Studying Civil Engineering at UVA


Civil Engineering is the broadest of all engineering professions and encompasses the application of science and technology to the planning, design, analysis, construction, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and natural environment. Civil engineers are the fabricators of modern society and the protectors of our environment. As part of the unique Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, our civil engineering program emphasizes the complex interrelationships between infrastructure, social systems, and the environment. We develop civil engineers who will seek to sustainably and equitably design, management, and construct infrastructure systems, and who are prepared to innovate with new materials and create and use digital and virtual technologies. Civil infrastructure is diverse, including many subsystems such as stormwater and drinking water systems, waste management systems, neighborhoods, highways, railways, high-rise buildings, and bridges. We develop the insight to anticipate how changes in one subsystem may affect the others and ultimately the environment, energy systems, communities, and the quality of life.

Graduates with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering may opt for employment with engineering and consulting firms; local, state, or federal governments; contractors or construction firms; public utilities; or industrial corporations. Those with a graduate degree may choose from more advanced employment opportunities in government, consulting, construction, or industry; in addition to research and teaching opportunities.

Degrees Offered

Undergraduate Degree

  • Bachelor of Science (BS)

Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Engineering (ME)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Subareas of Civil Engineering

  • Structural Engineering

    Structural Analysis | Structural Design

    Structural engineering involves the utilization of art and science in the planning, analysis, design, and construction of structural systems. It encompasses the areas of structural analysis and design, structural mechanics, soil mechanics, foundation design, and structural properties of materials. Typical structures of concern to the structural engineer include the traditional civil engineering structures such as buildings, bridges, highways, and dams, but also the more specialized and complex types of structures such as aircraft and space structures, nuclear containment vessels, transmission towers, and underground structures. The fundamental principles of engineering mechanics comprise the theoretical underpinning of all areas of structural engineering. Application of these principles permits the structural engineer to determine the stresses and corresponding serviceability of a structure, the geotechnical engineer to assess the engineering properties of soil and the corresponding appropriate foundation design, and the materials engineer to predict and design engineering materials with desired strength and response characteristics. While structural engineers use sophisticated mathematical models and employ digital computers extensively to perform analysis calculations, the total planning and design of a structural system requires experience and judgement as well as mathematical abilities.

    Although only one part of the overall civil engineering profession, structural engineering is a broad discipline offering challenging opportunities in a diversity of career paths. The undergraduate program in civil engineering at the University of Virginia attempts to provide every student with the necessary fundamentals in structural engineering. Therefore, the student will be able to make a reasonable choice as to career preferences and will also have the necessary background to make a contribution in the chosen job, whether it be with a consulting firm, private industry, or government.

  • Civil Engineering Materials

    Selection of Building Materials | Mechanics of Advanced Materials

    As builders of the infrastructure of society, civil engineers need a strong understanding of the property of materials as they relate to civil engineering. Properties of stress, strain, shear, and deformation are applied to a wide range of engineering materials, including metals, concrete, wood, and composites. Knowledge of these materials allow a civil engineer to select appropriate building materials. A civil engineer emphasizing this area is prepared for future study in applied mechanics.

  • Geotechnical Engineering

    Soil and Rock Mechanics | Foundation Engineering | Earthquake Engineering

    Geotechnical Engineering focuses on the engineering behavior of earth materials such as soil and rock. Geotechnical engineering uses principles of soil mechanics and rock mechanics to investigate subsurface conditions and materials by determining the relevant physical/mechanical and chemical properties of these materials. Since most every civil engineering project is supported by the ground in some manner, geotechnical engineers interact with most of the other subareas of civil engineering. Typical geotechnical engineering projects include the design of foundations for various structures, tunneling, the design of roadway sub-grades, design of earthen dams for water storage or flood control, or the disposal of waste products by burial in the ground.

  • Water Resources Engineering

    Mechanics of Fluids | Stormwater Management | Groundwater Hydrology | Water Supply | Flood Management

    Water resources engineers address a wide variety of challenges related to quantities of water, ranging from providing water supply to developing communities, managing stormwater runoff in highly urbanized cities, restoring riverways, and protecting coastal communities from flooding. A successful water resource engineer uses, not only physics, mathematics, and computer modeling, but also economics, regional planning and communication. Graduates that have specialized in water resources engineering are often employed by public agencies and consulting engineering firms. Water resources courses within the Civil Engineering Program include fluid mechanics, water resources engineering, stormwater management, and groundwater hydrology. In addition, courses from complementary programs, such as environmental sciences, global development studies, and urban and regional planning are encouraged to strengthen and broaden a civil engineer’s preparation to successfully address the complex challenge of creating sustainable water resource systems.

  • Environmental Engineering

    Water and Wastewater Treatment | Environmental Chemistry | Pollutant Transport | Environmental Quality Management | Waste Management

    Environmental engineering focuses on the interface between human society and the environment. Environmental engineers seek to make the environment safe for humans, while minimizing our impact on the environment. The field addresses a wide range of natural and manmade problems that exist in both undeveloped countries and highly technological societies. An environmental engineer must be technically competent and have the ability to analyze a problem, interpret the results, and synthesize a solution that is technically, economically, socially, and politically viable. Graduates that have specialized in environmental engineering are employed by industry, environmental agencies and consulting engineering firms, and may apply their skills to a broad range of challenges, including water and wastewater treatment; toxic and hazardous waste management; solid waste management; air pollution; contaminant transport modeling; and sustainability management. Within the Civil Engineering Program, students interested in environmental engineering may study water and wastewater treatment, environmental chemistry, environmental microbiology, contaminant transport, and green engineering. In addition, courses from complementary programs, such as environmental sciences, chemistry, and global development studies are encouraged to strengthen and broaden a civil engineer’s preparation to successfully address the challenges facing our environment.

  • Construction Engineering and Management

    Construction Engineering | Project Management and Planning | Engineering Economics

    Infrastructure engineers and project managers implement designs, overseeing the construction of a wide range of structures, including highways systems, office parks, neighborhoods, and dams. Civil engineers working in this area, combine business and engineering skills. A construction engineer has the technical expertise to understand civil engineering designs, translate them into a sequence of steps, and then schedule and implement them. In the infrastructure area, engineers may work on-site overseeing the work of a large team of engineers, workers, and contractors.

    In our program, students will can learn about engineering economics, computer aided design, reading designs, site planning, construction management, scheduling, and advanced information and visualization systems for construction.

    Construction Engineering and Management Concentration
  • Transportation Engineering

    Design of Transportation Systems | Highway Safety and Traffic Operations | Transportation Infrastructure and Advanced Technology

    Transportation engineering involves the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of large scale transportation facilities such as highways, airports, railroads, harbors, pipelines, and public transit systems. The civil engineer designs, builds and manages the infrastructure that provides for movement of both people and freight.

    At the University of Virginia, undergraduate courses in transportation engineering focus on geometric design, pavement design, road user and vehicle characteristics, traffic studies and urban transportation planning. Computer methods are introduced and applied in many transportation applications. Complementary courses include probability and statistics and systems engineering courses. This transportation curriculum provides an excellent introduction to the methodology of transportation systems analysis and design.

    The field of transportation engineering is comprised of two main streams of development: technology and planning. Technology is critical to the understanding of the function of the system, in predicting its performance and its costs, and in identifying alternatives in the form of fixed plant investments as well as operational changes. Planning methods are critical to long range plans and short term system management problems, such as energy shortages and air pollution.

    The opportunities in transportation engineering appear to be excellent in the future. Graduates may be employed by governmental agencies, private companies, railroads, shippers or transportation consultants. The transportation program at the University of Virginia is a flexible one that will prepare the student for a wide choice of careers.

Licensure Disclosure

As a member of the State Authorizations Reciprocity Agreement, the University of Virginia (UVA) is authorized to provide curriculum in a distance learning environment to students located in all states in the United States except for California. (34 CFR 668.43(a)(6) & 34 CFR 668.72(n)).

Upon completion of an engineering degree program which prepares graduates for licensure or certification, graduates may be eligible for initial professional licensure in another U.S. state by applying to the licensing board or agency in that state. Please visit the University’s state authorization web pages to make an informed decision regarding which states’ educational requirements for initial licensure are met by this program. (668.43(a)(5) (v)(A) - (C))
Enrolled students who change their current (or mailing) address to a state other than Virginia should update this information immediately in the Student Information System as it may impact their ability to complete internship, practicum, or clinical hours, use Title IV funds, or meet licensure or certification requirements in the new state. (34 CFR 668.402).