Online Civil Engineering Degrees

The field of civil engineering involves the design, construction, and maintenance of various aspects of the built environment, including bridges, roads, dams, buildings, and water supply and sewage treatment systems. Civil engineers work in a wide variety of locations and situations, but often spend time outdoors monitoring construction sites.

In an online civil engineering program, you’ll gain a broad understanding of math and physics concepts needed to identify and solve engineering problems. You’ll also hone your project management and communication skills; when problems arise, people tend to look to the civil engineer for solutions. The best civil engineers have a broad skill set and are creative, critical thinkers.

Interested in pursuing an online civil engineering degree? Explore our guide for an overview of the industry and a breakdown of degree levels, including career opportunities for graduates of online bachelor’s in civil engineering programs and online master’s in civil engineering programs.

Meet our expert

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Michael Schneider Civil Engineering

“In civil engineering the student will need to develop skills unique to the specialty they wish to pursue.”

Online Civil Engineering Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $5,573 21.95% 2 years N/A N/A 7.2%
Bachelor's $12,177 7.9% 4 years $52,000 $91,000 4%
Master's $19,196 5.61% 1+ years N/A $104,000 3%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

You can earn a civil engineering degree online at any level, but most entry-level careers require an online civil engineering bachelor degree at minimum. Graduates with an online bachelor’s in civil engineering enjoy a lower unemployment rate and a significantly smaller loan default rate than their associate-holding counterparts. Still, if you want to move into a more advanced position and qualify for promotions, it helps to have a civil engineering degree at the master’s level. Civil engineers in many parts of the United States must also be licensed in order to work — we’ll discuss this in more detail at the end of the guide.

Online Civil Engineering Degrees

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Online Associate’s Degree in Civil Engineering

An associate civil engineering degree prepares graduates for entry-level work in the civil engineering field, often times as a civil engineering technician. It usually takes two years to earn an associate degree in civil engineering online, and many students continue with their education to earn an online civil engineering bachelor degree.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Construction Methods and Materials, College Algebra, College Physics, Computer Aided Design, Surveying

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Building construction technology, civil engineering technology, civil engineering

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Civil engineering technician, drafter

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $49,260 for civil engineering technicians, $52,720 for drafters

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    From 2014-2024: 5% increase for civil engineering technicians and 3% decrease for drafters

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering is required in order to gain entry to most civil engineering jobs and to become a licensed civil engineer in many locales. It takes around four years to earn an online civil engineering bachelor degree.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Civil Engineering Design, Calculus, Graphical Communication, General Surveying, Introduction to Geology

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Civil engineering, construction engineering, transportation systems engineering, structural systems engineering, environmental and water systems engineering

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Civil engineer, architect, construction managers

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $82,220 for civil engineers, $76,100 for architects, and $87,400 for construction managers

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    From 2014-2024: 8% increase for civil engineers, 7% increase for architects, and 5% increase for construction managers

Online Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering

A master’s degree in civil engineering will set you up for the best paying positions in the civil engineering field, particularly senior-level management positions that involve supervision of many employees. About one in four civil engineers have a master’s degree. Earning an advanced civil engineering degree entails greater specialization and higher levels of expertise. It takes one to two years to earn an online masters in civil engineering.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    The Art of Structural Design, Uncertainty and Risk in Civil Infrastructure Systems, Earthquake and Wind Engineering, Civil Engineering Management, Construction Industry Law

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Environmental engineering, transportation engineering, structural engineering, construction engineering and management

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Civil engineer, engineering manager, environmental engineer

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $82,220 for civil engineers, $132,800 for engineering managers, and $84,560 for environmental engineers

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    From 2014-2024: 8% increase for civil engineers, 2% increase engineering managers, and 12% increase for environmental engineers

Online Doctorate Degree in Civil Engineering

A doctorate in civil engineering is suited to those interested in conducting independent and original research in the field or in teaching civil engineering. Earning a doctorate degree in civil engineering can take up to seven years. Costs for the degree can vary substantially depending on the program, but many schools provide substantial aid to PhD candidates in civil engineering. Civil engineering online degrees are available.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Civil Engineering Seminar, Nonlinear Computational Mechanics, Theory of Elasticity, Structural Health Monitoring

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Doctor of engineering science, doctor of philosophy

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Professor of civil engineering, civil engineering researcher, senior civil engineer

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $72,470 for professors of civil engineering and $82,220 for civil engineers

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    From 2014-2024: 13% for professors of civil engineering and 8% increase for civil engineers

Online Civil Engineering Choose Your Career

Average Civil Engineering Salaries

$132,800
$68,220
$84,560
$82,220
$49,260

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Salary: $132,800
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
2% 182,100 Bachelor's N/A

Architectural and engineering managers are responsible for planning and coordinating a wide range of activities at architectural and engineering companies. You will usually need to have considerable work experience as either an architect or engineer in order to get this job. Job duties include developing concepts for new products and solving technical problems, which often involves creating detailed plans. Architectural and engineering managers also prepare budgets, hire staff, and supervise workers. An online civil engineering bachelor degree will prepare students with the skills they need to enter this field.

Urban & Regional Planners

Salary: $68,220
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 38,000 Masters N/A

Urban and regional planners create land use plans and programs that help communities grow successfully. Most planners work for local governments. Planners identify community needs and create short- and long-term solutions. They work with a wide range of people, including public officials, community members, business interests, and non-profit groups. Some of their duties include attending meetings about land use and development plans, gathering and analyzing data, reviewing plans, making recommendations, and presenting projects to the public and local government. An online masters in civil engineering will help you obtain work in this specialty.

Environmental Engineer

Salary: $84,560
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
12% 55,100 Bachelor's N/A

Environmental engineers develop solutions to environmental problems using the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry. If you are good at science, concerned about the environment, and like solving problems you might make a good environmental engineer. Environmental engineers help improve pollution control, recycling, public health, and waste disposal. Some duties of environmental engineers include designing systems that better protect the environment, developing regulations, conducting studies, analyzing data, inspecting facilities, and providing technical support. An online civil engineering bachelor degree is usually needed to get work as an environmental engineer.

Civil Engineer

Salary: $82,220
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
8% 281,400 Bachelor's N/A

Civil engineers design, build, supervise, and maintain construction projects, including roads, dams, buildings, bridges, tunnels, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. They work on complex projects, and usually specialize in one of several areas: construction, geotechnical, structural, or transportation. Civil engineers analyze plans, maps, and other data and then consider costs, regulations, and risks to plan projects. They perform or oversee testing of building materials and soils, use design software, and present findings to the public. Many hold supervisory positions. An online civil engineering bachelor degree will help you reach the qualifications needed to work in this field.

Civil Engineer Technician

Salary: $49,260
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
5% 74,000 Associates N/A

Civil engineering technicians assist civil engineers in planning, designing, and building highways, bridges, infrastructure, and commercial, residential, and industrial development projects. Job duties include reading and reviewing project drawings and plans, using computer aided design software, observing project sites, testing construction materials, developing plans and estimating costs, preparing reports, collecting data, and preparing analyses. If you are good at learning a variety of computer programs and enjoy varied job duties, you might make a good civil engineering technician. Civil engineer technicians usually have an associate civil engineering degree, which can be earned in an online civil engineering program.

Online Civil Engineering Degree in Action

Michael Schneider Civil Engineering

Michael earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering in 1976 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He worked as an engineer for the federal government from June 1976 January 2008 and is now living in Texas.

When and how did you begin pursuing a career in civil engineering?

I actually wanted to be an airplane pilot -- I tried unsuccessfully to get an appointment with the U.S. Air Force Academy. At the time I graduated from high school, the Vietnam War was at its peak. I couldn’t afford to pay for college and was likely to be drafted. I enlisted in the Marine Corps instead. My service in the Marines got me four years of college under the VA Bill. I started taking flying lessons about the same time I entered the University of Nebraska at Omaha in February 1971.

The University of Nebraska didn’t have an aeronautical engineering program at either the Omaha or Lincoln campuses. I didn’t want to have to pay non-resident tuition at an out of state college, so an advisor at UNO suggested I could take the basic engineering courses at UNO then transfer to Lincoln and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, which would be just as desirable to an employer as an aeronautical degree. I started college with that plan in mind. I had trouble with a couple of subjects during my 3rd semester of college, which made me question whether I could succeed as an engineer. The summer following that semester I was employed as an engineering aid by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at their office located in Canon City, Colorado. I worked directly under a civil engineer and in some really beautiful countries. I felt like he had the ideal job. He surveyed projects in the field during the summer months, then prepared plans and specifications for them in the winter months. I decided to go for a CE degree.

What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

I liked design work the best. Preparing drawings for something like a parking lot, for instance, and then seeing it actually constructed.

What types of skills does a student develop in a strong civil engineering degree program?

Like the medical field, civil engineering has become quite specialized. Structural engineers design things like the frame of buildings and bridges. Water resource engineers work on the design of dams and canals to supply water for irrigation, hydroelectric generation, and to prevent flood damage. Sanitary engineers are primarily concerned with treating water to make it suitable for drinking and treating wastewater to prevent pollution. Geotechnical engineers are mainly concerned with designing adequate foundations for buildings, dams, and other structures that special consideration of soil conditions. Transportation engineers design roads, rail lines, airports, and harbor facilities.

Mathematics, especially calculus, is important in all engineering fields. In civil engineering, however, the student will need to develop skills unique to the specialty they wish to pursue. For instance, the structural engineer needs to know how the properties of steel and concrete affect the strength of beams, columns, and girders made from those materials. A student needs to know how to read and prepare construction drawings even if the student, as an engineer, may not be preparing the drawings.

Describe your typical day-to-day work while you were employed for the government as an engineer.

When I was employed as a design engineer, I was involved in a project from conception through completion. On a typical day, I might start out working on a set of drawings, preparing sketches for the draftsmen, or doing some calculations. Then I might be called away because some unforeseen problem arose on a project I designed. I would have to resolve the problem, keeping the cost of the solution at a minimum. During the day I might also have to take a survey team out to take some measurements I needed for project design. I might also have to search catalogues (probably done online these days) to select certain materials or equipment I might need for my current design project.

What advice would you give someone who wants to establish a career for themselves in this industry?

I think the best advice I can give is to find out what you are getting into. If you are interested in highway engineering, for instance, see if you can spend a day shadowing a highway engineer to see what he actually does. As an alternative, you can search the internet for job descriptions, but I usually find the descriptions to be rather vague. Perhaps a better approach would be to talk to some civil engineering professors at the closest college. Most college professors that teach engineering courses had previous experience as engineers before being hired by the college. In fact, many are still doing a little consulting on the side.

Online Civil Engineering Professional Requirements

Civil Engineering PE Exam

The Principles and Practice of Civil Engineering (PE) Exam tests your ability to practice civil engineering competently and is required to become a licensed professional engineer in the United States. It is designed to be taken by civil engineers who have at least four years of post-college work experience in the field of civil engineering. There are five civil engineering discipline exams that exam takers must choose from: construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources and environmental. You should find out the licensing requirements for civil engineers in your jurisdiction to see if you should take the PE exam. In many places, only licensed engineers can legally register to stamp and sign engineering drawings as a professional engineer. Some jurisdictions only allow licensed engineers to practice engineering.

Is it required?

Varies

How long will it take?

8 hours

Building Security Certification Program (BSCP)

The Building Security Certified Professional Program provides design and security professionals with a credential that demonstrates an understanding of building security issues. The process of going through the BSCP provides new skills for those with a civil engineering online degree, including experience with a rating system for assessing building security requirements. Professionals with the designation benefit from listing in the BSCP database, where building owners and managers look for building security professionals. To qualify to take the BSCP you must have a professional engineer license.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

3 hours

Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP)

The Envision Sustainability Professional designation is available for anyone who finishes the Envision training course and passes the exam, which demonstrates their expertise with Envision. Envision is a rating system for sustainable infrastructure designed to be used by professionals involved in planning, designing, building, and maintaining civil infrastructure. The course is available as seven one-hour modules, and can either be completed online or in person at a full-day workshop. The ENV SP designation is useful for civil engineers interested in working in sustainability.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

7 hours