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Civil Engineering Master’s Programs: Requirements and Outcomes

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Program Support Initiatives

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Leslie Nolen American Society of Civil Engineers

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Leslie Nolen, CAE, serves as director, educational activities for the American Society of Civil Engineers. She brings over 20 years of association management experience to her work with ASCE's Committee on Education on issues of importance to the undergraduate and graduate level education of civil engineers.

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The goal of this study was to learn more about postgraduate degrees in civil engineering at the master’s level in the U.S. This was an update of a similar study in 2011 by Russell et al. and had the additional goal of increasing our understanding of potential challenges to fulfillment of the ASCE Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge 3rd Edition (CEBOK3). The majority of the CEBOK3 outcomes are expected to be fulfilled in Bachelor’s degree programs, with postgraduate education as the recommended pathway to fulfill Bloom’s level 4 of the experimental methods and data analysis outcome and Bloom’s levels 3 and 4 of the depth in a civil engineering area outcome. However, different student pathways to and through master’s programs may impact the extent to which those graduating with civil engineering master’s degrees meet the CEBOK3 outcomes. For example, are students without BS degrees in civil engineering required to complete undergraduate level pre-requisite coursework that will fulfill CEBOK3 outcomes? Or are both undergraduate and graduate level CEBOK3 outcomes integrated into required graduate level courses and/or the thesis research experience? This paper explored these questions by collecting curriculum information for 80 institutions from civil engineering program websites and conducting a survey. The types of civil engineering degree programs (MS and MEng), pathways (e.g., thesis or coursework only), and specialty areas found at the 80 institutions were similar in 2020 to the 2011 data. The small number of survey responses (n=25) limits the generalizability of the findings with respect to CEBOK3 outcomes and how they may differ between thesis versus coursework only degrees and among students with and without civil engineering bachelor’s degrees, but confirms that questions of student pathways and graduate curriculum warrant continued study.

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Nolen, L. (2021, July), Civil Engineering Master’s Programs: Requirements and Outcomes Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36795

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