically include the following:

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) test scores
  • Transcripts from a bachelor’s degree program
  • Proof of undergraduate GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or curriculum vitae

Select your program

Students still unsure of which program to choose will benefit from asking more specific questions about the online master’s in civil engineering program, including the following:

  • What awards and special recognitions have the programs received?
  • Are internships, practicums, or thesis projects required?
  • How many students graduate from the program and find a placement?
  • What professional societies are the faculty associated with?
  • What is the school or program ranking?

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Students may not know there are numerous ways to pay for an online master’s in civil engineering program. Adult learners working full-time while attending the master’s degree program can talk to their employers about tuition reductions or reimbursement opportunities.

Students can use the IRS Tax Assistant tool to determine eligibility for education tax benefits. Other resources for financial aid include the following:

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Programs

Best Online Master's in Civil Engineering Degree Programs

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals

NC State University

Purdue University

Columbia University Engineering

UVA Engineering

Auburn University

UW College of Engineering

University of Wisconsin at Madison

University of Southern California

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Kansas State University

Texas Tech University

Ohio University

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Villanova University

Mississippi State University

Colorado State University

Old Dominion University

Southern Methodist University

Louisiana State University

University of North Dakota

Michigan Technological University

UF Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment

Iowa State University

Lawrence Technological University

University of Louisville

University of Idaho

University of South Carolina

New Jersey Institute of Technology

University of Houston

Kennesaw State University

Norwich University

University of New Mexico

University of Central Florida

The University of Oklahoma

University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering

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How We Rank Schools

For this list, we focused on master’s degrees in civil engineering. The most common types of graduate degrees offered in civil engineering are a Master of Science (MS) and a Master of Engineering (MEng).

Another criterion for this list was that coursework is offered completely or primarily online so that students can access these programs regardless of their schedules or geographic locations.

As an additional measure of quality, we only included schools that are regionally accredited. This confirms that they meet high standards for postsecondary education. Many of these programs also have programmatic accreditation through ABET, an engineering and technology program accrediting body.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we reviewed each of them on the basis of outcomes, reputation, faculty, flexibility, and cost. We then calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Program?

Students in the best online master’s in civil engineering programs must complete all required credit hours (this figure tends to range from 30 to 42 hours). Full-time students usually complete a program in two years.

Part-time students need extra time to complete the program, typically three years. All students will study higher-level leadership, management, cost analysis, project planning, engineering technology, statistics, design, planning, and development courses.

Credit hours apply to the core curriculum, electives, research, and practicums. Some schools integrate co-op opportunities and internships, while others require research-based thesis or final projects, sometimes called Capstone projects.

Accelerated online master’s in civil engineering programs can take at least two semesters and offer a general industry knowledge base. Two-year programs allow students to study specific areas of civil engineering to figure out which concentration they enjoy the most. It also provides more training in leadership skills.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in civil engineering program

  • The History of Engineering Materials. Students will learn about the various construction materials utilized in the past and today. Materials studied may include concrete, metals, and more.
  • Codes and Regulations. Engineers must strictly follow codes and regulations and apply them to every job. Students will learn the most common codes used for building structures, transportation, and safety.
  • Engineering in Waterways. Students learn the issues with building structures along waterways and strategies for designing safe, sturdy, and efficient systems. Building in, on, and around water systems requires specific expertise. When planning projects, they must consider future issues, such as climate change and rising water levels.
  • Transportation Planning and Design. This class focuses on teaching students about the many transportation engineering factors, including planning, constructing, operating, and maintaining systems. They discuss issues regarding railways, highways, backroads, airports, and other transportation modes.
  • Computational Methods. Students learn to solve problems using today’s tools, including computer programs, structural analysis, biomechanics, algorithms, and linear systems. Geotechnics is a section in this course but may also be offered as a complete course for deeper study. Geotechnical engineering is using the earth’s materials to build structures.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Civil Engineering?

Career outlook

The career outlook for individuals with an online master’s degree in civil engineering is promising, driven by the increasing demand for infrastructure development, sustainable practices, and urban planning. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities in civil engineering are projected to grow by five percent by 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is primarily due to the need to repair and upgrade aging infrastructure, address environmental concerns, and adapt to population growth. Civil engineers earn a median annual salary of $89,940, with the top ten percent earning more than $138,690.

Career paths

The versatility of a master’s degree in civil engineering allows professionals to adapt to a wide range of industries, including construction, transportation, and urban planning, and contribute to vital projects that impact communities, infrastructure, and the environment. Career opportunities may vary based on individual interests, specialization, and the region’s economic and infrastructure development needs.

Here are some common positions that may be filled by individuals with a master’s degree in civil engineering:

  • Geotechnical engineer — studies the behavior of soil and rock to assess foundation stability for various structures, ensuring the integrity of construction projects
  • Transportation engineer — designs and improves transportation systems, including roads, highways, airports, and public transit
  • Water resources engineer — manages water-related projects such as flood control, irrigation, and water supply systems
  • Urban planner — develops land-use plans and policies to create sustainable and functional communities
  • Infrastructure manager — oversees the maintenance and operation of public or private infrastructure assets, such as utilities, transportation networks, and public facilities

Civil Engineer

Earning Potential: $55,000-$150,000 annually

Education Required: master’s degree in civil engineering or a related field; licensure may be required

Civil engineers play a vital role in designing, planning, and overseeing construction projects that shape our communities. They analyze site conditions, develop blueprints, and ensure projects comply with safety and environmental regulations. Civil engineers work on diverse projects, including roads, bridges, buildings, water supply systems, and more. They manage project budgets, coordinate with teams, and oversee construction to ensure projects are completed successfully and on time. Additionally, civil engineers address sustainability and environmental concerns, striving to create infrastructure that is safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible.

Structural Engineer

Earning Potential: $65,000-$120,000+ annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in civil engineering or related field; licensure may be required

Structural engineers specialize in designing and analyzing the stability and integrity of buildings, bridges, and other structures. They ensure that these structures can withstand various forces, including gravity, wind, earthquakes, and live loads such as occupants and equipment. Their work involves using advanced mathematics and engineering principles to create blueprints and specifications, selecting appropriate materials, and overseeing construction to ensure compliance with safety codes and regulations. Structural engineers play a critical role in ensuring the safety, functionality, and longevity of structures, contributing to the built environment’s stability and resilience.

Environmental Engineer

Earning Potential: $55,000-$130,000+ annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in environmental engineering, civil engineering, or related field

Environmental engineers are responsible for developing solutions to environmental problems. They apply engineering principles to address issues like pollution control, resource management, and sustainability. Their work includes designing and implementing systems to treat and manage wastewater, air pollution, and solid waste. Environmental engineers also focus on sustainable practices, working to reduce the environmental impact of construction projects, industries, and infrastructure. They collaborate with scientists, government agencies, and businesses to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. By safeguarding ecosystems and public health, environmental engineers play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master's in civil engineering program?

Admission counselors are essential for students applying to the best online master’s in civil engineering programs. It is their job to help students with the admission application and process. Contacting a school’s admissions department should be the first step. Confirm the items needed to apply, including a completed application and fees.

Some schools ask for test scores for an entrance exam, while other schools will accept work experience as a substitute for the test. Other standard items requested include letters from people who can verify your abilities and character, a resume, and undergraduate transcripts.

How much does an online master's in civil engineering degree cost?

The cost of a graduate program can determine if obtaining a master’s degree is worth it. Students taking on debt to complete school must compare the obligation to their potential income. For example, if they finish a graduate program with $100,000 of debt but can only find a job that pays $50,000, getting a master’s is not a good idea. It will take them many years to repay their debt.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that tuition for graduate students in the 2020-21 academic year averaged $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private institutions. This is a base cost, meaning students also pay additional fees for student services, activities, technology, laboratory, and library.

How long does it take to earn an online master's in civil engineering degree?

The time it takes each student to complete an online master’s in civil engineering will vary due to the following factors:

  • Part-time versus full-time status. Part-time students cannot take as many credit hours per semester, extending their time by one or more semesters.
  • Accelerated program. Some schools offer accelerated schedules that help students complete a master’s program in one year to 18 months.
  • Online versus on-campus programs. Online master’s programs offer more flexibility for students, helping some students complete earlier than others.
  • Life happens. Students may encounter personal, professional, or social obstacles that prevent them from completing their education early.

Is an online master’s in civil engineering worth it?

A master’s degree can open up opportunities for career advancement, leadership roles, and higher-paying positions within the field of civil engineering. A geotechnical engineer, for example, earns a median salary of $72,137 annually, according to

Online programs provide flexibility for working professionals who need to balance their education with their job and personal commitments. They allow you to study at your own pace and often offer asynchronous classes. They may provide financial savings, as there are no costs for housing or transportation. They can help a student stand out as a potential employee since an online degree requires excellent time management skills and the ability to work well both alone and with others.

While online programs may lack the in-person networking opportunities of traditional programs, they often provide virtual networking opportunities through discussion forums, webinars, and alumni networks. For those with few colleges or universities in their local region, an online degree program also provides increased access to high-quality education.

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