Civil Engineering

Man in construction helmet
Degrees Offered: BS MS PhD

Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of the buildings and infrastructure that make up society, including roads, bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, transit systems, water treatment facilities and offshore structures. They are problem solvers meeting the challenges of pollution, clean drinking water, climate change, energy and transportation needs, urban development and community planning for the megacities of the twenty-first century.

Civil engineers are involved in a wide range of projects, like building structures that can withstand earthquakes, road systems that ease traffic jams or sports stadiums where every seat has a great view. They also work on geotechnical field design projects and evaluate the soils, groundwater and environmental conditions that impact construction.

Undergraduate Opportunities

CU­-Boulder’s civil engineering undergraduate program emphasizes open-­ended problems, global awareness and undergraduate research. The program is characterized by a high degree of faculty-­student interactions, both inside and outside the classroom. Many students participate in service-­learning opportunities, including working on international engineering projects through the Engineering for Developing Communities program and the nonprofit organization Engineers Without Borders­-USA, founded by CU­-Boulder Professor Bernard Amadei. Students can also gain professional exposure through student chapters of the Associated General Contractors, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Society of Environmental Engineers on campus.

Civil engineering concentrations at the undergraduate level include construction engineering and management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering and structural mechanics and water resource engineering. All of these concentrations are available at the graduate level along with the addition of building systems. There are also options to pursue tracks in engineering for developing communities and engineering sciences.

Graduate Studies

The CEAE Department offers a Master of Science and a PhD degree in Architectural Engineering and in Civil Engineering. The objective of graduate education in the CEAE department is to produce engineers with the knowledge and skills to understand and solve complex problems in the natural and built environment, to promote a sustainable world and to enhance the global quality of life.

CEAE is one of only three programs in the United States offering graduate degrees in architectural engineering. The graduate degrees are offered in the following specializations and interdisciplinary programs: sustainable building design and operation; renewable energy systems for buildings; illumination engineering; construction engineering and management; and engineering for developing communities.

Facilities, including an earthquake simulator, a collection of geotechnical centrifuges, state­-of­-the-­art geotechnical, environmental, building systems, hydraulics and structural materials laboratories, permit a case-­study approach to education that exposes graduate students to real­world problems through experimentation, testing and analysis.

Research Opportunities

The department has a wide variety of laboratory facilities, including a state-­of-­the-­art building energy facility, an illumination laboratory and one of the largest structural laboratories in the Rocky Mountain region, all of which offer opportunities for independent study as well as undergraduate and graduate research. Students can participate in research on building efficiency and often work with the University of Colorado facilities management department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Other research opportunities include construction safety, energy-­efficient lighting and a host of structural testing projects on sustainable and energy­-efficient materials.

Students also have the opportunity to gain professional exposure through student societies on campus, which include the Architectural Engineering Institute and the Illuminating Engineering Society.

The environmental engineering group of the CEAE Department is the only certificate program in the United States offering a Water Engineering and Management Graduate Certificate. The certificate is available to students on the Boulder campus and to distance learning students online through EngineeringAnywhere.