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Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Requirements - Civil Engineering

Applicants seeking admission into the Graduate Program in Civil Engineering, leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees administered by the Graduate School, should have a B.S. degree with adequate background in science, mathematics and engineering. In order to specialize in Structural Mechanics and Materials the B.S. degree should have emphasis in mechanics, structural engineering and materials. In order to specialize in Multi-modal Transportation Engineering, the B.S. degree should have imparted a basic background in transportation engineering. In order to specialize in Risk and Reliability Engineering, the B.S. degree should emphasize in one of the majors in engineering. 

Apply to Vanderbilt Graduate School

The Master of Engineering Program is administered by the School of Engineering and the admission requirements are less restrictive. Additional information can be found on the Construction Management Program page. 

Time-Line:

The minimum time required for completing the M.S. degree with thesis-option is three semesters and a summer, but two years is more common.  The minimum time required to complete the Ph.D. degree by those admitted with a B.S. degree is four years, but five years is more common. Those admitted with a M.S. degree can complete the Ph.D. degree in the minimum time of three years.

Research Adviser:

An M.S./Ph.D. student is supposed to have identified and agreed upon a research adviser before the end of second semester.  Normally, during the first two semesters such a student is supported as Teaching Assistant.  Thereafter, the student is supported as a Research Assistant.  If, however, the student has financial support in the form of Fellowships or Scholarships awarded by some external agency, no other support is needed and student is free to undertake the research work under the guidance of an adviser of his/her choice.

Master of Science  Degrees:

The M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering provide an in-depth understanding to the graduate students in the concentration areas of (1) materials and structures (M&S), or (2) civil infrastructure systems (CIS). The M.S. program will prepare students for industry expertise or for further advanced studies in the relevant area of concentration. The graduate program in Civil Engineering offers three M.S. degrees:
  • M.S. with thesis option requires 24 credit hours of graduate-level course work (5000 or higher), 6 hours of research/thesis course-work, and the completion of a thesis. 
  • M.S. with no thesis option requires 30 credit hours of graduate-level course work (5000 or higher), but does not require a project, practicum, or reporting beyond the requirements for successful completion of the individual courses.
  • M.S. in passing  is a version of M.S. with no thesis, awarded to PhD students who have completed at least 30 hours of graduate study towards their PhD with GPA of 3.0 or better.
M.S. students in the CIS concentration area are required to take four courses from three competency areas of Advanced MathematicsSystems Engineering, and Data Analytics. The course lists for each competency area appear in Table 1. M.S. students in the M&S concentration area are required to take four courses from four competency areas of Advanced MathematicsData AnalyticsMaterials and Mechanics, and Computational/Numerical Modeling. The course lists for each M&S competency area appear in Table 2. Each student is required to take at least one course from each competency area. Transfer courses and individual studies cannot be used to satisfy any part of the core course requirements. At least 6 hours of didactic course work taken in the major area (i.e., with CE designation) must be completed at Vanderbilt.
In the case of M.S. with thesis option, the DGS in consultation with the research adviser and the student will appoint a thesis committee by the end of the first semester in the program. The thesis committee should be comprised of the research adviser and at least one additional Civil Engineering graduate faculty member, including one tenured or tenure-track faculty member from the department. The thesis committee will be responsible for guiding the student in production of a thesis, monitoring the student's progress in completing the requirements toward the degree, and ensuring the quality of graduate work. The student is encouraged to give an oral presentation of their thesis to the department.

Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering (excluding the Construction Management specialization):

M.Eng. in Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt will prepare Civil Engineers with advanced and broad knowledge and understanding in a range of civil engineering areas for careers in consulting, engineering design and management. The philosophy for the M.Eng. degree follows our general philosophy for our undergraduate program: providing a holistic civil engineering experience leveraging the areas of strength within the department.

The requirements for completing the M.Eng. in Civil Engineering are as follows:

  • At least six graduate courses (5000 or higher) with civil engineering designation must be completed. (Transfer courses count toward completing this requirement.)
  • At least one course from each of the four competency areas indicated in Table 3 must be completed at Vanderbilt. (Transfer courses do not count toward completing this requirement.)
  • At least one design oriented course (CE 5200, CE 5210, CE 5250, CE 5500) must be completed at Vanderbilt. Transfer courses do not count toward completing this requirement. In case a student has already completed the equivalent of ALL of the design courses above at another institution, the student will coordinate with the DGS for an alternative arrangement to enhance her/his design experience.
  • An extensive, written design report must be submitted on a project approved by the student's project adviser. The student must coordinate the topic and extent of the design project with the project adviser before the end of the first semester of enrollment. Projects aligned with Structures, Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Systems (e.g. transportation) or Engineering Management will be advised by CE faculty with significant practical and design experience. Students can also work with other project advisers from among the CE graduate faculty provided that the relevant faculty agrees to serve in that capacity.

Ph.D. Degree Preliminary Examination:

The goal of the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination is to assess the potential of the graduate student in being successful in graduate level research in the relevant area of concentration and completing PhD studies with skills and qualifications listed in the vision statement. The PhD preliminary exam requirements are as follows:

  • The student performs a research project within the second semester of enrollment (typically Spring). In order to facilitate the internship, the student enrolls in 3 research hours during the second semester. 3 research hours cannot be counted towards any course credit hour requirements, but count towards the 72 credit hour requirement for PhD. 
  • The research project topics are offered by the CE gradate faculty (offeror). The research topics are submitted by the faculty to the DGS by October (for fall admissions) and July (for spring admissions) of each year. Each topic must clearly define the full cycle of research, including literature research, hypothesis development and testing, analysis of results, presentation of results, etc.
  • At the end of the semester long internship, the student writes a research paper and prepares a presentation of research performed.
  • The performance of the student is assess by a faculty committee based on the research paper and an oral examination that includes the student presentation. The four-member committee (including the offeror) is proposed by the offeror from among the relevant graduate committee (CIS or M&S). Two out of the three other (than the offeror) committee members must be Tenure/Tenure Track faculty.

Possible outcomes of the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination:

  • Pass: The student satisfies all requirements of the preliminary examination and is allowed to continue toward a PhD degree.
  • Provisional Pass: The student satisfies some aspects of the preliminary examination requirements, whereas others have been deemed unsatisfactory by the committee. The committee recommends remedial action(s) and the time frame within which, the remedial actions must be completed. The remedial actions range from a complete retake of the preliminary examination, taking specific courses, or other actions as deemed appropriate by the committee. In case of a provisional pass, the graduate adviser of the student must follow the progress of the student towards successful completion of the remedial actions and approve their completion.
  • Fail: The student cannot continue towards the PhD degree and is removed from the PhD program. The student is allowed to continue pursuing an M.S. degree.

Qualifying Examination and PhD Dissertation Committee Requirements:

The PhD qualifying examination is expected to be held at the end of the third academic year. The student is expected to have at least one journal article submitted for publication (or published) by the time of the qualifying exam on the dissertation research performed at Vanderbilt University. The purpose of the PhD qualifying examination is to test (1) the student’s overall understanding of the specific research area within M&S or CIS concentration including sufficient background knowledge and literature; (2) potential scientific contributions of the proposed dissertation research if successfully completed; and (3) potential for success of the research using the proposed technical approach within the proposed schedule. The qualifying exam is administered by the student’s dissertation committee, which is appointed upon formal recommendation to the Graduate School by the DGS. The committee consists of not fewer than four members of the Graduate faculty. Three of the members must be graduate faculty from within the student’s department/program and one from outside the program. The committee must include at least two tenured or tenure track faculty members from the graduate faculty of the Department (one of whom may be the adviser), and at least one tenured or tenure track member of the Vanderbilt faculty from outside the Department. The committee could include experts from outside Vanderbilt. Committee members outside the department must be approved by the Graduate School upon request by the DGS in order to be appointed to the dissertation committee. Any variation of the committee makeup must be approved by the Graduate School. The committee must be appointed by the Graduate School no less than two weeks before the time the student expects to take the qualifying examination.
The qualifying exam consists of the review of a written research proposal and a private oral defense of the proposal before the PhD committee. The written proposal should be no longer than 15 pages (single‐spaced, margins 1 inch in every direction, with 12‐point Times New Roman fonts), including figures and tables. References may appear in additional pages. Relevant technical details could be included as appendices, but the 15-page proposal must be self-contained and understandable without the necessity to review the appendices. An up-to-date and detailed CV must also be attached to the research proposal. In the oral presentation, the student should clearly and briefly present the project, as well as answer questions from the members of the committee. The dissertation committee should receive the proposal no later than a week before the exam. Students approved in the qualifying exam are recommended for promotion to candidacy, at which time they officially become PhD candidates.
By the time of graduation, each PhD student is expected to have published or submitted for publication a sufficient number of high quality, peer-reviewed journal articles based on their dissertation research. The number of publications may vary significantly from one area to another. The student and the research adviser are expected to have a clear, mutual understanding of the expectation for the journal publication output. Additionally, the student is expected to have attended and presented their dissertation research in at least one technical conference or workshop during their PhD. 

PhD Coursework Requirements:

Students in Civil and Infrastructure Systems (CIS) Engineering concentration area are required to take four courses from three competency areas of Advanced MathematicsSystems Engineering, and Data Analytics. The courses for each CIS competency area are listed in Table 1. Students in the Materials and Structural (M&S) Engineering concentration area are required to take four courses from four competency areas of Advanced MathematicsData AnalyticsMaterials and Mechanics, and Computational/Numerical Modeling. The course lists for each M&S competency area are listed in Table 2. For both the CIS and the M&S concentration areas, each student is required to take at least one course from each competency area. Transfer courses and individual studies cannot be used to satisfy any part of the core course requirements. The students are required to complete the core course requirements before they can take the PhD qualifying examination. At least two core courses must be civil engineering courses with a CE designation in the graduate catalog. For PhD students, a minimum of 30 hours of formal coursework must be completed. Each student is allowed to take a maximum of 6 credit hours as independent study courses at Vanderbilt. The students should consult their research adviser (if adviser has not yet been assigned, the DGS) in choosing the core as well as other courses.

Table 1: CIS Competency Area Core Course Requirements

Advanced Mathematics
CE 6305
Engineering Design Optimization
BIOS 6341
Fundamentals of Probablility
BIOS 8370
Foundations of Statistical Inference
BIOS 8372
Bayesian Methods
CS 5250
Algorithms
CS 6310
Design and Analysis of Algorithms
EECS 6361
Random Processes
MATH 5620
Introduction to Numerical Mathematics
MATH 5640
Probability
MATH 5820
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics
MATH 6620
Linear Optimatization
MATH 6630
Nonlinear Optimization
MATH 5610
Ordinary Differential Equations
Systems Engineering
CE 5240
Infrastructure Systems Engineering
CE 5300
Reliability and Risk Case Studies
CE 5305
Enterprise Risk Management
CE 5340
Risk and Decision Analysis
CE 5500
Transportation System Design
CE 5510
Traffic Engineering
CS 6376
Foundations of Hybrid and Embedded Systems
EECE 5257
Control Systems I
EECE 5358
Control Systems II
EECE 6311
Systems Theory
EECE 6321
Cyber-Physical Systems
ENGM 5010
Systems Engineering
Data Analytics
CE 5320
Data Analytics for Engineers
CE 6300
Probabilistic Methods in Engineering Design 
CE 6310
Uncertainty Quantification
BIOS 6301
Introduction to Statistical Computing
BIOS 6312/L
Modern Regression Analysis
BIOS 6342/L
Contemporary Statistical Inference
BIOS 7362
Advanced Statistical Inference
BIOS 8366
Advanced Statistical Computing
CS 5266
Topics in Big Data
CS 6350
Artificial Neural Networks
CS 6362
Machine Learning

Table 2: M&S Competency Area Core Course Requirements 

Advanced Mathematics
CE 6305
Engineering Design Optimization
CHBE 6100
Applied Math in Chemical Engineering
MATH 5620
Introduction to Numerical Mathematics
MATH 5640
Probability
MATH 5820
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics
MATH 6620
Linear Optimization
MATH 6630
Nonlinear Optimization
MATH 7110
Partial Differential Equations
MATH 6600
Numerical Analysis
Materials and Mechanics
CE 6200
Continuum Mechanics
CE 6205
Theory of Inelasticity
CE 6212
Advanced Computational Mechanics
CE 6215
Structural Dynamics and Control
CHBE 6110
Advanced Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
CHBE 6200
Transport Phenomena
IMS 5320
Nanoscale Science and Engineering
PHYS 8030
Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 8040
Statistical Mechanics
Computational/Numerical Modeling
CE 6210
Finite Element Analysis
CE 6313
Multiscale Modeling
CHEM 5410
Molecular Modeling Techniques
SC 5260
High Performance Computing
Data Analytics
CE 5320
Data Analytics for Engineers
CE 6300
Probabilistic Methods in Engineering Design
CE 6310
Uncertainty Quantification
CS 5266
Topics in Big Data
CS 6350
Artifical Neural Networks
CS 6362
Machine Learning
BIOS 6312/L
Modern Regression Analysis

 Table 3: M.Eng. Core Course Requirements

Area 1: Structures
CE 5200
Advanced Structural Steel Design
CE 5210
Advanced Reinforced Concrete Design
CE 5250
Foundation Analysis and Design
CE 5999
Special Topics - Advanced Structural Analysis
CE 6200
Continuum Mechanics
CE 6318
Prestressed Concrete
Area 2: Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Systems
CE 5240
Infrastructure Systems Engineering
CE 5430
Building Systems and LEED
CE 5500
Transportation System Design
CE 5510
Traffic Engineering
ENGM 5010
Systems Engineering
Area 3: Engineering Management
CE 5400
Construction Project Management
CE 5401
Advanced Construction Project Management
CE 5420
Construction Law and Contracts
ENGM 5600
Technology-Based Entrepreneurship
ENGM 5700
Program and Project Management
Area 4: Reliability and Risk-Based Engineering
CE 5300
Reliability and Risk Case Studies
CE 5305
Enterprise Risk Management
CE 5340
Risk and Decision Analysis
CE 6300
Probabilistic Methods in Engineering Design
CE 6310
Uncertainty Quanitification