Civil Engineering, Ph.D.

On Campus

Brooklyn Bridge

Growing and established cities are continually meeting new infrastructure needs and maintaining older systems, such as highways, bridges, and airports. The School of Engineering's Ph.D. in Civil Engineering program produces graduates dedicated to enriching the field. Research-oriented and focused on the latest developments in the discipline, our program readies you for civil engineering research careers in the private sector. It also prepares you to teach at the university level, ensuring the most recent advancements in the field are shared with a new generation of civil engineers.

Concentrations

As a Ph.D. candidate, you will choose to concentrate in 1 of these sub-disciplines:

  • structural materials and engineering
  • geotechnical and geo-environmental engineering
  • environmental and water resources engineering
  • construction management and engineering
  • highway and traffic engineering
  • urban infrastructure systems

Other focus areas are possible and can be developed with the assistance of faculty advisers. All subject areas must be relevant to the degree sought, and a faculty member must be willing and able to guide your research.

abu dhabi

Abu Dhabi Global Fellow Program

Applicants to this degree program may be eligible to participate in the Abu Dhabi Global Fellow Program

Admissions

  1. Admission to this program requires an MS in Civil Engineering or equivalent with a GPA of 3.5 or better (on a 0-4 scale).
  2. GRE scores are required for all full-time Ph.D. applicants.
  3. Foreign applicants must take the TOEFL examination and submit the results for consideration.

In criteria 1 and 2 above, the “equivalent" can be achieved in several ways. You may have an MS degree with a different title that covers substantially the same material. In more general terms, you must demonstrate that you have the equivalent of all undergraduate and masters-level coursework to be able to pursue doctoral-level work in the chosen major area, as well as in a minor area within the umbrella of civil engineering. Further, “equivalence” is evaluated based on the totality of your undergraduate and graduate record, not course-by-course. Thus, if you wish to pursue doctoral work in Environmental Engineering, for example, you must have the entire undergraduate and masters-level course background expected in Environmental Engineering, but you do not need to demonstrate such a background in structures.

Because admission to a Ph.D. program requires a relevant MS (or equivalent), applicants who have not yet achieved a master’s degree would normally be admitted as MS students. They are expected to earn an MS degree while completing their major and minor course requirements. In rare cases, an applicant with only a BS degree may be directly admitted into the Ph.D. program with the written approval of the department head.


If you are admitted to the Ph.D. program, you will be assigned an academic advisor, who you should meet with shortly after receiving your acceptance letter. During your meeting, you should establish your program of study, which will include a list of the fundamental and advanced topics that will comprise specific courses, the subject matter for your qualifying exam, and possible research areas. For additional information about your academic advisor and the Academic Advisory Committee that will help guide the completion of your qualifying examination, please refer to the Civil Engineering Ph.D. section of the School of Engineering academic catalog beginning on page 149.


A maximum of 39 credits of approved graduate work may be transferred and applied to your degree requirements. They would be awarded on a course-by-course basis or by the transfer of an MS degree from another institution in satisfaction of 30 graduate credits. The latter requires a recommendation from the department’s Graduate Committee and the approval of the department head. Transfer credits are generally awarded at the time of admission and must be approved by the academic adviser, the graduate coordinator, and the department head.


Curriculum

To earn a doctoral degree in Civil Engineering, you must meet the following requirements:

1. 54 credits of graduate coursework (not including the Ph.D. dissertation) in relevant major and minor areas of study beyond the bachelor’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 scale). Up to 6 credits of the 54 credits may be satisfied by individual guided studies, readings, projects, and theses.

2. Completion and successful defense of a 21-credit dissertation related to the major area of study. Dissertations must consist of original research that advances meaningfully the state of the art in the research subject area and should result in the publication of at least one paper in a strictly peer-reviewed technical journal related to the subject. A grade of B or better must be achieved for the dissertation. There are 2 types of dissertation credits:

  • CE 9998: Independent original investigation demonstrating creativity and scholarship worthy of publication in a recognized engineering journal. Registration for a minimum of 6 credits is required before registering for CE 9999.
  • CE 9999: Independent original investigation demonstrating creativity and scholarship worthy of publication in a recognized engineering journal. Candidates must successfully defend dissertations orally. Registration for 3 to 6 credits per semester is permitted after successfully completing the doctoral qualifying examination, but a minimum of 12 credits must be completed before the defense. Registration must be continuous (excluding summer semesters), unless a formal leave of absence is requested and approved. Registration for 3-12 credits per semester is permitted. In the final semester of work, registration for credit is permitted with the approval of the department head. Prerequisites: CE 9998 (6 credits), degree status, successful completion of doctoral qualifying examinations and approval of the dissertation adviser.

3. Completion of 2 minor areas of study, as follows:

  • Out of Department Minor: Completion of 9 credits of graduate or undergraduate coursework in 1 or 2 technical areas of study.
  • In-Department Minor: Completion of 6 credits of graduate coursework in a minor area outside the major subdiscipline in civil engineering.

4. Residency requirements for the Ph.D. (Civil Engineering) include the 21-credit dissertation, plus a minimum of 15 credits of applicable graduate course work taken at the School of Engineering.

5. In satisfying the 54-credit course requirement (Item 1), you must satisfy all requirements for the major and minor areas selected or their equivalent.

6. In satisfying these basic Ph.D. requirements, you also must satisfy 1 of the 2 following conditions:

  • 48 credits of relevant graduate coursework, not including individual guided studies (readings, projects, theses, etc.) beyond the bachelor’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 scale).
    OR
  • 24 credits of approved graduate coursework, not including individual guided studies (readings, projects and theses) beyond the master’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 scale). Satisfying condition 2 requires that the department accept the student’s MS degree without regard to its specific content. This acceptance requires a recommendation from the department’s Graduate Committee and department head approval.

7. Although publication is not required as a condition for graduation at this time, journal publication is strongly encouraged. Every Ph.D. candidate is expected to generate knowledge worthy of publication in 2 or more reputable journals.


Before becoming a candidate for the Ph.D., you must pass a qualifying examination. The qualifying examination consists of a 6-hour written portion (generally given in 2 three-hour blocks on the same day), and an oral portion which may be given before or after the written portion. Both written and oral portions focus on fundamental and advanced civil engineering topics relevant to your specific program of study.

Immediately after you pass your qualifying exam, a Dissertation Committee will be formed. This panel of experts will guide your course of study and research work. You are required to submit and present a dissertation proposal. The culmination of your Ph.D. work will be the defense of the final draft of your dissertation. There are important requirements involved in the qualifying examination and dissertation processes. Please consult pages 150 and 151 of the School of Engineering academic catalog for details.