Online Civil Engineering Master’s Degree Programs
The American Society of Civil Engineering describes civil engineers as professionals who “design, build, and maintain the foundation for our modern society….” Civil engineering affects everything from “our roads and bridges, drinking water and energy systems, seaports and airports, and the infrastructure for a cleaner environment….” Civil engineering has left its mark on such world-famous icons as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam.
Civil engineers work in a wide variety of niches, from high-rise architecture to geotechnical engineering, and focus on everything from plans to designs and determinations of the best use of accessible space. As such, civil engineers are employed throughout the private and public sectors, including in government, industry, and education.
Some examples of civil engineering specialty areas include:
- Structural: Structural engineers do work similar to that of architects, but specialize in the technical and scientific aspects of a structure’s stability.
- Transportation: Roadway and transit system civil engineers work closely with government agencies such as state and federal Departments of Transportation.
- Geo-technology: These civil engineer specialists design tunnels, retaining walls, and other structures whose stability depends on natural earth foundations.
- Construction: Civil engineers in the construction industry design safe structures that permit heavy construction projects to proceed safely. Often, those structures are not permanent, but are reusable for future similar projects.
Salary and Job Outlook for Civil Engineers
Civil Engineers are Top Earners
Civil engineering is listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as one of the highest earning undergraduate degrees in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for civil engineers is $86,640, or 41.65 per hour (The median annual household income for all U.S. earners in 2018 was $62,175).
The highest salaries for civil engineers sore beyond $142,560. Civil engineers in the government sector earn more than $91,750. According to Career Explorer, a move to Alaska would net an average civil engineer salary of over $105,830.
Salary ranges vary based on job location and type of employment. For example, civil engineers working in the oil and gas extraction specialties within the petroleum industry earn salaries of $125,000. On the other hand, state-employed civil engineers in the same field earn substantially less (just under $83,000 annually).
Job Growth for Civil Engineering will Reach 11% by 2026
Employment for civil engineering professions is projected to grow 11% between 2016 and 2026. From a baseline of 303,500 civil engineer jobs in 2016, the number is projected to grow to 335,700, for an increase of 32,200 jobs. This projected growth is faster than the average rate for all occupations.
So, civil engineering has a dynamic future in the U.S., especially as the country’s infrastructure ages. Civil engineers will be in particularly high demand when it comes to rebuilding infrastructure, transportation and water systems. With a critical need for over 32,000 additional civil engineers through 2026, many opportunities are wide open, especially for civil engineers with advanced degrees.
Civil Engineering Career Paths
Civil Engineers are in high demand in both the public (government and academic) and private (industry and consulting) sectors:
The Government Sector
The government sector offers myriad opportunities for civil engineers, who can have a significant impact on public infrastructure and policy. Civil engineers at this level benefit from leadership training and education in business management, as well as in public information. To advance within an organization, government civil engineers must typically amass experience and formal training.
Entry-level engineers, after achieving a good performance record and on-the-job experience, can look forward to career paths that lead to government department or agency leadership.
The Academic Field
The career path in education for civil engineers is through advanced degrees. Civil engineering educators take on both research and classroom teaching responsibilities. They write grants to fund research projects. In their role as teachers, they prepare the next generation of professionals and shape the future of civil engineering. Civil engineers with master’s degrees can find adjunct and permanent instructor positions at colleges.
Paths of advancement to top positions in higher education typically require Ph.D. degrees. The prerequisite to earning the Ph.D. in civil engineering is a master’s degree.
Opportunities as Consultants
Whether working in a firm of just two people or more than 1,000, civil engineer consultants can take advantage of a variety of uniquely challenging opportunities. Smaller companies look for civil engineers whose experience and educational certifications are a good fit to meet the specialized needs of their clients. At larger companies, a civil engineer will focus on specific projects that often require both design skills and business management acumen.
The career path for civil engineer consultants with undergraduate degrees begins with entry-level positions. With experience gained performing basic engineering evaluations and design, the career path can lead to higher management positions and, ultimately, to CEO.
Advantages of Pursuing an Online Civil Engineering Degree
Aside from the obvious advantage of an advanced degree, there are practical, economical, and educational advantages to consider online programs for a master’s degree in civil engineering.
Some of these benefits include:
- The fact that busy professionals can earn an online master’s degree in civil engineering while working full-time
- The logistical advantages of working from home, lower tuition costs, and convenient scheduling
- No need to travel to and from campus, or relocate to avoid a commute
- Lack of transportation and lodging expenses
- Less missed classes for other obligations
Additional advantages include the more individual learning experience of one-on-one interactions with instructors and classmates. All course materials are available online for easy access and review. In fact, the online learning experience is particularly suited for today’s tech-savvy learner, as class discussions are conducted through message boards or live chat and there is instant access to the instructor through email and instant messaging.
Entry Qualifications for Civil Engineer Master’s Degree Programs
Entry qualifications for online civil engineering master’s degree programs include having at least a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (or a closely related technical discipline) from an ABET accredited (or similarly accredited) institution. Domestic students don’t usually have to take entrance exams, but their undergraduate GPA usually must be at least 3.0 (B or above) in the latter half of undergraduate studies.
Course Requirements for an Online Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering
The civil engineering master’s degree program expands on the traditional areas of civil engineering and goes into greater detail. Graduate students study construction engineering, hydrogeology, and finite physics, and they can plan on doing a dedicated amount of field studies. A master’s degree, though rigorous, is ultimately the gateway to higher level certifications and licensure.
An Example Civil Engineering Master’s Degree Curriculum
The 2019-2020 Part-Time and Online Graduate Programs brochure published by Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering lists specific degree requirements for online civil engineering students as follows:
- Ten online courses must be completed within five years.
- Students may pursue a course of study in civil engineering or focus studies in structural engineering.
- The general civil engineering master’s program requires core courses in Mathematics, Methods for Engineers, Geotechnical Engineering Principles, and Structural Mechanics.
- Students must choose 4 additional courses from a list of 10 electives, covering courses in areas of coastal, geotechnical, and preservation engineering.
- Students must take core courses and select at least 5 courses from 17 elective advanced courses, ranging from BIM Applications in Civil Engineering to Earthquake and Wind Engineering.
Note: Online students who are interested in taking graduate-level courses, but who are not seeking a full degree can earn Graduate Certificates in Civil Engineering. Certificate programs require completion of six graduate level courses within three years. If the student later decides to earn a full degree, the successfully completed courses may be applied to the full degree completion. Admission requirements for those certifications are the same for master’s degree candidates.
Pursuing Civil Engineering
Civil engineers earn top salaries in a field that is wide open and growing. Additionally, this field has paths of advancement to leadership and executive positions across the public and private sectors.
Enrolling in an online civil engineering master’s program is an ideal way earn a graduate degree. Master’s degree programs can also be tailored to graduate-level certificates in civil engineering.
Online students can continue working full-time and enjoy the convenience of learning from home while their online experience still engages them in one-on-one, tailored experiences. Learning online has all the benefits of learning on campus, without the rigorous travel and scheduling required.