Why complete a graduate-level degree in civil engineering? Well for one thing, research suggests that those with higher levels of education in the field tend to earn more than those with just a bachelor’s degree.
This makes sense. Those with a master’s or PhD will have higher levels of specialization and expertise – which may also mean more interesting, challenging and stimulating roles to choose from.
Pursuing higher levels of degree often also means progress towards national accreditations, such as Chartered Engineer status in the UK.
Types of program
A wide range of civil and structural engineering programs are available at both master’s and PhD levels. These vary not only in terms of specialization, but also learning and teaching style, and the type of role for which they prepare students.
For example, MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers a choice between Master of Engineering (MEng) or Master of Science (MSc), with the first being more industry-focused and the second more research-based.
It’s worth noting that different institutions often use the same degree title to refer to programs that are actually very different. For example, one university’s DEng program may be very academic in focus, while another may be more oriented towards professional practice.
Depending where you are in the world, master’s and PhD programs may not be the only options for graduate-level study. In the UK, some universities now offer Doctor of Engineering (EngD) programs, which lead to a qualification equivalent to a PhD, but with research conducted mainly within an industry placement.
In the US, some universities offer an ‘Engineer’s Degree’, which again is completed as an alternative to a PhD, and typically has a more professional focus. In contrast PhD programs tend to be more theoretical, and more focused on preparation for a career within academia.
While an undergraduate degree in civil engineering is an obvious starting point, most graduate-level courses in the field will also consider applicants from related subject areas – and even subjects that may not seem to be so close. For example, MIT says its graduate school includes students with backgrounds ranging from economics to microbiology.