Program Overview

Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students have extraordinary opportunities to learn about the state-of-the-art in their studies. Environmental engineering students use one of the world’s largest wastewater treatment plants as a real-world laboratory to improve the water quality of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Structural engineering students study earthquake engineering, extreme event design of structures and bridge design on a state-of-the-art, six-degrees-of-freedom earthquake simulator. And transportation-engineering students learn from faculty and experts at GW’s National Crash Analysis Center and the Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory.

The doctoral program aims to educate highly qualified researchers who will enhance fundamental knowledge and produce technological innovations through original research and development. Our location and relationships with companies and government agencies in the Washington, D.C., area allow for collaborative research opportunities that greatly increase our graduates’ job prospects.

The Department collaborates with several entities throughout the greater D.C. metropolitan area for research, including:

  • the Center for Intelligence Systems Research (CISR) for developing intelligent transportation systems;
  • the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay Watershed on improving water quality;

Doctor of Philosophy in Civil & Environmental Engineering (Ph.D.)


  • Credit hours (for those with a master's degree): 30
  • Credit hours (for those without a master's degree): 54
  • Duration: 4-6 years
  • Other requirements:
    • Qualifying examination: Administered twice a year, the exam covers subject matters at both the master's and doctoral levels. Students should prepare for comprehensive questioning on all subject matters regardless of any particular course included in the actual doctoral coursework load.

Doctoral Areas of Focus

Environmental Engineering

This program is designed to provide students with the fundamentals and knowledge about the various specializations within environmental engineering. These include among others, water, wastewater, hazardous wastes, industrial wastes and pertinent regulatory requirements. The students are given a broad overview of each area, which enables them to select specific areas for advanced study if they should choose to do so. In this program, the students have to take a number of required courses, along with courses selected from the following subject areas:

  • Environmental chemistry
  • Water and wastewater treatment processes
  • Advanced sanitary engineering design
  • Industrial waste treatment
  • Hazardous waste management
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Advanced treatment processes

Geo-environmental Engineering

The main goal in this area of concentration is to provide essential tools for civil engineers who want to specialize in foundation engineering, rock mechanics, and soil mechanics. A variety of courses in the theoretical and practical aspects of geomechanics are available. Students are trained to undertake the analysis and design of such geotechnical structures as earth dams, embankments, and abutments. The program also provides the knowledge necessary to design geo-environmental structures such as landfills and general infrastructure systems constructed on or in geomaterials. Some of the main topics covered in this area are:

  • Theoretical soil mechanics
  • Groundwater and seepage
  • Physicochemical aspects of soil behavior
  • Foundation engineering
  • Geotechnical earthquake engineering
  • Finite element methods in solid mechanics
  • Rock mechanics
  • Environmental geotechnology
  • Soil dynamics

Required Courses: CE 6210, 6402, 6605

Mechanics and Materials Engineering

Courses in this concentration teach you to develop and apply means of describing and predicting the mechanical behavior of materials (crystalline and polycrystalline metals, insulators, semiconductors, amorphous materials, and composites) and structures (individual elements or the whole of machine, spacecraft, bridge, or other structures) in their interaction with physical environments. The study of engineering mechanics allows you to draw on the resources of GW's Departments of Physics and Chemistry and provides for the concentrated study of:

  • Mechanics of continua with emphasis on solids
  • Science of materials and materials behavior
  • Applied mathematical analysis
  • Numerical and finite element analysis

Required Courses: ApSc 6213; CE 6206, 6210

Structural Engineering

This area enables you to specialize in computer-aided structural design or structural dynamics. You develop specialized methods to analyze the effects of the environment, large-scale human occupancy, heavy traffic, and various types of dynamic excitation on the infra-and super-structures of complex building and bridge systems. You'll focus on topics such as:

  • Reinforced concrete and prestressed concrete design
  • Metal structure design with emphasis on steel structures
  • Soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering
  • Advanced mechanics and materials science
  • Composite materials
  • Analysis of plates and shells
  • Vibration and stability analysis
  • Structural analysis
  • Probabilistic methods and random vibrations
  • Numerical and finite element methods
  • Computer applications

Required Courses: CE 6201, 6202, 6210

Transportation Engineering

This program offers a focused and comprehensive study of vehicle crashworthiness, intelligent transportation systems, and traffic flow dynamics. Courses on finite element modeling, occupant safety, government regulations, injury/crash analysis, vehicle dynamics, traffic flow theory and demand modeling are provided. Students will utilize all the facilities at the National Crash Analysis Center - NCAC (including the Crash Film Library and the Vehicle Modeling Laboratory) and the Center of Intelligent Systems Research –CISR (including a driving simulator and an instrumented vehicle).

  • Numerical Methods in Engineering (CE 6101)
  • Application of Probability Methods in Civil Engineering (CE 6102)
  • Introduction to Finite Element Analysis (CE 6210)
  • Introduction to Biomechanics (CE 6350)
  • Analytical Mechanics (CE 6701)
  • Vehicle Dynamics (CE 6702)
  • Vehicle Standards and Crash Test Analysis (CE 6703)
  • Crash Investigation and Analysis (CE 6704)
  • Non-Linear Finite Element Modeling and Simulation (CE 6705)
  • Systems Dynamics and Control (CE 6707)
  • Traffic Engineering and Highway Safety (CE 6721)
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (CE 6722)
  • Advanced Theory in Traffic Flow (CE 6800-a)
  • Advanced Demand Modeling (CE 6800-b)
  • Advanced Biomechanics (CE 8280)
  • Advanced Finite Element Analysis (CE 8330)

Required Courses: CE 6210, 6701, and 6721 or 6722

Water Resources Engineering

In this area, you deal with the increasingly complex problem of planning and designing sustainable physical systems for water storage, delivery, and utilization. You develop special skills needed to design water supplies for domestic, industrial, and agricultural use; flood hazard mitigation; control of rivers for navigation, water conveyance, flood control, and recreation; and manage soil loss from watersheds and its impact on waterways and storage dams. You follow a program of required courses specific to this area and a carefully selected list of courses covering topics such as:

  • Open channel flow
  • Groundwater and seepage
  • Advanced Hydrology
  • Water resources planning and control
  • Hydraulic engineering
  • Design of dams
  • Ocean and coastal engineering
  • Pollution transport systems
  • Sedimentation engineering
  • Mechanics of alluvial channels
  • Hydraulic modeling
  • Numerical methods in water resources engineering

Required Courses: CE 6503, 6601, 6609


Ph.D. Admissions Requirements

Applicants must submit the following materials in order to be considered for admission into a master's program at SEAS. All materials except test scores must be uploaded to the online application form:

Online Application


  • Scanned copies of unofficial transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned; the program was not completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript.
  • Please ensure that all transcripts are properly scanned and attached to the online application form. Otherwise, applicants will receive notifications requesting legible transcripts, which may delay review of their application.
  • Please do not mail official transcripts unless you are instructed to do so by a SEAS admissions officer. Admissions decisions are based on unofficial transcripts.
  • For international applicants, please see additional requirements for attaching foreign transcripts to the online application.

GRE scores

  • The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is required of all applicants, except for those applying for a Combined Five-Year Program.
  • GRE scores must be sent to institution code 5246 through the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
  • There is no minimum score required on the GRE for admission. However, applicants are encouraged to score within the 90th percentile of the Quantitative section of the exam in order to be considered competitive. To see average GRE scores from the most recent incoming class, visit the Graduate Student Profile.

English proficiency exam scores (international applicants)

  • International applicants who did not receive a degree from an institution situated in the United States or English-speaking country must also submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic exams.
  • Please view the International Admissions section for information on English language exam score requirements and sending scores to GW.

Letters of Recommendation

  • A minimum of three (3) letters of recommendation is required to be submitted with the online application form.
  • At least one recommendation should be from an advisor and/or faculty member(s) at the institution from which you earned your highest degree.

Statement of Purpose

  • Applicants must include an essay of 400-600 words that clearly states their purpose in undertaking graduate study at the George Washington University; explains their academic objectives, research interests, and career plans; and discusses related qualifications including collegiate, professional, and community activities, as well as any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned.
  • It is strongly encouraged that essays stay within the 600-word limit. While applicants are not penalized for submitting longer essays, concise essays are more effective in demonstrating an applicant's motivation.
  • The Statement of Purpose must be written by the applicant. Any essay found to have been written by anyone other than the applicant, or plagiarized from other published materials, will be withdrawn from consideration.


  • A current résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) should be uploaded to the online application form.
  • If you have published articles in peer-reviewed publications, please include them as a hyperlink.

Ph.D. applicants must also demonstrate the following requirements in order to be considered for admission:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant area from an accredited institution
  • If the applicant has obtained a master’s, a minimum grade point average of 3.4 (on a scale of 4.0) is required.
  • If the applicant has only obtained a bachelor’s degree, the minimum grade point average must be a 3.3 (on a scale of 4.0).
  • Identified one to three SEAS faculty members whose research interests most closely match their own and note this on the application form.
  • A strong academic or relevant professional background pertinent to the field of study
  • Demonstrated capacity for original research
Program taught in:
  • English
The George Washington University - School of Engineering & Applied Science

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Last updated November 13, 2018
This course is Campus based
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Feb 2020
4 - 6 years
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Graduate Student Research: Civil and Environmental Engineering at GW