The Best Civil Engineering Degree Programs
Interested in pursuing a degree in civil engineering? This subset of engineering is one of the oldest professions in the world. Designing structures to make life more civilized and livable has been around for millions of years, and it’s a career field that’s here to stay. Let’s take a look at five of the best civil engineering degree programs in the United States.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
One of the most respected names in math and science, MIT has a stellar reputation and top ranked civil engineering program. MIT engineering courses work to prepare students to understand how to ensure the sustainability of existing structures, as well as understand how to design new structures. At MIT, students aren’t just learning from the best- they’re participating right alongside them. Civil engineering students are active participants in research and problem solving, and they’re expected to be hands on in laboratory settings. Classes at MIT are taught by leaders in engineering. Students have the opportunity not just to study the latest research, but to actually take classes from the engineers who authored studies. Some of the classes required for the civil engineering curriculum at MIT include multivariate data analysis, fluid mechanics, project evaluation and management, and principles of water and energy sustainability. MIT is known for producing industry leaders, and the school puts a strong emphasis on developing leadership and communication skills. Many students at MIT find the area of civil engineering in which they’d like to work while doing undergraduate research. MIT allows students to truly immerse themselves in engineering, preparing them to succeed with flying colors in the professional world. Admission to MIT is highly competitive.
Princeton University is older than the United States (founded in 1746) and has a long, storied history of academic excellence. The University’s civil and environmental engineering programs are no exception to this rule. Princeton combines the two disciplines into one program, teaching students how the structures and architecture that benefit our society can be made in an environmentally safe and sustainable way. Students in the civil and environmental engineering program choose one of five concentrations on which they’d like to focus: architecture, environment, geology, structures, or liberal arts. Choosing a concentration while pursuing an undergraduate degree allows students to have a leg up in the professional world before graduation. Princeton places a strong emphasis on independent research, and requires all civil and environmental engineering students to complete a year-long thesis project during the course of their senior year. While sophomores and juniors aren’t required to complete independent study projects, they’re highly encouraged to get involved with hands on research, allowing them to gain practical experience that they’ll be able to apply in the real world. Core classes for civil and environmental engineering majors at Princeton include design of large scale structures: buildings, introduction to probability modeling, and structural dynamics and earthquake engineering. The competition to get into Princeton is fierce, as the University as a whole only accepts 7% of all applicants.
One of the lesser known Ivy League schools, Cornell boasts a robust and extremely challenging civil engineering program that emphasizes smart business sense and strong leadership skills. Many graduates of Cornell’s civil engineering program go on to start their own businesses or become high level executives at architectural design firms. The civil engineering program provides students with a variety of specialties from which to choose, including hydrology, water resources, transportation engineering, civil infrastructure, and environmental fluid mechanics. Core classes in Cornell’s civil engineering program include engineering computation, retaining structures and slopes, remote sensing for environmental resource inventory, and coastal engineering. Cornell is an ideal choice for young engineers in training who are focused on giving back to their community. The school emphasizes community involvement for its student engineers through their award winning student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The chapter also hosts outings, participates in engineering competitions, and provides study sessions for students working towards passing their engineering licensing examination. Admission to Cornell is extremely competitive.
Penn State University- Main Campus
Located in central Pennsylvania, Penn State provides the opportunity for young engineers to complete both their undergraduate and graduate studies in the same place. All of Penn State’s graduate school programs are ranked in the top 25 by U.S. News and World Report. Penn State’s civil engineering program has been internationally recognized and churns out high quality young leaders in engineering year after year. Students don’t take a back seat in Penn State’s engineering program- they’re required to participate in the groundbreaking research being conducted by the engineering department’s thirty-five full time faculty members. Core classes include computer science and engineering, architectural engineering, chemistry, economics, and water resources engineering. Penn State doesn’t stop supporting its engineers after they graduate. With a network of over half a million alumni across the United States, plus a top notch career services program for graduates, Penn State helps engineers land the career of their dreams. Penn State has campuses across the state of Pennsylvania, and admissions requirements are different for each campus. The civil engineering program is only available to students taking classes at the school’s Main Campus. Main Campus has the toughest admission criteria by far.
Internationally acclaimed for its research and scholarship programs, Vanderbilt University is known for its excellent civil engineering program. Located in Nashville, Vanderbilt has strong relationships with the community, opening the doors for internships and other learning experiences for its students. The school’s civil engineering program focuses on four different disciplines: entertainment, security, energy/ natural resources, and health and medicine. Courses are taught exclusively by faculty members, not by teacher’s assistants, which is one of the many facets that makes Vanderbilt’s program a standout. Some of the core classes required in the civil engineering program include methods of ordinary differential equations, transportation systems engineering, water resources engineering, construction project management, and structural analysis. One of the unique pieces of the school’s engineering program is their engineering school summer research program. Students choose individual areas of interest and work across various academic disciplines to study areas of their choosing. This allows engineering students to create unique relationships with faculty members, while gaining experience in a specialty area that will benefit them in the professional world. Like other schools on this list, admission to Vanderbilt is extremely competitive.
There are many great civil engineering programs available across the United States, and it’s important that you do your research before you begin to apply. Decide what factors are most important to you. Do you want to stay close to home or move far away? Do you want the option to be able to take at least some of your classes online? Is there a particular faculty member who you’ve always dreamed of working with? Once you know what you’re looking for, it will become a little bit easier to narrow down your list of dream schools. Once you know what you want, start applying. Good luck!