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Swanson School of Engineering—Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Contact Information

Department Chair: Radisav D. Vidic
Main Office: 742 Benedum Hall
Fax: 412-624-0135

Graduate Degree Programs

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers graduate study and research leading to the Master of Science in Civil Engineering and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Also offered is a joint degree program resulting in a second Master of Science degree in mathematics, and a joint degree program with the Katz Graduate School of Business resulting in a MBA degree. The MS in Civil Engineering and the PhD in engineering may be pursued in one of the following four areas:

The Master of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering is primarily designed for students with an undergraduate degree in engineering, although students with other backgrounds can be accommodated with specially designed programs. An MS degree can be pursued by either a full-time or part-time student in one of the following areas:


  • Construction Management and Green Construction
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geotechnical and Pavement Engineering
  • Structural Engineering and Mechanics
  • Sustainability and Green Design
  • Transportation Engineering
  • Water Resources Engineering
  • Mining Certificate

The areas of study for the Ph.D. in Civil Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering within the Swanson School of Engineering are divided into two integrated research areas and sub-component specialty areas as follows:

  • Sustainability and the Environmental (SEE):
    • Environmental Engineering;
    • Sustainability and Green Design; and
    • Water Resources Engineering
  • Advanced Infrastructure Systems (AIS).
    • Geotechnical and Pavements;
    • Structural Engineering and Mechanics; and
    • Transportation Engineering.


Requirements for Master of Science in Civil Engineering

The general requirements for the two options for the Master of Science in Civil Engineering degree (thesis and professional) are detailed below:

Thesis Option: 24 course credits (eight courses) minimum and thesis (6 credits), with comprehensive and final examinations

Professional Option: 30 course credits (10 courses) minimum

Students supported as graduate research assistants and all students intending to continue for a PhD degree are required to pursue the thesis option. The professional option is not available to students supported as graduate research or teaching assistants.

MS Final Examination

Students pursuing the thesis and project MS options must take and pass both a comprehensive examination and a final oral examination.

Comprehensive Examination

This examination is given to all students during the last term of the program. It may be either an oral examination or, at the recommendation of the area faculty, a written examination. It is administered by an MS committee made up of the faculty advisor (as chair), plus a minimum of two other faculty members from fields related to the student's interest. If the result of the examination is unsatisfactory, subsequent action is at the discretion of the MS committee.

Final Oral Examination

The purpose of this examination is to evaluate the student's MS thesis or project and/or related course work. The examination is administered by the MS committee, chaired by the student's major advisor.

Joint Master's Degree

A student is able to earn the Master of Science Civil Engineering degree and the Master of Science degree in mathematics at the same time. In general, 42 credits are required, and students must complete the fundamental courses in both areas.

Requirements for Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Students pursuing the PhD must complete a minimum of 72 credits, including the following:

  • 24 course credits (8 courses) in major area
  • 15 additional course or special investigation credits in major area
  • Nine course credits (three courses) in minor area
  • 18 credits of dissertation research

The total number of credits above these minimum requirements will depend on the student's background, academic achievement, and dissertation topic. This decision will be made in consultation with the major advisor.

Plan of Study

The PhD Plan of Study is prepared by the student with the aid of the student's faculty advisor during the student's first two terms of graduate study. It should be approved and signed by the faculty advisor, all other faculty members in the program area, the graduate coordinator, and the department chair. Copies should be made available to the student, the faculty advisor, and the academic coordinator. Any change in the Plan of Study must be approved by the faculty advisor and the academic coordinator, and should likewise be recorded.

PhD Examination Structure

All PhD candidates must pass the preliminary, comprehensive, and final oral examinations:

Preliminary Examination

The purpose of this examination is to determine the student's potential to complete the PhD program. It is organized by the advisor and faculty from the student's program area, before or sometime during the first two terms of the program.

Comprehensive Examination

All PhD students must take this examination toward the end of their course work. The examination will be administered by the comprehensive examination committee, and will cover the student's major and minor areas. It is designed to evaluate the student's mastery of the course material needed for independent research. The examination consists of two parts: a written examination lasting several days, and an oral examination of approximately three hours' duration. Portions of the written examination may be waived by the committee. The committee will consist of at least four faculty members as follows: the major advisor as chairman, one full-time faculty member from the student's program area, one additional faculty member from the department, and one member from outside the department representing the non-civil engineering minor area.

Final Oral Examination

This is an oral defense of the student's PhD dissertation. The examination will be administered by the doctoral committee. The doctoral committee will consist of the major advisor as chair, at least two faculty members from the student's program area within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (if available), and at least one faculty member from outside the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Certificate Program

All graduate and post-baccalaureate certificate students are required to complete five courses from a list of designated courses and must achieve an overall QPA of 2.5 or better to receive a Mining Engineering Certificate. Most of the courses will be offered via both class room and web-based deliveries.

Graduate Civil Engineering Courses

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