Best Online Civil Engineering Degree Programs
Learn about the different types of online undergraduate and graduate civil engineering programs and explore common coursework. Then, get advice on how to choose the right program for your needs and explore civil engineering careers.
Best Online Degree Programs in Civil Engineering
Civil engineering degrees are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the top programs, which you can explore below, are affordable, offer flexible schedules, and can prepare students for civil engineering careers in a wide variety of specialties.
1. University of North Dakota
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid|
|Grand Forks, ND|| Undergraduate: $8,695|
The University of North Dakota is home to three online civil engineering degree programs: a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Civil Engineering as well as a Master of Science (MS) and Master of Engineering (MEng) in Civil Engineering. The online BS requires 128 credits and has the distinction of being accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Students are able to complete their coursework through online classes that feature a virtual classroom. They then must attend short summer sessions on-campus to complete any lab requirements. The graduate program is completely flexible with students able to choose a 30-credit MS degree that requires a thesis or a 32-credit MEng degree that requires a design project. Students can also choose a concentration in environmental engineering, water resources engineering, soils structure engineering, or general studies. The University of North Dakota also offers the BS and MS/MEng degrees as an accelerated program where students can earn both degrees in a shortened time frame.
2. Missouri University of Science and Technology
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The Missouri University of Science and Technology offers several pathways for students to earn an online civil engineering degree, including a Master of Science (MS) degree, a doctoral degree, and five graduate certificates. The online MS in Civil Engineering degree requires 30 credits and is a non-thesis program that allows students to choose an area of study in geotechnical, water resources, construction, structural, or environmental engineering. The online civil engineering certificates require the completion of four courses, and students can choose from the following certificate options:
- Infrastructure renewal
- Geoenvironmental engineering
- Project engineering and construction management
- Contemporary structural engineering
- Geotechnical earthquake engineering
These online certificates can act as a stand-alone certificate or can be a pathway to a full MS in Civil Engineering degree in a corresponding field of study, with students able to apply their certificate credits towards their MS degree.
3. Iowa State University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
At Iowa State University, students can earn an online Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) in Civil Engineering or Construction Engineering and Management. These are flexible online programs featuring asynchronous classes that allow students to complete assignments on their own time as well as multiple start dates each year. Students are also able to customize their degree through a coursework only track or a creative component track. These online civil engineering programs have received accreditation from ABET and their tuition comes in at $695 per credit, regardless of residency status, as of the 2019-2020 academic year.
4. Kansas State University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Kansas State University's online 30-credit Master of Science (MS) in Civil Engineering degree is fully customizable with the following five concentration areas available:
- Geotechnical engineering
- Structural engineering
- Environmental engineering
- Transportation engineering
- Water resources engineering
Students in this program complete all of their coursework online and come to the Manhattan, KS campus only once at the end of their studies to complete an oral examination. Kansas State University also has an online Transportation Engineering Graduate Certificate program that requires 12 credits and has a coursework in pavement design, traffic engineering, and land development. Online classes are a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements that include videos, lectures, interactive discussion boards, and assignments. These online programs cost $863.90 per credit hour as of 2020. Kansas State University has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and the undergraduate civil engineering programs have also received accreditation from ABET, with the same faculty guiding students and teaching classes at the graduate level.
5. Colorado State University - Fort Collins
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|Fort Collins, CO||$12,495|
Colorado State University - Fort Collins has an online Master of Science (MS) in Civil Engineering degree program and a Master of Engineering (MEng) in Civil Engineering degree program. The online MS requires 32 credits as well as an engineering report and a final oral examination that may take place on campus, while the online MEng requires 30 credits and has no thesis or oral examination requirement. Both programs have a unique focus on water management and engineering and cover such topics as hydrology, GIS, and environmental monitoring. All courses are asynchronous, meaning there is no set log-in time, and students can watch recorded campus-based lectures and interact with peers through group projects and discussion boards.
|Rank||School Name||Location||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid|
|6||Arizona State University-Tempe||Tempe, AZ||$10,822||96%|
|7||University of Washington-Seattle Campus||Seattle, WA||$11,207||61%|
|8||Auburn University||Auburn, AL||$11,276||75%|
|9||University of Colorado Boulder||Boulder, CO||$12,532||64%|
|10||The University of Tennessee-Knoxville||Knoxville, TN||$13,006||94%|
|11||Clemson University||Clemson, SC||$15,374||93%|
|12||University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus||Norman, OK||$11,538||95%|
|13||New Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark, NJ||$17,338||92%|
|14||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign, IL||$15,094||62%|
|15||Ohio University-Main Campus||Athens, OH||$12,192||94%|
|16||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Madison, WI||$10,555||62%|
|17||Michigan Technological University||Houghton, MI||$15,646||97%|
|18||University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus||Pittsburgh, PA||$19,080||78%|
|19||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL||$6,381||93%|
|20||Texas Tech University||Lubbock, TX||$9,080||78%|
|21||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Raleigh, NC||$9,101||70%|
|22||The University of Texas at Arlington||Arlington, TX||$10,496||91%|
|23||University of Louisville||Louisville, KY||$11,656||97%|
|24||University of Houston||Houston, TX||$8,913||86%|
|25||Mississippi State University||Starkville, MS||$8,650||96%|
|26||Lawrence Technological University||Southfield, MI||$33,570||97%|
|27||University of Virginia-Main Campus||Charlottesville, VA||$17,653||59%|
|28||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Worcester, MA||$50,530||98%|
|29||Kennesaw State University||Kennesaw, GA||$6,347||91%|
|30||Norwich University||Northfield, VT||$40,014||100%|
All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics; tuition based on the 2018-2019 school year
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Overview of Online Degree Programs in Civil Engineering
Civil engineering is a field of study that centers on built environments, and there are several subfields, including transportation, water resources, structural, environmental, soils structure, and geotechnical engineering.
Online Undergraduate Civil Engineering Programs
Online associate degree program's in civil engineering are not typically offered fully online. These programs typically require about 60 credits and may allow students to complete general education coursework online and take their civil engineering major courses on campus.
Online bachelor's degree programs in civil engineering or civil engineering technology are more prevalent than associate degrees and usually can be completed through a combination of online coursework and some on-campus elements. For example, students may need to travel to campus to complete the lab portion of their classes or complete on-campus intensive courses where they meet their professors and peers and receive hands-on training. These programs require about 120 total credits, and some programs are degree completion programs for students who have already earned some college credits.
Online Graduate Civil Engineering Programs
Online civil engineering master's degree programs can lead to either a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) degree. The main difference between these two degree types is that MS degrees can be more academic-focused and prepare students for doctoral programs, while MEng degrees are more practice-based. MS in Civil Engineering programs also usually require a final project in the form of a thesis or written report. MEng programs may require a design project or additional coursework.
Master's degree programs in civil engineering can usually be completed 100% online with limited on-campus requirements. Some programs, but not all, require students to came to campus for a final oral examination. Many programs also allow students to choose a concentration in a civil engineering subfield to specialize their degree.
Doctoral-level civil engineering programs can lead to a Doctor of Engineering (DE) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Generally, doctoral-level programs require that students complete coursework, preliminary, qualifying, and/or comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. Civil engineering programs cannot generally be completed 100% online, and most require some sort of on-campus residency or that students complete some coursework on-campus.
Also available online at the graduate level are civil engineering certificates, which are short programs that require only about 12 credits. These certificates usually focus on just one subfield of civil engineering, such as pavement, transportation, structural, or water resources engineering.
Length of Online Civil Engineering Programs
The length of time it takes to earn a civil engineering degree depends on the type of degree you are earning and your enrollment status. Associate degree programs take around two years to complete, and bachelor's degree programs take four years. However, if you are in a bachelor's degree completion program, your prior college credits may allow you to complete the curriculum in only two years.
Master's degree programs in civil engineering take around two years to complete, yet some programs can be completed in less than two years if you are attending full time and taking a full schedule of classes. Doctoral-level degree programs take around 4-5 years to complete.
Common Courses in Online Civil Engineering Programs
In an online civil engineering program, you will study a range of engineering topics. Below, you can explore some common courses that make up undergraduate and graduate curricula.
- Soil mechanics covers the properties and classification of soils as well as how soils behave in an engineering context. Specific concepts that students study include compaction, weight-volume relationships, compressibility, and slope stability.
- Environmental engineering provides students with an understanding of how to protect the environment during engineering projects. Students learn about environmental laws, hazardous waste, and wastewater treatment.
- Hydrology is the study of the earth's water, and students learn about precipitation, transpiration, and evaporation. There is an emphasis on how to read hydrologic data in order to complete flood plain analysis, flood routing, and drainage design.
- Construction contracts is a business-focused course that explores the legal aspects of civil engineering, including contracts, construction project documents, governmental regulations, and employment issues.
- Structural analysis provides students with an understanding of the effects of loads, forces, and displacements in structures. Students study specific structural elements, such as beams, cables, arches, and frames.
How to Choose an Online Civil Engineering Program
Choosing an online civil engineering degree program can be a difficult task given the variety of programs available and your unique life situation. To help guide you through this decision-making process, we suggest that you think about your career and academic goals, practical program requirements, and school and program accreditation.
Career and Academic Goals
First, you want your civil engineering program to align with your career and academic goals. For example, if you have an interest in one subfield of civil engineering, such as water resources or structural engineering, you want to attend a program that offers that concentration area. Likewise, if you have the long-term goal of earning a doctoral degree, then an MS degree in civil engineering might better prepare you for doctoral work compared to a MEng degree.
Because some online civil engineering programs have practical, in-person requirements and some don't, this is an important factor to consider when choosing a program. If you are unable to travel to campus for lab work or classes, then you should choose a program that is 100% online. However, if you have limited experience in the field or want to interact with your peers and professors, then choose a program that allows you to gain experience and build relationships.
Accreditation should also factor into your decision about which program to attend. First, you want your college or university to be regionally accredited by an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Regional accreditation is critical, as only students who attend accredited schools are eligible to receive federal financial aid, and you are also assured you are receiving a high-quality education.
You also want to look for you program to be accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), a non-profit organization that accredits engineering, computing, applied and natural science, and engineering technology programs. ABET accreditation is a process that includes a self-study and site visit, and programs must meet standards in terms of student outcomes, program improvements, curriculum, faculty resources, and institutional support.
Enrolling in a Civil Engineering Program
The first step in enrolling in an online civil engineering degree program is researching the specific requirements your program has for admission. For undergraduate programs, you will need to have completed high school, including certain courses, such as math, English, and lab science, or have earned your GED. Some universities also require SAT or ACT scores, which you must have sent to your university. Your next step is filling out your application online and submitting your transcripts, which must be either mailed, emailed, or faxed to your school, depending on their preference.
To apply to a master's degree program in civil engineering, you generally need to hold a bachelor's degree in engineering, and some programs require a GPA of 3.0 in your undergraduate coursework or a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited program. If you have a non-ABET-accredited degree, some programs require that you also submit GRE scores. Other programs require GRE scores regardless.
If you have a non-engineering bachelor's, you can still apply to a master's degree program in civil engineering; however, you must usually complete prerequisite coursework in engineering and civil engineering before beginning the program.
Doctoral-level programs require students to have an MS or MEng in Civil Engineering or a related field. If your degree is from a non-ABET accredited school, you may have to meet a certain GPA requirement.
For graduate programs, you must also fill out an online application and submit the following materials:
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of purpose
After you are admitted to your program, you will usually receive information about setting up your university email and how to log on to the online course management system. Then, you generally work with a school or program advisor to enroll in the right classes.
You also want to check that you have the right computer and technology setup needed for online classes. Your university should have recommendations about what types of technology you need, including browser and software preferences. Typically, you also need high-speed internet, Adobe Flash, Java, a microphone, and a webcam.
Career Options with a Civil Engineering Degree
The exact type of civil engineering career you can pursue depends on the level of education you have and your chosen civil engineering specialty. Below, you can explore civil engineering technician and civil engineer careers.
Civil Engineering Technician
Civil engineering technicians work under the supervision of civil engineers where they aid in engineering projects. Specific job duties include:
- Interacting with civil engineers
- Developing and reviewing drawings and plans
- Observing job sites and monitoring instruments
- Estimating costs of materials
- Analyzing data
To become a civil engineering technician, you typically need an ABET-accredited associate degree. A diploma or certificate from an engineering technology program can also qualify you for career entry.
Civil engineers spearhead complex engineering, construction, and infrastructure projects from planning to completion. Their specific job duties vary, but typically they:
- Plan projects by using surveys, maps, and reports
- Create cost estimates
- Take into account government regulations, environmental factors, and risks
- Apply for and acquire permits
- Utilize design software
Civil engineers generally concentrate in one field. For example, there are geotechnical engineers who focus on designing and constructing foundations, tunnels, and retaining walls as well as transportation engineers who focus who on highways, streets, harbors, and other transit systems.
Civil engineers need a bachelor's degree. For manager-level positions, a graduate degree is preferred, and a Professional Engineering license is generally required.
|Job Title||Median Annual Salary (2019)||Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)|
|Civil Engineering Technicians||$53,410||5%|
Salary and job growth information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Civil Engineering Professional Licensure and Certification
If you have the goal of obtaining a leadership role in the field of civil engineering, you should earn state licensure in the form of the Professional Engineering (PE) license. Although requirements vary by state, generally you must:
- Earn an ABET-accredited engineering degree
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
Then, you must:
- Complete at least four years of work experience supervised by a licensed engineer
- Pass the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
After you earn your PE license, you can also obtain certifications from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which offers board certification credentials in coastal, geotechnical, navigation, ports, water resources, and ocean engineering. To earn one of these certifications, you must have a PE license, a master's degree, eight years of engineering work experience, and passing scores on an exam.
The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) also offers certifications for civil engineering technicians in the fields of construction materials testing and transportation construction inspection. To earn one of these certifications, you must have professional experience and must pass a test.