PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering

The PhD is the highest level of study and requires a serious commitment. Graduates of the doctoral program are well positioned for careers in academia, industry, government, and consulting. Students who have excellent academic backgrounds and demonstrated capability for independent study/research are encouraged to apply to the doctoral program. Students entering the doctoral program in civil and environmental engineering are expected to meet the general admission requirements of the graduate school; gain acceptance into the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and hold a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering or a related field. Students are required to complete a minimum of 36 credits of course work beyond the baccalaureate level. Students entering the program with a Master of Science degree are required to complete a minimum of 15 credits of course work. Note that additional requirements can be determined by the thesis committee.

The PhD is a research oriented degree that requires in-depth knowledge of a specific topic of study. Programs of study are highly individualized, but consist of two main components: course work and independent research. Unlike bachelor's degree and some master's degrees, progress toward the doctoral degree is measured by achievement, not time or number of courses completed. That notwithstanding, it is often constructive for planning purposes to consider that it takes on average about five calendar years of concentrated study beyond the bachelor's degree to complete the requirements for the doctoral degree. Doctoral-level research leads to fascinating discoveries and novel technologies. While exhilarating at times, a doctoral research project demands steady commitment generated by self motivation and careful planning. The department also participates in the Joint-PhD program in Materials Science and Engineering.

Overview of Study

Students are admitted to a specific program of study and assigned an advisor. While most students enter in the fall, it is possible to begin your studies starting in the spring term. Orientation, however, occurs once a year in late August or early September. Admission to the doctoral program does not constitute PhD candidacy. PhD candidacy is a significant milestone along the path to the doctoral degree, and typically signifies an individual that is prepared to embark upon an individual investigation of a novel research topic. Completion of the subsequent research occurs with the successful, oral defense of one's written dissertation.

The graduate program outcomes for the Doctoral Degree Program are:

  • In-depth technical knowledge related to one of the Civil and Environmental Engineering subdiscipline (Environmental Health, Environmental Engineering and Water Resources, Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, Infrastructure Engineering, and Structural Engineering and Mechanics).
  • Ability to conduct independent research on a topic in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
  • A scholarly contribution in the field of study with a demonstrated record of scholarship
  • Communication of results of research activity orally and in writing.


All doctoral programs in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have the following requirements:

  1. Complete course work (bachelor's degree + at least 36 credits of course work, or master's degree + at least 15 credits of course work*): Additional requirements can be determined by the thesis committee. Courses will be selected to provide the student with an individualized curriculum related to the chosen area of study. Students entering with a bachelor's degree are required to complete the core course for the M.S. program in the selected area of study.
    * Students with an M.S. from CEE department may follow the bachelor's degree + at least 36 credits rule.
  2. Pass a qualifying examination: Consists of written and oral components. Passing this exam admits a doctoral student to doctoral candidacy.
  3. Pass a proposal defense: Consists of an oral evaluation of the proposed doctoral research by the candidate's dissertation committee.
  4. Complete dissertation: Conduct research as proposed to the dissertation committee. You should seek guidance from your committee members whenever appropriate. It is strongly recommended that you hold committee meetings at least every six months to keep the committee (i.e., as a group and not individually) apprised of your progress.
    NOTE: Dissertation credits do not count towards course work credits.
  5. Pass dissertation defense: Consists of an oral defense of the dissertation research. This meeting must be open to the public.
  6. Submission of final dissertation in accordance with university regulations: See the Arts, Sciences and Engineering Graduate Student Handbook for more information.