Top Civil Engineering Schools 

Top Engineering Schools

Civil engineering is a great industry to enter, providing a great starting salary, varied work, and the opportunity to specialize later in your career. Civil engineering is a fairly broad career path, with five main branches of civil engineering to choose from: 

  • Structural engineering 
  • Transportation engineering 
  • Water resources engineering 
  • Environmental engineering 
  • Geotechnical engineering 

There are also sub-categories of these branches to choose from, and as an engineer, you’ll have the opportunity to pursue a career in a specific branch of engineering if you’re passionate or particularly knowledgeable in a specific area.  

To start a career as a civil engineer, you’ll first need to get a degree. This can be from any of the 734 universities that offer civil engineering courses across the globe, but anyone interested in civil engineering careers should consider that the higher the rank of your chosen university, the more valuable your degree is. As a result of a more valuable civil engineering degree, you’re more employable. 

According to the esteemed QS World University Rankings, the top ten universities around the world for civil and structural engineering are as follows: 

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Massachusetts, U.S.A 
  2. Delft University of Technology – Delft, The Netherlands 
  3. National University of Singapore – Singapore 
  4. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) – California, U.S.A 
  5. University of Cambridge – Cambridge, England 
  6. Imperial College London – London, England 
  7. ETH, Zurich – Zurich, Switzerland 
  8. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – Singapore 
  9. Stanford University – California, U.S.A 
  10. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) – Vaun, Switzerland 

This article will guide you through the top civil engineering universities available in the U.S. However, any of the international universities listed above will also offer great, streamlined civil engineering courses.  

If you are considering undertaking a university course abroad but wish to work as a civil engineer in the U.S., be wary that you may need to meet certain licensing requirements, to check that your abilities and qualifications align with the standards in place for U.S. civil engineers.  

All universities listed below are ranked in the top 15% of all civil engineering schools in the U.S., so regardless of location, degree type, or level, these all make great choices. No matter which school you choose, you’ll have the ability to earn a high-quality engineering education and a degree likely to make you highly employable after graduation. 

Stanford University 

Stanford University is ranked as the 9th best civil engineering university globally and one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. across the board. Stanford is a private, non-profit organization centered around bettering education and looking toward a more sustainable future.  

Stanford’s engineering department has made considerable contributions to engineering research, innovation and education. Stanford’s engineering program is a great program for those with specialized interest in any niche within civil engineering, funding and providing equipment for engineering research projects across all areas.  

The latest and largest research projects and current engineering-related issues can be found on their engineering magazine which not only provides readers with inspiration, but also provides students and researchers with the opportunity to share their methodologies, findings, and make real, noticeable contributions to the field. 

Stanford has recently opened a new school, the Doerr School of Sustainability, demonstrating their prioritization of combatting the current climate crisis. Civil engineers with an interest in Environmental Engineering can spend time in this department, expanding their knowledge of eco-friendly and sustainable engineering projects. 

Stanford offers a range of engineering-related courses, including Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computational and Mathematical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Management Science and Engineering, Materials Science and Engineer and Mechanical Engineering.  

With such an extensive list of choices, Stanford has made it clear that any budding engineering student can find their niche and thrive here. The median starting salary for Stanford civil engineering graduates is $78,911. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 

MIT was founded in 1861, and currently has a total of 11,934 students. Of the 4,638 undergraduates the university facilitates, 48% are female and 56% originate from U.S. minority groups.  

MIT makes a conscious effort to offer equal opportunities for all potential students and accommodate any and all students, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality.  

MIT is famous for its engineering and physical science programs, however, other areas like linguistics, political sciences, economics and philosophy, are also world-renowned.  

MIT has ten engineering and engineering-related departments: 

  • Aeronautics and Astronautics 
  • Biological Engineering 
  • Chemical Engineering 
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 
  • Institute for Data, Systems and Society 
  • Institute for Medical Science and Engineering 
  • Materials Science and Engineering 
  • Mechanical Engineering 
  • Nuclear Science and Engineering 

Although civil engineering branches into many of these areas, MIT gives its students the option of choosing a niche at the early stages of their careers. 

As perhaps the most engineering-equipped university on this list, MIT has an extensive list of further centers, groups and laboratories across its campus that offer to help with niche research areas. These can be found on their research page, and impressively include specialized areas such as “Ocean Engineering” and “Automotive Engineering.” 

MIT is one of the leading universities in engineering research and offers students the opportunity to experience research projects first-hand with their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.  

MIT is one of the world’s best engineering schools, so civil engineers graduating from this institution will be fully equipped for any future employment. Due to the value of a degree from this world-renowned university, the average starting salary for engineering graduates sits at around $80,199.

top engineering schools
via Pixabay 

University of Southern California 

University of Southern California (USC) is a high-ranking university across the board that provides excellent facilities, research and academic education for engineers. 

There are a vast range of engineering-related research projects being carried out at USC, that cover a variety of different areas such as artificial intelligence, photonics, robotics and much more. 

USC provides civil engineering courses for undergraduates, postgraduates and also those wanting to obtain a doctorate. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering encompasses eight departments and provides numerous programs that currently serve approximately 2,700 undergraduates and 5,900 graduates. 

The median starting salary for civil engineering graduates at USC is $78,636. 

Columbia University in New York City 

Columbia University is not only in the heart of buzzing New York City but is also one of the esteemed Ivy League schools in the U.S. The university provides undergraduate, master and doctoral civil engineering courses and is designed to fully qualify students with technical foundations, leadership capabilities and decision-making abilities. 

There are various research areas available at Columbia University that students can get involved with. This opens them up to new engineering niches, allowing them the opportunity to explore and utilize different types of engineering to consider specialization in the future. 

These research areas include the following: 

  • Advanced Materials 
  • Computational Mechanics 
  • Construction Engineering and Management 
  • Fluid Mechanics 
  • Geotechnical Engineering 
  • Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment and Mitigation 
  • Safety and Reliability 
  • Transportation Engineering 

These are all sub-categories of civil engineering or engineering divisions that can be applied to many different civil engineering areas or projects. 

The average starting salary after graduating with a civil engineering degree from Colombia is $75,497. 

Northwestern University  

Northwestern University is one of the leading private research and academic institutions in the U.S., located in Illinois. Its Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is ranked among the best for U.S. research and teaching facilities and programs. 

This department is split into four sub-divisions: Materials Systems, Ecosystems, Urban Systems and Human Systems. Students can utilize and explore each of these sectors, learning more about civil engineering as a whole and potentially finding their niche through specialized information and research projects. 

Alongside teaching engineering principles necessary for the application to real civil engineering projects, Northwestern University is paired with several engineering firms across Chicago, which allows students to gain hands-on engineering experience and prepare for their future careers both on and off-site. 

This can provide unique opportunities to experience engineering work on-site, as well as the potential use of engineering equipment such as drones or digital twin technologies. 

University of Notre Dame 

The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic institution based in Indiana. Founded on Catholic principles, the university takes pride in its attempt to better the surrounding world, whether through philanthropic efforts or leading educational programs that strive to create a better future for the country. 

The university currently accommodates 8,874 undergraduate students, 3,935 graduates and 1,424 faculty members. According to Forbes, they are the 36th-ranked institution for higher learning in the U.S. 

Civil engineering courses are open for undergraduates, postgraduates and doctorates, and all include huge opportunities for on-site, hands-on learning through the available field trips. The course options are extensive and can provide teaching for all areas of engineering. 

The average starting salary for a civil engineer following education at Notre Dame is $67,169. 

Duke University 

Duke University was founded in 1924, is located in North Carolina, and encompasses ten different schools for different subject specialties. The Pratt School of Engineering was established in 1939 and is divided into four sectors: Computing, Materials, Environment and Health.  

The university takes pride in its research projects that aim to improve the country’s environmental, medical and technological impacts and look toward a brighter future. 

Of the graduating engineering seniors, 91% are immediately employed or receive job offers after studying at Duke.

The Pratt department aims to equip students with the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience, and entrepreneurial confidence needed for a successful civil engineering career. 

Princeton University 

Princeton University is another Ivy League school with great credentials for civil engineering. Founded in 1746, Princeton is one of the oldest and most respected schools in the country. 

Princeton accommodates various engineering types, such as Chemical and Biological Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering, to name a few.  

Their Civil and Environmental Engineering department was ranked #1 in the country by the National Research Council, which compared 130 different programs in the U.S. 

A civil engineering degree from Princeton is a respectable and highly valuable qualification that can help you earn high salaries with top engineering firms.  

best engineering schools

University of Washington, Seattle 

The University of Washington (UW) was ranked #7 worldwide by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities Rankings. The institution educates over 54,000 students per year, providing quality services, facilities and teaching. 

The UW’s College of Engineering has a range of different engineering departments, allowing students the opportunity to dive into different engineering areas to find what best suits them. 

Its Civil and Environmental Engineering department prepares students to find solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, provides quality education on engineering principles, and sets them up to face any challenge that may appear in infrastructural, urban, transportation, environments, geotechnical and construction areas. 

The median starting salary for a UW civil engineering graduate is $70,459. 

Carnegie Mellon University 

Carnegie Mellon University is a leading institution based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It accommodates over 14,500 students from over 100 different countries and 1,300 faculty members from 50 countries around the world. 

The Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon has a series of research strengths including: Sustainable Infrastructure, Water and Air Quality Engineering, Resilient Materials and Green Engineering Practices. 

The department provides a rich supply of information and experience opportunities to help students reach their full potential and become the best civil engineers they can be. 

The institution ranked #8 out of 2,241 colleges in the U.S., proving that the university is well-established, prestigious, and a great place for your education. 

Final Thoughts 

A career in civil engineering is diverse and rewarding, but to the first step is a civil engineering degree. Most universities worldwide offer civil engineering courses, but in this article we’ve given you an idea of which universities are top-ranked, and provide quality and innovative education and resources. 

For more information about civil engineering, visit Fenstermaker’s engineering service page.

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