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


Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description


Program Overview

As one of the fastest growing fields in the U.S. and developing countries, new methods and technologies are emerging in civil and environmental engineering. 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.

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

The Doctor of Philosophy program is designed for individuals who want to focus on careers in creative scholarship or research. You acquire a broad but balanced background combined with guidance in research. The two-stage program begins with course work in your general area and an original research project that is documented in a dissertation and defended in a final examination. For more information, please see the CEE Doctoral Student Handbook.


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 the 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

Required Courses: CE 6503, 6601, 6609

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 an 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

All applicants to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program at the School of Engineering & Applied Science must meet the admissions requirements for entry.

Applicants must provide the following materials to be considered for any graduate program at SEAS:

  1. Complete online application form
  2. Transcripts
  3. GRE exam scores (Optional for Fall 2021 intake)
    • International applicants: TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores
  4. Letters of Recommendation
  5. Statement of Purpose
  6. Resume/CV
  7. Application Fee
English Language Exam Requirements
  • All visa-seeking international applicants are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores to SEAS to be considered for admission.
  • Please provide only your most recent test scores. Scores may not be more than two years old.
Minimum Score Requirements


  • 6.0 overall with no individual score below 5.0.
  • Applicants to the graduate programs in Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, or Data Analytics are required to have a minimum score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0.
  • Applicants who would like to be considered for funding opportunities must have an overall band score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0.


  • 80 on the Internet exam (iBT) or 550 on the paper exam
  • Applicants to the graduate programs in Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, or Data Analytics are required to have a minimum score of 100 on the Internet exam.
  • Applicants who would like to be considered for funding opportunities must have a 600 on the paper-based exam or 100 on the Internet-based exam.

PTE Academic

  • 53. Applicants who would like to be considered for funding opportunities must have a minimum score of 68.

Exceptions are granted to applicants who:

  • Hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from an institution in which English is the language of instruction AND the official language of the country in which the university is located.
  • Hold a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an institution located in a country that qualifies for the English language exam exemption.
Last updated Dec 2020

About the School

There are plenty of good engineering schools in the U.S.; but how far can good take you when your goal is to engineer better? At the George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Sc ... Read More

There are plenty of good engineering schools in the U.S.; but how far can good take you when your goal is to engineer better? At the George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, students work with professors at the top of their fields and gain access to innovative resources in one of most dynamic, research-driven centers in the world. Read less