Complete Guide to an Online Civil Engineering Degree
Sometimes referred to as the “oldest engineering discipline,” civil engineers design and help build airports, roads, bridges, buildings, railways, and more. Technically speaking, civil engineering is an applied science involving structures that improve access to surrounding environments. Civil engineering delves into diverse areas such as the transit, aeronautic, or automotive industry. Any student with an appreciation for structural design may find an online civil engineering degree a worthy road to follow.
It is highly suggested that students seeking to earn an online degree in civil engineering look into programs that are accredited by ABET because the curriculum meets specific requirements that professional organizations and colleges hold in high regard, as well as gives students an advantage in the civil engineering field. Students can obtain quality employment and licensure in addition to establishing a firm foundation for earning an advanced degree toward civil engineering. Read More
Comprehensive List of Schools for an Online Civil Engineering Degree (37)
Overview of Available Online Civil Engineering Degrees
Breaking into the civil engineering field is more effective with a bachelor’s degree because it is often required for a civil engineer position. A bachelor's of science (B.S.) in civil engineering provides a general, yet well-rounded, basis of engineering knowledge and course work is heavily geared toward scientific and technical studies, such as geology, physics, and construction management. Those looking to broaden professional opportunities into consulting or senior-level management jobs should continue their studies by obtaining an online master's degree in civil engineering. A master's degree program expands on the aspects of civil engineering and examines particular areas with greater detail, such as construction engineering, hydrogeology, and finite physics. Pursuing a master's often requires a dedicated amount of field study. Earning a master's degree is also a prudent course of study for civil engineers seeking a higher level of certification and licensure.
Students wanting to go beyond a master’s can pursue a doctorate in civil engineering and eventually earn a PhD with a designation of being a doctor of engineering science. Students that want to continue their education without seeking a PhD candidacy may be interested is obtaining a professional certificate. Civil engineering professional certificates are proof of mastering a certain portion of postgraduate-level curriculum, combined with elements of PhD study.
An online bachelor’s degree in civil engineering will prepare students for a career in structural design. Civil engineers take existing environments and help make it accessible to the world. Diverse industries such as transit, hydroelectric, aerospace, construction, car manufacturers and others need civil engineers. Entry-level jobs in any of these fields require a bachelor's degree.
When students pursue an online bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with a full-course load, obtaining a B.S. in civil engineering takes about four years, with up to approximately 132 credit hours to graduate. Students will take general education classes during the first two years, including math and sciences with extremely technical aspects. Chemistry, physics and geography courses are often required, as well as calculus. Upper-level courses focus directly on engineering applications, including geomatics, thermodynamics, hydraulics, engineering design, differential equations, and more. Graduation requirements usually include undertaking an internship for practical experience in the civil engineering field.
Prior to enrolling in an online degree program for a bachelor’s in civil engineering, prospective students should either have a high school diploma or GED, as well as adequate grades and test scores for college admission. Bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering degrees are earned through four-year colleges, although it is sometimes possible to complete the first two years at a community college. If pre-college test scores are insufficient for admission into a civil engineering degree program, applicants may want to retake pertinent test, such as the SAT or ACT, if possible. It may also be prudent to gather letters of recommendation to assure college civil engineering departments that the candidate is capable of succeeding in the program.
An online master’s degree in civil engineering is necessary for anyone seeking a senior-level position in public and private sectors within the civil engineering field. Master’s degree programs can last from one to two years, depending on how many courses a student takes during a given semester or quarter. An approximate accumulation of 30 credit hours are needed to graduate, but could vary with specific programs. Most master’s degree programs require a practicum, or a form of field experience to complete the program.
Students pursuing an online master’s degree in civil engineering can expect to take courses that delve into extremely pertinent and technical aspects of civil engineering. These classes are more study-intensive and focused than engineering course work as an undergrad. Construction management, qualitative and quantitative statistics, and soil mechanics are examples of common courses offered. Colleges offering specific plans of study within the field may require additional courses to for students to meet the program’s criteria. Civil engineering graduate students are also expected to produce a thesis during the course of obtaining a master’s degree. When earning an M.S. in civil engineering, students that are interested in pursuing a degree beyond the graduate level may want to choose a research track of study.
To obtain an online master’s degree in civil engineering, a bachelor’s degree is required. Prior internships related to civil engineering are also extremely helpful with being accepted into a graduate degree program. Solid GRE scores are expected and letters of recommendation never hurt. Colleges and universities that offer four-year degrees are the most practical places to look for graduate programs. Many give students an option to combine both, allowing the student to take extra course work for an additional year or two and earn a B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering.
Students that choose to pursue an online doctorate degree in civil engineering are typically interested in academia and teaching at a college level. During graduate civil engineering studies, some students may choose to follow a tenure track, a course of study that may lead to becoming a college professor. Other Ph.D. candidates may be interested in establishing or heading organizations or becoming appointed members of civil engineering boards.
Prior to obtaining a doctorate degree in civil engineering, the student must earn a master’s degree. Many students choose to prove themselves at the initial graduate level of study, exhibiting exemplary work and research. These students sometimes seek Ph.D. candidacy while still pursuing a master’s degree, providing for an uninterrupted educational path that catapults them to the higher echelons of civil engineering study.
Ph.D. programs work a bit differently from undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Many doctoral degree programs require at least 48 credits to be awarded with the distinguished title of being a doctor of science. Portions of those credits are relative to a master’s degree, the remaining credits providing the culmination of the Ph.D. program. Doctoral studies are research-specific, so individually designed courses may be devised with a department advisor, in addition to typical course offerings. A doctoral thesis is necessary for graduation and students are encouraged to have their work published.
Online doctoral degree programs for civil engineering can be extremely competitive. Students should have a solid amount of field experience and a record of academic excellence to be accepted into a Ph.D. program for civil engineering. Most colleges and universities require at least a 3.0 GPA for program admission, if not higher. It is important to research different academic institutions because not all offer a doctoral program. Four-year colleges and universities that offer graduate degrees have a greater chance of also offering Ph.D. programs in civil engineering.
Online certificate degree programs in civil engineering are practical options for individuals seeking job advancement within the field. While undergraduate degrees are an entry point for civil engineers, professional certificates are tools for procuring higher-level positions that require extensive knowledge beyond a bachelor’s degree. Managers, supervisors and department heads often hold some form of advanced civil engineering degrees, including many with professional certificates.
Online certificate degree programs in civil engineering are available at the graduate level of study. Prior to enrolling in a certificate degree program, students must first obtain a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are baseline for any further education concerning civil engineering. Some master’s degree programs do extend the certificate option to students. Generally, the graduate-level certificates require at least 12 hours of dedicated study to a specific concentration within the civil engineering field. These concentrations could include railroad, construction and transportation engineering, as well as other subtypes.
Other types of professional certificates are available as post-graduate options. These certificates usually require a certain amount of credit hours earned during graduate study and may be an option for students that prefer not to pursue doctoral degrees, but would still like to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and mastery of civil engineering.
Students seeking online degrees in civil engineering should select programs that are ABET-accredited. ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited programs demonstrate superior knowledge of engineering concepts and principals, qualities that prospective employers and colleges seek in qualified applicants.
ABET is the recognized standard for engineering excellence and is held in high regard by governmental and private agencies. Colleges that are ABET accredited include the recommended curriculum within the degree program and ensure that students are properly prepared for a career in civil engineering. Degree programs that lack this accreditation may actually become a detriment for civil engineering students that are seeking future employment. Companies have actually refused to hire graduates without degrees from ABET accredited colleges. Essentially, it becomes a waste of time and tuition for students that spent four years earning a degree that could not be used.
ABET accreditation also allows graduates to secure specific jobs that require the organization’s curriculum and endorsement, including government jobs and other positions based on formal civil engineering training. Any industry involved with planning, designing, and using accessible space requires the services of civil engineers. Depending on the specific need or project, civil engineers may find employment in various places. Government agencies, firms, organizations, private clients, as well as colleges and universities all often have need of hiring civil engineers.
Jobs for Civil Engineers
Structures: Civil engineers may also work as structural engineers. Structural engineering is similar to architecture, but civil engineers are responsible for the technical and scientific aspects of the structure’s function and stability. Civil engineers working in this industry may be involved in designing bridges, buildings or dams.
Transportation: Civil engineers working in the transportation industry typically design roadway and transit systems, creating traveling paths for society to get from point A to point B. Many are employed with government agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Geotechnology: Civil engineers involved in the geotechnical industry help ensure that structural foundations are safe and secure. These positions include designing tunnels, retaining walls, and other structures are closely dependent on the earth’s surface.
Construction: Those working in the construction industry help design safe structures that allow construction projects to succeed. In many cases, these structures are not permanent, but will be used again for similar projects.
- Civil Service Jobs. NASA. Accessed November 23, 2014. http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/jobs/civil_service_jobs/career/page10.htm.
- The GRE Revised General Test. ETS. Accessed November 23, 2014. http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/snapshot.pdf.
- Accreditation. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Accessed November 23, 2014. http://www.abet.org/accreditation.
- Classification and Qualifications. U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Accessed November 24, 2014. http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications/general-schedule-qualification-standards/0800/all-professional-engineering-positions-0800.
- Civil Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum. Ohio University. Accessed November 24, 2014. http://www.ohio.edu/civil/undergrad/curriculum.cfm.
- Master of Science Civil Engineering Overview. Ohio University. Accessed November 24, 2014. http://engineering.online.ohio.edu/civil/?Access_Code=OU-ENGALL-SEO2&utm_source=SEO&utm_campaign=OU-ENGALL-SEO2.
- School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Georgia Tech. Accessed November 24, 2014. http://www.ce.gatech.edu/academics/graduate/phd-requirements.
- Civil Engineers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 24, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm.