Civil Engineering

The curricula in civil engineering within the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering have been designed to qualify students for entry-level positions in professional practice in the areas of civil and environmental engineering. These broad area designations may be separated into the subdisciplines of:

  • construction engineering and management;
  • environmental engineering;
  • geotechnical engineering and geomechanics;
  • structural engineering and structural mechanics; and
  • water resource engineering and management.

Through the regular curriculum, students will be ready to enter professional practice in the foregoing areas and be equipped to progress to higher levels in many directions. An Engineering Science track is also available for undergraduates who want additional preparation for graduate study and careers in research and development.

Program Educational Objectives

The overall objectives of the bachelor of science program in civil engineering are:

  • Graduates will be successfully employed in engineering, science, or technology careers.
  • Graduates will be assuming management or leadership roles.
  • Graduates will engage in continual learning by pursuing advanced degrees or additional educational oppportunities through course work, professional conferences and training, and/or participation in professional societies.
  • Graduates will pursue professional registration or other appropriate certifications.
  • Graduates will be active in civic engagement.

Educational Outcomes

The outcomes that students are expected to have attained upon graduation with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering are:

  • the ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering 
  • the ability to design and conduct experiments 
  • the ability to analyze and interpret data 
  • the ability to design a system or component to meet desired needs 
  • the ability to function on multidisciplinary teams 
  • the ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems 
  • an understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities 
  • the ability to communicate effectively through writing and/or drawing 
  • the ability to communicate effectively through oral presentations 
  • an understanding of the impact of engineering on society 
  • an understanding of the necessity to engage in lifelong learning 
  • a knowledge of contemporary issues in civil, environmental, and architectural engineering 
  • the ability to use modern engineering techniques, skills, and tools 
  • the ability to explain basic concepts in management, business, public policy, and leadership

Before their graduation, students in civil and environmental engineering will take a capstone design course in addition to training in structural and foundation design, civil engineering systems, construction, engineering geology, engineering materials, geotechnical engineering, soil mechanics, water quality, environmental engineering, fluid mechanics, computer-aided and manual engineering drawing, mechanics and dynamics, computer modeling, professional practice and ethics seminars, structural analysis and design, surveying, and transportation systems via required and elective courses.

Research Interests and Facilities

The department has a wide variety of research facilities, including a 15g-ton centrifuge for geotechnical and structural model studies and a large 440g-ton geotechnical centrifuge for use in model testing. Also available is an instructional computing facility, the Bechtel Laboratory, and the M.Y. Leung Computational Laboratory for Soils and Structures, both equipped with Windows and Linux high-performance workstations. In addition, extensive structural engineering, engineering mechanics, and geotechnical capabilities exist such as a one-million-pound universal testing machine and several cubical cells for multi-axial testing of materials. A 40 ft. by 80 ft. structural strong floor with associated equipment permits the testing of a wide variety of structural configurations under controlled, both static and dynamic loading. The hydraulics and water resources research laboratories include excellent facilities in water quality and environmental engineering. A unique workstation laboratory for advanced decision support systems is available. Programs in construction management and building energy are well supported. A state-of-the-art building mechanical and energy laboratory is capable of testing full-scale, commercial building systems and their controls using a one-of-a-kind data acquisition and experimental control system.

The Environmental Engineering program maintains approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of laboratories in the areas of process research, environmental microbiology, environmental chemistry, water quality, air quality, molecular biology, toxicology, and field ecology. The Environmental Sustainability cluster and the Center for Environmental Mass Spectrometry offer formal collaborations between the CU-Boulder Environmental Engineering Group, Mechanical Engineering air research group, the US Geological Survey, and industry partners, providing state-of-the-art facilities for research and teaching.

The Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES) is an interdisciplinary center of excellence, housed within the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. CADSWES focuses on applying advanced computing techniques to provide decision makers with decision support systems (DSSs) to help them more effectively manage water and environmental systems.

Current research covers such topics as water and wastewater treatment, surface and subsurface contaminant transport, decision support systems, hydraulic research, land treatment, rapid infiltration, and activated sludge processes. Cost prediction in construction, construction management, energy conservation in buildings, solar applications, and lighting systems are included. Advances in soil mechanics, rock mechanics, soil dynamics and geotechnical earthquake engineering, foundation engineering, computational geomechanics, centrifugal modeling, geosynthetics, and glacier flows have been produced. Research in structures includes stability, damage and fracture, material microstructures, durability, finite element modeling, reinforced concrete, earthquake responses, reinforced masonry structures, prestressed concrete, and dynamic control.

Course code for this program is CVEN.

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering

The central curriculum requires students to obtain a background in the humanities, a broad knowledge of the basic engineering sciences of chemistry, mathematics (including differential equations), physics, mechanics (including fluid mechanics and soil mechanics), and thermodynamics. Social-humanistic hours may be devoted to the social sciences, the humanities, or to approved communication courses.

Advanced technical courses are selected in the senior year. Random selection is not allowed as the objective is to prepare a graduate to enter the engineering profession with a firm groundwork in fundamental engineering science as well as adequate technical fluency in selected areas. Students should consult with their advisors on their choices.

Students are required to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam when they are within 32 credit hours of graduation.

Curriculum for BS (CE)

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours

Freshman Year
Fall Semester

  • APPM 1350 Calculus 1 for Engineers—4
  • CHEM 1221 General Chemistry Laboratory for Engineers—2
  • CHEN 1211 General Chemistry for Engineers—3
  • CVEN 1317 Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering—2
  • GEEN 1400 Engineering Projects or basic engineering elective—3

Spring Semester

  • APPM 1360 Calculus 2 for Engineers—4
  • GEEN 1300 Engineering Computing—3
  • PHYS 1110 General Physics 1—4
  • AREN/CVEN drawing or geomatics course—3
  • Humanities or social science elective—3

Sophomore Year
Fall Semester

  • APPM 2350 Calculus 3 for Engineers—4
  • CVEN 2121 Analytical Mechanics 1—3
  • CVEN 3698 Engineering Geology or basic science elective—3
  • PHYS 1120 General Physics 2—4
  • PHYS 1140 Experimental Physics—1

Spring Semester

  • APPM 2360 Introduction to Differential Equations with Linear Algebra—4
  • AREN 2110 Thermodynamics—3
  • CVEN 3161 Mechanics of Materials 1—3
  • CVEN 3313 Theoretical Fluid Mechanics—3
  • Humanities or social science elective—3

Junior Year
Fall Semester

  • CVEN 3246 Introduction to Construction—3
  • CVEN 3323 Hydraulic Engineering—3
  • CVEN 3414 Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering—3
  • CVEN 3525 Structural Analysis—3
  • CVEN 3708 Geotechnical Engineering 1—3
  • Humanities or social science elective—3

Spring Semester

  • CVEN 3111 Analytical Mechanics 2—3
  • CVEN 3227 Probability, Statistics, and Decision for Engineers—3
  • CVEN Proficiency I—3
  • CVEN Proficiency II—3
  • College-approved writing course—3

Senior Year
Fall Semester

  • CVEN Proficiency III—3
  • CVEN 4899 Civil Engineering Senior Design—4
  • Free elective—3
  • Humanities and social science elective—3
  • Technical elective—3

Spring Semester

  • CVEN professional issues course—2
  • Free elective—3
  • Humanities or social science elective—3
  • Technical electives—9

Concurrent Bachelor's/Master's Program

Concurrent BS/MS in Civil Engineering

A concurrent BS/MS degree program in civil engineering is available. Students may apply to the program when they have completed 75-110 credit hours toward the undergraduate BS degree. Once accepted into the program, students are allowed to count 6 credit hours taken at the  graduate level for both the BS and MS degrees (if certain grade and GPA requirements are met); this allows a student to obtain both degrees in a five-year curriculum.

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Graduate Study in Civil Engineering

Graduate studies in civil engineering are offered through the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. Information on the requirements for graduate study in civil engineering is available from the departmental website at The Graduate Record Examination, consisting of the aptitude tests and advanced test in engineering, is used in the evaluation of candidates and is required for all applicants for master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees.

The department offers the master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees with study emphasis in several major areas: construction engineering and management, environmental engineering, civil systems, geotechnical engineering and geomechanics, geoenvironmental engineering, structural engineering and structural mechanics, hydrology, water resources and environmental fluid mechanics, and general engineering science.

Master of Science Degree

Requirements for this master’s degree can be fulfilled in three ways. Under Plan I, the candidate completes 30 credit hours of course work including thesis (maximum of 6 credit hours). Under Plan IIa, 30 credit hours of course work are required, with 3 credit hours of Master’s Report credit. Under Plan IIb, 30 credit hours of course work are required with a final exam. 

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

This degree requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate-level work (5000 level or above). Up to 15 credit hours of previous graduate-level work may be transferred with advisor and Graduate School approval. The doctoral dissertation requires 30 credit hours. The applicant for this degree must demonstrate the capability for both rigorous academic accomplishments and independent research.

Dual Degree Programs

Double Major with Applied Mathematics

As an exceptional opportunity for talented students who are interested in analytical and computational methods related to civil engineering and general engineering science, the civil engineering and applied mathematics departments offer a streamlined track by which a student can earn a baccalaureate degree from both programs with a minimum of 15 extra credit hours. Consult faculty advisors in civil engineering and applied mathematics for information and admission.