Best Civil Engineering Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Civil engineering is a broad field that focuses on the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment. This includes roads, bridges, dams, buildings, and more. For students interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering, choosing the right college is an important decision. The following are 10 of the top civil engineering schools in the United States based on factors like reputation, research output, selectivity, and more.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT Score: 1520

Tuition: $55,892 per year

Website: http://catalog.mit.edu/schoolofengineering/civil-environmentalengineering/

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is world renowned for its programs in science, technology, engineering and math. The civil and environmental engineering department stands out even at this prestigious institution. MIT takes an interdisciplinary approach, allowing undergrads to take classes across departments. Hands-on research opportunities, award-winning faculty, and excellent career prospects after graduation make MIT a top choice.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 9.3/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $57,699 per year

Website: https://cee.stanford.edu/

The west coast’s equivalent of MIT, Stanford University is highly selective about who it admits. But those who do get in will find Stanford offers amazing research opportunities even for undergrads. Stanford’s civil and environmental engineering faculty are leaders in earthquake engineering, atmospheric modeling, and sustainability. Students also frequently take advantage of Stanford’s proximity to Silicon Valley.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 9.2/10

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition: $44,007 per year (in-state), $64,356 per year (out-of-state)

Website: https://ce.berkeley.edu/

UC Berkeley is world famous for its engineering programs across the board. Berkeley offers top-notch academics without the Ivy League price tag, at least for California residents. Its civil and environmental engineering faculty lead research projects across a wide range of specialties including transportation, earthquake engineering, and environmental fluid mechanics. Undergraduate students are encouraged to get involved in research early on.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana, IL

Rating: 9.0/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT Score: 1355

Tuition: $17,620 per year (in-state), $36,352 per year (out-of-state)

Website: https://cee.illinois.edu/

Don’t let the high acceptance rate fool you, UIUC is one of the top engineering schools in the country. In particular its civil and environmental engineering program stands out even among prestigious peers. UIUC boasts many award winning faculty and successful alumni. And location in the rural Midwest keeps costs down, making UIUC accessible to students on a budget.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Location: Atlanta, GA

Rating: 8.8/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT Score: 1465

Tuition: $12,682 per year (in-state), $33,346 per year (out of state)

Website: https://ce.gatech.edu/

Georgia Tech is synonymous with engineering in the American Southeast. In particular, its civil and environmental engineering program focuses on the latest technology to analyze structural mechanics, hydrotechnology, transportation, and more. Georgia Tech attracts top students from across the country. Career prospects after graduation are excellent. And Atlanta is an affordable place to live and work during college.

Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, IN

Rating: 8.7/10

Acceptance Rate: 60%

Avg SAT Score: 1380

Tuition: $9,992 per year (in-state), 28,794 per year (out-of-state)

Website: https://engineering.purdue.edu/CE/Academics/Undergraduate

Purdue University is one of the leading research universities in the midwest. Its schools of engineering and technology are particularly well known. Within that, the Lyles School of Civil Engineering offers world class education and research opportunities in areas like structures and construction, hydrotechnology, and transportation. Graduates benefit from the Purdue engineering pedigree. And Indiana residents benefit from relatively low in state tuition.

Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $59,320 per year

Website: https://cee.engineering.cornell.edu/undergraduate/

Cornell University manages to combine Ivy League prestige with a focus on practicality and technology, meaning their engineering programs are second to none. Cornell civil and environmental engineers conduct cutting edge research supported by significant external funding. Students work alongside award winning faculty and PhD candidates across areas ranging from environmental processes to resilience modeling. The Ithaca campus provides a classic college town experience.

University of Texas at Austin

Location: Austin, TX

Rating: 8.3/10

Acceptance Rate: 32%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition: $10,748 per year (in-state), $38,326 per year (out-of-state)

Website: https://www.ce.utexas.edu/

Everything is bigger in Texas, including its civil engineering program. UT Austin is the flagship university of Texas and its Cockrell School of Engineering is one of the top public engineering schools in the country. Civil engineering students conduct research ranging from structural design to transportation planning. UT Austin also benefits from its location in one of the fastest growing and most dynamic cities in America. Longhorns get to enjoy Austin’s thriving scene.

Virginia Tech

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Rating: 8.2/10

Acceptance Rate: 70%

Avg SAT Score: 1280

Tuition: $13,691 per year (in-state), $32,543 per year (out-of-state)

Website: https://www.cee.vt.edu/

Virginia Tech is consistently ranked as having one of the top engineering programs in the country at an affordable price. The Charles Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers degrees in several focus areas including construction, environmental, materials, structures, transportation, and water. Hands on learning starts early on. VT’s location in rural southwest Virginia provides plenty of outdoor activities alongside a close-knit college town culture.

Rice University

Location: Houston, TX

Rating: 8.0/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Avg SAT Score: 1520

Tuition: $50,550 per year

Website: https://ceve.rice.edu/

Rice University is the Ivy League of Texas. Rice is highly selective but those admitted will find a top tier research institution. Rice civil and environmental engineering faculty lead research projects funded through over $20 million annually in external funding. Undergraduates are highly encouraged to get involved in research. Rice’s location in Houston also provides opportunities to collaborate with some of the nation’s largest engineering companies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is a broad field focused on the design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure and the human built environment. This includes roads, bridges, buildings, dams, and water distribution systems. Civil engineers plan, analyze, and oversee these large construction projects.

What classes do you take as a civil engineering major?

Typical courses in a civil engineering program include physics, calculus, statics, mechanics, hydraulics, structural analysis, soil mechanics, and more. You’ll apply these engineering sciences to design real world systems like bridges, buildings, water systems, and transportation infrastructure.

Is civil engineering a good major?

Yes, civil engineering remains one of the most stable and in-demand engineering fields. Infrastructure constantly needs upgrading and civil engineers are essential to planning for population growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 10% job growth for civil engineers from 2020 to 2030.

Is civil engineering hard?

Civil engineering does involve challenging coursework like calculus, physics, and engineering mechanics. But it can be very rewarding to apply this knowledge to designing and building real world structures. Hands-on work and lab courses also appeal to students who prefer practical learning.

What jobs can you get with a civil engineering degree?

Civil engineers work in roles like construction managers, structural engineers, project engineers, transportation engineers, geotechnical engineers, environmental engineers, urban planners, construction supervisors and more. Top employers include government agencies, engineering firms, and major construction companies.

What is the average starting salary for a civil engineer?

According to Payscale, the average entry level salary for civil engineers is $66,500 per year in the United States. Senior civil engineers with 5-10 years experience make over $90,000 on average. Location, education, skillset impact salaries.

Should I get a masters degree in civil engineering?

A masters degree is not required to start a civil engineering career. But an MS in civil engineering is desirable for advancing into leadership roles and management. Many master’s programs focus on specializations like structural or transportation engineering.

What is the best civil engineering school?

The top ranked civil engineering schools in the United States are MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Cornell, UT Austin, Virginia Tech, and Rice University. But many accredited engineering schools offer quality civil engineering education.

How much does it cost to study civil engineering?

Annual tuition for a BS in civil engineering ranges widely: public schools cost $10,000-$35,000 per year for residents, while elite private universities cost upwards of $55,000 per year. Total costs usually range from $35,000 for a full degree at in-state public schools to over $200,000 at private colleges.

What is the hardest part about being a civil engineer?

Many civil engineers consider project deadlines and budgets to be the most difficult parts of their work. Coordinating contractors, suppliers, clients while staying on timetable and budget provides constant challenges. Site conditions, politics, bureaucracy can also complicate executing on infrastructure projects.

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Rohit Mittal

Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.