Master of Science

Degree Requirements

30 course credits

  • 6 credits in the department courses
  • 9 credits in study track specific CEE core courses
  • At least 9 credits from other approved graduate courses, with preference for engineering courses.
  • 6 research credits to support their MS thesis. The student takes an oral exam on the thesis.
  • Participation in the Graduate Colloquium
  • Completion of the rubric form (thesis or non-thesis)

A maximum of 12 of the total 30 credits may be earned via transfer of earlier graduate credits under the Graduate School rules.

Students Entering with non CEE Undergraduate Background

Admitted students with academic backgrounds outside of civil and environmental engineering may need to take some CEE undergraduate level courses in order to be prepared for graduate level coursework. Some of these courses may be counted towards the MS or PhD degree requirements. Please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Study Tracks

Each study track is associated with a sequence of core courses that parallel the research interests of our faculty. The study track courses are taught on a regular basis.

Civil Track:

Environmental Tracks:

Thesis Preparation

The Master's Thesis should follow the format defined in Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, and should include the following items:

  • An abstract with objectives and clearly stated unique contributions,
  • A survey and discussion/synthesis of pertinent literature, 
  • Discussions of the completed research tasks, including theory development, data collection, analysis, and documentation, and
  • A set of conclusions that emphasize new theoretical, modeling, or experimental contributions; or novel applications of existing theories.

The quality of the Master’s Thesis should allow the material to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Here is some more information on the master's thesis from Duke's graduate school website.

Thesis Defense

Upon the completion of the written thesis, the student must defend it orally. The thesis Advisor must approve the thesis for the defense before its final submission to the Faculty Committee. In a letter to the Graduate School, the Advisor states that he/she has read the thesis and that it is complete and ready for defense. The defense takes place no less than one week after the student has submitted the thesis to the Graduate School and presented copies to the Faculty Committee members. The oral presentation is public and shall be announced by the DGS. The Faculty Committee generally examines the candidate in a closed meeting following the open oral presentation. During the defense, the Faculty Committee may examine the student on both the content of the thesis and on the content of the student's previous course work.

The possible outcomes of the Master's Examination are:

  • The student passes. A majority of supporting votes are required, in addition to the approval of the Advisor.
  • The student passes conditionally, contingent on specific changes made in the Thesis. These changes must be approved by the advisor and the Faculty Committee, who may then pass the student.
  • The student fails. Re-examination might be permitted upon the recommendation of the advisor and the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) now considers the Master’s degree to be the basic preparation for professional practice. This is driven largely by the ever expanding breadth and depth of technical knowledge that is relevant to a practicing civil engineer.

Graduate Colloquium

In addition to the course credits listed and discussed above, each graduate student in the department is required to participate in the departmental seminar called Colloquia on Mechanics and the Environment. This colloquium is a series of about 18 seminars scheduled when classes are in session during the eight-month academic year. The faculty of the university, visiting scientists, and senior graduate students give the seminars.

The minimal seminar participation requirements are as follows:

  • Each degree candidate needs to register for CE 701(301) (Fall) or CE 702(302) (Spring) and is expected to attend at least 75% of the seminars in a given semester. Attendance is recorded. Although no grades are assigned in CE 701(301)-702(302), student transcripts will show that the courses have been completed and thereby that the requirement has been satisfied. Students having scheduling conflicts should inform the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Each candidate for an MS degree shall register for CE 701(301)-702(302) for at least one academic year. Some candidates for an MS degree with a thesis may be asked to present a seminar on their research. Such seminar does not replace the oral defense of the thesis.
  • A degree candidate does not need to be registered in CE 701(301)-702(302) in the semester that he or she presents a seminar.
  • The faculty encourages all graduate students to attend as many Graduate Colloquium seminars as possible, as exposure to novel ideas, research methodologies, and results from broadly or even remotely related fields is enriching and stimulating and helps to develop a critical sense of what constitutes an effective presentation.