Complete Guide to Top Online Civil Engineering Degrees
An online civil engineering degree can be earned at the following levels: associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate. 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.
It is highly suggested that students seeking to earn an online degree in civil engineering look into programs that are accredited, to ensure the curriculum meets specific requirements that professional organizations hold in high regard. Prospective students will find more information below about accreditation, civil engineering careers and top-ranked online programs in the field.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Civil Engineering Degrees (35)
Top Online Colleges Offering Civil Engineering Degrees
With academic strength scores over 65%, these 24 schools offer academically rigorous and affordable options for an online civil engineering degree. Iowa State University takes the number one spot with an academic strength score of 72% and an annual tuition of $8,145. Stanford University (#4) and Columbia University in the City of New York (#18) have academic strength scores of 92%, the highest on the list.
All schools considered for this list offer fully online civil engineering degrees at the bachelor's level or higher. View our methodology for more details.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 Iowa State University||Annual Tuition $8,145||Academic Strength 72%|
|#2 Kennesaw State University||Annual Tuition $6,120||Academic Strength 67%|
|#3 Mississippi State University||Annual Tuition $9,393||Academic Strength 69%|
|#4 Stanford University||Annual Tuition $21,000||Academic Strength 92%|
|#5 Auburn University||Annual Tuition $12,750||Academic Strength 72%|
|#6 University of Louisville||Annual Tuition $10,710||Academic Strength 67%|
|#7 Colorado State University-Fort Collins||Annual Tuition $13,230||Academic Strength 71%|
|#8 University of Washington - Seattle||Annual Tuition $15,330||Academic Strength 76%|
|#9 North Carolina State University||Annual Tuition $15,624||Academic Strength 75%|
|#10 University of Alabama at Birmingham||Annual Tuition $14,892||Academic Strength 73%|
|#11 Ohio University-Main Campus||Annual Tuition $12,792||Academic Strength 67%|
|#12 Ohio State University-Main Campus||Annual Tuition $18,339||Academic Strength 78%|
|#13 Missouri University of Science and Technology||Annual Tuition $18,455||Academic Strength 78%|
|#14 Norwich University||Annual Tuition $13,680||Academic Strength 66%|
|#15 Southern Methodist University||Annual Tuition $20,250||Academic Strength 81%|
|#16 University of Southern California||Annual Tuition $24,836||Academic Strength 86%|
|#17 Columbia University in the City of New York||Annual Tuition $27,870||Academic Strength 92%|
|#18 New Jersey Institute of Technology||Annual Tuition $18,030||Academic Strength 70%|
|#19 Case Western Reserve University||Annual Tuition $24,836||Academic Strength 85%|
|#20 Clarkson University||Annual Tuition $20,175||Academic Strength 72%|
|#21 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Annual Tuition $22,413||Academic Strength 75%|
|#22 University of Idaho||Annual Tuition $23,338||Academic Strength 66%|
|#23 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign||Annual Tuition $32,628||Academic Strength 83%|
|#24 The University of Tennessee - Knoxville||Annual Tuition $31,252||Academic Strength 73%|
Online Civil Engineering Degree Overview & Career Information
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.
Online associate degree programs in civil engineering and similar disciplines are not as common as online civil engineering programs at other degree levels. Students who complete this type of onlineprogram may be prepared for certain entry-level positions within the field, as well as for transferring to a bachelor's degree program.
Classes that students will take include general education courses in the humanities and social sciences, as well as engineering-specific courses like engineering mechanics, differential equations, and introductory electricity and magnetism. They will also take several courses in the areas of math and science. Students can expect to complete 60-64 credits and spend around two year finishing their degree. In order to be admitted to this type of program an individual will need to have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Associate degrees in civil engineering can be found at select community colleges, and students can expect to pay around $5,000-$8,000 a year in tuition.
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. Strong GRE scores are expected and letters of recommendation are often required. 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.
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 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. 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 have curriculums that meet industry standards and are often respected by prospective employers and graduate programs.
ABET is the recognized standard for engineering excellence and is held in high regard by governmental and private agencies. ABET accreditation also allows graduates the opportunity to secure specific jobs that require the organization’s curriculum and endorsement, including government jobs and other positions based on formal civil engineering training.
Careers in Civil Engineering
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. Here are some examples of where civil engineers are needed:
- 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.
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- 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.