The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers advanced degrees with emphasis on a variety of specialization areas ranging from hydrology and air quality to structures and bridge engineering, sustainable environmental engineering and more.
Overview of Degree Programs
Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering (MCEE)
- Civil Engineering track: Same as Ph.D. requirements.
- Sustainable Environmental Engineering track: See details here.
- Additional requirements:
-One semester of CEVE 601(F)/602 (S) Seminar
-Final project required.
Master of Science (MS)
- 24 semester hours of approved courses
- 6 semester hours of research
- Present and orally defend a thesis
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)
- 90 semester hours past B.S.
- 60 semester hours past M.S.
- Pass a preliminary exam and a qualifying exam
- Present and orally defend a doctoral thesis, which constitutes an original research contribution
*Please check the Office of Graduate & Postdoctorial Studies for more information regarding Rice's degree requirements.
Jump to Section: MCEE | MCEE w/Sustainable Environmental Engineering focus | Ph. D.
Master of Science (M.S.) - Engineering
The Master of Science degree is offered in civil and environmental engineering. For general university requirements, see Graduate Degrees. To earn a MS degree, students must:
- Complete at least 24 semester hours of approved courses.
For students focusing on environmental engineering, this must include one course in each of the following areas: environmental chemistry, water treatment, hydrology, and air quality.
For students focusing on civil, structural engineering, and mechanics, coursework must include one course in each of the following areas: structural engineering, mechanics, advanced mathematics, dynamic systems, system reliability and earthquake engineering. Comparable course work completed previously may be substituted for these core courses.
- Complete at least 6 semester hours of research. Students must select a thesis committee according to department requirements and conduct original research in consultation with the committee.
- Present and defend in oral examination an approved research thesis.
Students take the oral exam only after the committee determines the thesis to be in a written format acceptable for public defense. Normally, students take two academic years and the intervening summer to complete the degree.
Please note: Students intending to extend their studies into the Ph.D. degree program should note that the department does not grant an MS degree to candidates who have not written a master’s thesis.
The Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering (MCEE) is a professional nonthesis degree requiring 30 semester hours of approved course work. Students who have a BS or BA degree in any field of engineering or related study may apply. They will complete 30 hours of graduate level courses in our Civil Engineering or Sustainable Environmental Engineering and Design sub-tracks including the required core courses and a final project. Graduate courses from other departments might count towards the MCEE degree, but need prior approval by a CEE faculty advisor. Depending on their background, some students may need to fulfill pre-requisites or take remedial engineering courses to earn the MCEE degree. Students can transfer up to 6 credit of relevant graduate-level courses.
- Civil Engineering track: Same as Ph.D. requirements
- Sustainable Environmental Engineering track: See details here.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
The Ph.D. degree in CEE has two sub tracks: (1) Civil Engineering (CE) and (2) Environmental Engineering and Sciences (EES). In both cases, to earn a Ph.D. degree, students must meet the following requirements:
- Complete 90 semester hours of approved credits past BS (60 semester hours past MS) with high standing, including core course requirements stipulated below.
- Pass a preliminary written examination (see guidelines below).
- Pass a qualifying examination on course work, proposed research, and related topics.
- Complete a dissertation indicating an ability to do original and scholarly research.
- Pass a formal public oral examination on the thesis and related topics.
Ph.D. candidates in civil and environmental engineering take the preliminary exam, administered by department faculty, after 2 semesters of course work. Students who pass this exam then form a doctoral committee according to department requirements. The qualifying examination administered by the doctoral committee after students develop a research proposal evaluates their preparation for the proposed research and identifies any areas requiring additional course work or study. As part of the advanced degree training, we also may require students to assist the faculty in undergraduate courses and laboratory instruction.
Core Courses - Course requirements are stipulated to prepare and train students for rigorous and high quality education, research, and practice. These courses, usually completed within the first two years of graduate school, are designed to train and test the student's aptitude for higher level thinking, problem solving, and independent research. Core courses also contribute breadth beyond minimum competency as civil and environmental engineers. A minimum grade of B- must be achieved for each of these core courses, as well as a minimum average GPA of 3.0.
For the CE sub-track, PhD students should take at least 6 of the following 16 courses:
CEVE 500 Advanced Mechanics of Materials
CEVE 503 Nonlinear Finite Element Analysis
CEVE 505 Engineering Project Development and Management
CEVE 519 Elasticity, Plasticity and Damage Mechanics*
CEVE 524 Time Dependent System Reliability Modeling and Analysis*
CEVE 527 Matrix/Computational Methods in Structural Mechanics
CEVE 530 Concrete Building Design *
CEVE 538 Computational Nanoscience for Green Infrastructure
CEVE 540 Steel Building Design *
CEVE 560 Bridge Engineering & Extreme Events *
CEVE 570 Foundation Engineering
CEVE 576 Structural Dynamic Systems and Control *
CEVE 578 Earthquake Engineering *
CEVE 592 Analysis of Urban Systems *
CEVE 596 Offshore and Marine Systems *
CEVE 678 Advanced Stochastic Mechanics *
CEVE 679 Applied Monte Carlo Analysis *
* Offered every two years
For the EES sub-track, Ph.D. students should take at least 6 of the following 9 courses:
CEVE 401 Introduction to Environmental Chemistry
CEVE 412 Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering
CEVE 504 Atmospheric Particulate Matter
CEVE 511 Atmospheric Processes
CEVE 512 Hydrologic / Hydraulic Modeling and Design
CEVE 534 Fate and Transport of Contaminants in the Environment
CEVE 535 Physical Chemical Processes for Water Quality
CEVE 536 Environmental Biotechnology and Bioremediation
CEVE 550 Environmental Organic Chemistry
Additional requirements. All students are required to take CEVE 601/602 Seminar.
Substitutions will be considered when a core course is not offered, or under special circumstances related to the professional goals of the student. Substitutions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and will require approval by the faculty.
Preliminary Exam - All Ph.D. students must take the preliminary examination after completing the core course requirement, usually at the end of the first year in the graduate program. Because the courses provide a basic level of preparation and breadth, the preliminary exam has broader latitude to probe synthesis and high-level thinking skills, rather than serving as a check on coursework.
Civil engineering graduate students will be required to take their written preliminary exam on Friday before the classes of the spring semester, 1.5 years from the fall semester they enter into the program, and take the oral exam on Friday the first week of classes.
For the CE sub-track, the format of the Preliminary Exam is as follows:
Day 1: Written Exam (closed book)
2 hours —Applied Mathematics
2 hours —Structural Dynamic Systems
2 hours —Structures/Mechanics/FEM/Related Areas
2 hours —Optional Area: Random Vibrations/Stochastic Mechanics/System Reliability/Bridge Engineering/Continuum Mechanics and Nonlinear FEM/related advanced topics
(Optional area can be chosen by the student)
Day 2: Oral Exam 1 hour per student
Civil Engineering faculty examine/question the student about the written exam and additional broad set of topics to assess the students thinking ability, comprehension, problem solving skills and overall aptitude in the field of structural engineering, structural mechanics, and system reliability.
For the EES sub-track, the examination consists of three parts:
Day 1: Written Exam
Part I: A three-hour exam on fundamentals of environmental engineering covered in the core courses. This exam does not necessarily test understanding of the specific materials covered in these courses, but knowledge in physical, chemical and biological principles of environmental engineering, as well as mathematics skills that are necessary to solve problems discussed in the courses above. Recognizing that students taking the exam may not have taken all core courses, students will have the flexibility to answer four (4) out of all sets of questions posed by the professors of the environmental engineering and science program. Unless otherwise stated, Part I is closed-book.
Part II: A 3-hour open-book exam in specialized areas of environmental engineering. The purpose of this exam is to evaluate the student’s depth of knowledge in subjects relevant to his or her research topic. The student will be given one comprehensive, in-depth question by the thesis advisor. The graduate committee will exercise quality control of the exam questions to ensure that these questions are not a simple extension of those in Part I.
Day 2: Oral Exam
Part III: The oral examination takes 30-45 minutes per student. It is a general exam on common topics of environmental engineering, with the intent to probe for high-level thinking across broad themes. A faculty committee will preside over the exam and each committee member may ask questions. The questions may or may not be related to those in the written exam.
Students will be informed of the results after all students have finished the oral exam. Students who fail the exam either fully or partially can petition for retaking the exam. Petitions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the department chair, who will consider the advice of both the Preliminary Exam and Graduate Studies committees. Students who fail the preliminary exam twice will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program.
Ph.D. Qualifying Examination - Ph.D students who pass the preliminary exam are required to form a doctoral committee as soon as possible. The qualifying examination, administered by the doctoral committee after students develop a written research proposal (with reasonably detailed preliminary work and proposed research approach), evaluates their preparation for the proposed research and identifies any areas requiring additional course work or study. The qualifying exam must be scheduled at least six months before the final defense. Students who fail the qualifying examination will not be granted Ph.D. candidacy. Petition to re-take the exam will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the department chair, who will consider the advice of both the Qualifying Exam and Graduate Studies committees.
Ph.D. Defense - Candidates who pass the qualifying exam are required to write a detailed Ph.D. thesis and schedule the Ph.D. defense under the guidance of their advisor and doctoral committee. The Ph.D. thesis must be handed at least two weeks prior to the defense. The Ph.D. defense must be scheduled according to the Rice University graduate school requirements (at least fifteen days prior to the date of the defense). The Ph.D. defense will typically last two hours. The candidate will make a detailed presentation for approximately an hour; the presentation will be open to public. This will be followed by question and answer session by the general audience and a closed door question and answer session by the doctoral committee. The candidates who successfully defend their Ph.D. will be awarded the degree of doctor of philosophy.
Suggested Time Lines for M. S. Students:
- First year: Course work, begin research under direction of advisor as deemed appropriate
- End of first year or latest by spring of second year: Take the preliminary exam if intending to continue for a Ph.D.
- First semester, second year: Form committee and consult with committee; meet if necessary (at the discretion of the committee chair)
- Second semester, second year: Write and defend thesis
Suggested Time Lines for Ph.D. Students (those admitted after B.S. may follow the M.S. student's guidelines initially and then switch to the following after completion of the M.S.):
- First/second year: Course work, begin research under direction of advisor as deemed appropriate
- End of first year: Take the preliminary exam
- First semester, second year: Form committee and consult with committee
- Each semester thereafter (at a minimum) consult with committee; meet if necessary (at the discretion of the committee chair)
- Third or fourth year: Write and defend proposal in Ph.D qualifying examination (this should be at least six months before final defense)
- Final semester: Defense and submit dissertation