Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Program Description

Our department offers a unique interdisciplinary graduate program that enables you to develop imaginative solutions to real-world engineering problems.

Our students have access to cutting-edge research and technology, high achieving, energetic and approachable faculty members, and an innovative and flexible curriculum, we consistently rank among the top engineering programs by US News and World Report.

Discover why our program should be your first choice. This is your opportunity to be part of an exceptional engineering program.

Focus Areas

We offer graduate civil and environmental engineering programs at the Ph.D. levels in three focus areas in which we have established both educational and research strengths:

Advanced Infrastructure Systems (A.I.S.)

The A.I.S. education and research area focuses on the exploration and application of emerging Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to improve the design, construction, and operations of infrastructure systems.

Environmental Engineering Sustainability and Science (E.E.S.S.)

The E.E.S.S. education and research area focuses on air quality, water quality, remediation, industrial ecology, sustainable engineering, energy and environment, and environmental nanotechnology. This focus area is designed to provide skills, analysis tools, and technologies to meet contemporary environmental stewardship and sustainability challenges.

Mechanics, Materials, and Computing (M.M.C.)

The M.M.C. education and research area focuses on the scientific understanding and practical application of the emergent complex behavior of materials through computer simulation techniques for the analysis of the deformation, flow, and failure of natural and engineered materials.

Our graduate programs maintain a commitment to excellence in education and research and offer additional advantages that serve the needs of our students.


As a graduate student in our program, you can work with your faculty advisor to develop an individually focused program. This allows you to pursue studies in line with your professional interests and goals.

Your tailored programs may be directed toward more fundamental engineering science, or more applied engineering design or development, depending on your individual career goals.

We also encourage students from a variety of educational backgrounds to pursue graduate study with us.

A Supportive Educational Community

As a CEE student, you will enjoy a collegial, supportive and respectful climate with an exceptional student/faculty ratio. You will truly be part of a community.

In fact, many alumni maintain their relationships with the department throughout their professional careers. Our alumni are diverse and global, and our Career and Professional Development Center works tirelessly to place students with the top engineering firms around the world.

While you are a student, you will have many options for study and meeting spaces to work and collaborate with your classmates.

Doctoral students are assigned a desk in the department and are also provided a personal computer after completing their doctoral qualifying examination. All offices and communal spaces have personal or shared computers connected to the campus and worldwide network.

Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Our Ph.D. students participate in education and research that strives to advance the engineering science fundamentals of the civil and environmental engineering disciplines. Doctoral candidates develop an individualized program of study in one of our three major focus areas:

  • Advanced Infrastructure Systems (A.I.S.)
  • Environmental Engineering, Sustainability, and Science (E.E.S.S.)
  • Mechanics, Materials, and Computing (M.M.C.)

We strive to advance the state-of-knowledge and art in how engineering problems are formulated, interpreted and solved through our research.

We are highly interdisciplinary, often approaching problems with teams of faculty and students bringing different skills, insights, and methods from different disciplines. We present our results at conferences, publish in high-quality journals, and communicate our results to decision-makers and the public through various government and private committees, councils, and advisory boards.

Direct Entry Ph.D.

If you are interested in a career in research and have graduated with a degree in engineering or a related technical field from an accredited insitituion you can apply as a direct entry Ph.D. student.

Direct entry students must complete the requirements for the MS degree before beginning Ph.D. studies but will not have to apply to the Ph.D. program upon completion of their MS studies.

Direct entry students are required to complete successfully the doctoral qualifying examination.

Ph.D. Focus Areas

A number of influences on the built and natural environment will drive future research needs and opportunities in civil and environmental engineering. As the world’s population continues to grow and concentrate in urban areas, it taxes all forms of existing infrastructure and creates significant environmental quality issues.

At the same time, much of the infrastructure in developed urban areas is aged and in poor condition. As the climate changes, weather patterns in both urban and rural areas will also change and create new challenges for both the built and natural environment in the form of more intense and frequent wind, flood and landslide events.

Each of our established focus areas serves to address these real challenges facing professionals in the civil and environmental engineering disciplines.

  • Advanced Infrastructure Systems (A.I.S.)
  • Environmental Engineering, Sustainability, and Science (E.E.S.S.)
  • Mechanics, Materials, and Computing (M.M.C.)

Students who have completed an MS degree in engineering from Carnegie Mellon or another institution are eligible to apply to the Ph.D. program in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Students who have completed the MS requirements at Carnegie Mellon who wish to continue must formally apply to the Ph.D. program.

How long will it take?

To complete a Ph.D., typically at least four years of graduate study beyond the BS degree, or three years of graduate study beyond the MS degree are required.

What is the form of the Ph.D. qualifying examination?

Ph.D. Candidates will be required to take a Qualifying Examination consisting of two parts:

  1. Comprehensive Examination
  2. Thesis Proposal Examination

For detailed information about the degree requirements for Ph.D. students, please visit our Ph.D. Requirements section.

What are the course requirements for the Ph.D. program?

There are no formal course requirements for the Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering program. Most Ph.D. students take some courses to prepare for the candidacy exam and/or provide additional background for their chosen research area.

Ph.D. Funding

Research Assistantships

Many of our graduate students conducting research in the department (typically doctoral students and, in a few cases, MS students) receive financial aid in the form of research assistantships that cover tuition, technology fees, and a stipend for living expenses for the calendar year (including Summer) up to five years, as long as sufficient progress is made toward degree completion. Funds for research assistantships generally come from external research contracts or grants, or from funds provided by fellowships from the US and other countries. Students are required to pay for health insurance, activity and transportation fees, and books and course supplies. Off-campus housing is available within walking distance to campus.

Students awarded with a research assistantship are required to devote approximately 20 hours per week in teaching and research activities, on top of the time they must devote for their course activity, which we consider to be an integral part of their graduate education.

Full-time Ph.D. students and the few MS students working on research projects engage in research under faculty guidance.

Graduate students are selected to receive offers of a research assistantship based on the following factors:

  • The qualifications and past performance of the student (based on transcripts, exams, and recommendations).
  • The interests of the student as stated in their “Statement of Purpose”.
  • The availability of externally funded research contracts in their stated areas of interest.
  • The student’s competitive position within the larger pool of highly qualified applicants.

Faculty members with research projects related to your area of interest may contact you and begin discussions about your interests and competencies. Please know that these interactions are very important in the RA decision process. Take them seriously and respond in a timely and responsible manner.

Ph.D. Fellowships

Our department is able to offer CIT Dean's Fellowships (complete tuition coverage for one year and $1,500 of support for use on the student's behalf) to qualified, first-year doctoral students admitted to the program. Students elected to receive this fellowship will be notified of the award in their offer letter.

The department also encourages all admitted students to apply for all fellowships for which they are eligible prior to join the university. Students who have been admitted with support will still benefit from a fellowship, which will allow greater flexibility in choosing a dissertation topic and also provides enhanced stability in research funding.

Several of the fellowships that students commonly apply for before coming to Carnegie Mellon include:

  • National Science Foundation
  • National Defense Science and Engineering
  • National Physical Science Consortium

If you would like to contact your advisor concerning a letter of support or assistance in developing your statement of purpose further for this application, please feel free to do so.

GEM Fellowship Program

The National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM), a nonprofit organization, was formed to help assist underrepresented groups (African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans) at the masters and doctoral levels in engineering and physical science.

The College of Engineering is pleased to support the GEM Fellowship program by offering a generous award to recipients in the GEM MS Engineering Fellowship Program. A few select applicants will be eligible for an award which augments the GEM contribution to the fellowship and will help to defray your overall cost of attendance in the MS program at CMU.

The application cycle for these three programs is July 1 – November 15.

GAANN Ph.D. Fellowship: A.I.S. - Transportation and Water

We are now accepting applications from qualified students for our newly formed GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) Ph.D. Fellowship program in Advanced Infrastructure Systems. This prestigious fellowship supports the education and training of students in fields designated as an area of critical national need and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Ph.D. Non-Traditional Students

Part-Time Ph.D. Students

Part-time Ph.D. enrollment is an option available for students in special circumstances, such as students who desire to pursue a Ph.D. part-time while maintaining external employment. However, all Ph.D. students must fulfill the minimum full-time residency requirement. International students may have requirements due to visa restrictions.

All part-time Ph.D. candidates must complete one academic year (two full semesters) in residence on campus after beginning studies in the Ph.D. program. The two full-time semesters in residence do not have to be continuous, however, at least one full-time semester should be completed prior to the semester in which the student takes the Ph.D. candidacy exam. The purpose of the residency requirement is to ensure that all Ph.D. graduates have spent time interacting closely with CEE faculty members and graduate students as part of their Ph.D. experience. The time in residence also ensures an adequate opportunity to prepare for and complete the Ph.D. qualifying examinations at the beginning of the graduate study. Consequently, students intending to become Ph.D. candidates must consult their faculty advisors concerning the appropriate format and timing of their qualifying examinations and residency before or upon initiation of Ph.D. studies. Special situations may warrant modifications of the residency requirement, e.g., the pursuit of a Ph.D. degree by a Carnegie Mellon staff member. Petitions for modification of the residency requirement must be approved by the Department Head and the CIT Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs.

Part-time Ph.D. students in CEE are required to be registered for a minimum of five (5) units each semester prior to the proposal exam. After completion of the proposal exam, students are moved to ABD status and eligible to petition for reduced units.

Intern Ph.D. Students

The Intern Ph.D. program is a part-time program designed for students interested in interacting closely with professional practice in the industry, consulting or government during their Ph.D. studies.

Program Requirements

  • One year of full-time residence at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Intern Ph.D. students may register for part-time status for the semesters not in residency. During these semesters, part-time students in CEE must register for a minimum of five units each semester prior to the proposal exam. After completion of the proposal exam, students are moved to ABD status and eligible to petition for reduced units.
  • Satisfactory completion of a two-part examination (candidacy examination and thesis proposal examination).
  • A formal arrangement with an industrial sponsor that includes regular release time for work on campus when not full-time, a co-advisor for the thesis and a commitment to provide support to complete the Ph.D. research work.
  • Completion and public defense of a thesis.

Every Intern Ph.D. program will be different and tailored to the individual student and industrial sponsor. A program, including a formalized schedule, is based on agreements among the student, the industrial sponsor, and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. The thesis research should be defined in an area where the industrial sponsor has or is planning to have, activity of a sufficient level and complexity to be the basis of a Ph.D. research thesis.

Graduate Application

Ready to Apply?

All applications are submitted online through the CMU College of Engineering.

Once you've created your account, the system will email you a PIN. This PIN, along with your password, allows you to save your application over several sessions. Within your account, you can monitor the status of your application and view your admission decision.

Application Deadlines
  • Spring: September 15
  • Fall: January 5
What To Include in Your Application

Your Application Will Include:

  • Application fee of $75USD
  • The online application form
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Uploaded unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be requested upon admission)
  • Essay Questions
  • CV/Resume
  • GRE test scores – please have scores sent directly to CMU by ETS.

Your official GRE and TOEFL scores from ETS and IELTS scores are the only hard copy documents that should be mailed to the Admissions Office. Please DO NOT mail any other paper documents to the CEE Graduate Admissions Office such as a resume/CV, publications, official transcripts, financial documents, or certificates as they will not be included in your file for review by the admissions committee.

If you have publications that you would like the admissions committee to review, please link to them in your online resume.

Any additional hard copy material mailed to the CEE Graduate Admissions Office will be discarded.

Test Reporting

  • ETS
    • Institution/School Code: 2074
    • GRE Department Code: 1102
    • TOEFL Department Code: 65
  • TOEFL minimum acceptable score is 84
    • Please contact your IELTS testing center and request that your scores be sent electronically using the IELTS system. An institutional code is NOT required but test scores should be directed to Carnegie Mellon University – Civil and Environmental Engineering. All IELTS test centers worldwide are able to send scores electronically to our institution.
    • IELTS minimum acceptable score is 7.0
Non-Native English Speaker Applicant Information

If your native language is not English then you will be required to take a TOFEL or IELTS exam to test your English proficiency. These scores must be sent to us directly from the testing agency.

If you attended and completed a four-year undergraduate degree at a university or college within the United States, you may be able to be granted a testing waiver. Please contact our graduate admissions office for information about testing waivers.

  • TOEFL minimum acceptable score is 84
  • IELTS minimum acceptable score is 7.0
Students with a Degree Outside of Engineering

While many of our incoming students have a degree in Civil Engineering, we have admitted individuals with backgrounds in various branches of engineering, science and information technology.

Students must hold a Bachelor’s degree to be admitted to the graduate program in CEE, and must have completed a set of basic mathematics and science courses.

You will be asked to upload a completed Course Audit Form with your online application.

Last updated Aug 2019

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About the School

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is part of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. We offer a number of programs and areas of study that are consistently ... Read More

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is part of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. We offer a number of programs and areas of study that are consistently ranked among the top programs nationally. Our research is organized into three major focus areas: Advanced Infrastructure Systems, Environmental Engineering, Sustainability, and Science, and Mechanics, Materials, and Computing. Read less