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Is an Online Structural Engineering Program for me?

For students who have yet to pursue any kind of online education before, it is important to understand how this process works and how it allows them to receive a marketable, high-quality education while learning online.

Civil engineering, which includes structural engineering, is a discipline that requires a great deal of hands-on instruction. However, online structural engineering programs can work with students to provide a solid foundation in courses like math and physics via online modules, and then have those students participate in face-to-face on-campus lab assignments. Some programs do not have campus attendance requirements and assess hands-on capabilities through course projects.

Online learning can be a particularly effective and attractive choice for non-traditional students. For instance, working professionals who wish to pursue a new degree can take independent courses, without giving up on their jobs or uprooting their families. The same applies to active military members who wish to further their education but do not necessarily live near a university. Online learning can open up otherwise unavailable opportunities to passionate learners who can't make a regular degree program work.

Courses may be set up in several different ways. Students who can set aside specific blocks of time throughout the week to study and participate in online classes are generally the most successful.

While flexibility is one of the most attractive features of online learning, finding structure and accountability within that flexibility is key to success.

Admissions Requirements For Online Structural Engineering Degree Programs (what To Expect)

Aspiring engineers who wish to enroll in online structural engineering programs must first meet the admissions requirements before being accepted. And while there is not a universal set of guidelines used by all online programs, in general, each of these institutions will employ a similar set of admissions criteria to determine who is offered acceptance for an upcoming cycle. Because of this, anyone wishing to enroll in an online program should fully understand these admissions criteria and the steps they can take to enhance their chances of being offered acceptance.

Almost every undergraduate program requires students to show proof of SAT scores and a copy of a high school diploma or GED. In addition to this proof, prospective students will often be asked to submit a personal essay about themselves and their aspirations as structural engineers and letters of recommendation from current teachers or employers who can attest to their capabilities as a student. In some cases, aspiring students will also be asked to offer additional information regarding their academic experience, or why they would like to enroll in this specific program.

Graduate program candidates will likely encounter an application process that is similar to that of their undergraduate peers. Instead of SAT scores, they may be asked to submit the scores they received on the GRE (may be waived). Also, aspiring graduates will likely be asked to submit copies of their undergraduate transcripts and diplomas, in addition to letters of recommendation. Finally, they may be asked to submit personal essays on how their experience in work and school will aid them in their future studies.

For all online programs, students must submit their application packages on or before a specific deadline. And while the specific date may vary based on the institution, the deadline for a spring-start program may be in late fall, while the deadline for a fall-start program will likely be in the later months of winter. That being said, this shouldn’t serve as definitive information; instead, individuals interested in enrolling in online programs should speak to that program’s administration to learn more about relevant dates and deadlines.

Structural Engineering Program Accreditation

Before choosing an online program, aspiring students may use program accreditation as an additional criterion when making a final decision. Structural engineering programs may receive accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), the national accreditation agency for programs focusing on technology and engineering. ABET acts as an umbrella organization with several member groups.

Here, it is essential to realize that a degree from an accredited institution is not a prerequisite to obtaining future employment as a structural engineer. A degree from an accredited institution and at least four years of work experience as an engineer is necessary to qualify for the exam to receive a Professional Engineer license. Engineering licensure is regulated state-by-state and offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). A PE license allows the holder to take on a greater degree of responsibility in his or her work and may be a requirement for certain types of advanced positions as well.

For a full listing of engineering licensing boards in each state, visit the NCEES website.

Structural Engineering Curriculum & Specializations

As mentioned earlier, structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering. And while there are few universities focussing particularly on structural engineering, several are available on civil engineering.

Generally, the curriculum for most civil and structural engineering degrees will remain consistent across institutions, albeit with slight variations based on the specific school. Prospective students should expect to complete courses such as structural concrete design; structural timber design; loads for civil structures; finite element analysis; structural dynamics; and bridge design and construction.

Highly Regarded Online Structural Engineering Programs

As structural engineering is a subfield of civil engineering, there are few program options concentrated entirely on this sub-discipline. However, there are many online programs available on civil engineering.

Any prospective students interested in completing a structural engineering degree online should consider one of the following schools as a highly competitive option.

1University of Southern California

The University of Southern California offers an online master of science program in civil engineering that focuses on structural engineering. This online program emphasizes experimental and analytical studies of the behavior of structures such as buildings, dams, and bridges under service loads such as traffic and environmental loads such as wind and earthquake.

Admission requirements to the program include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a current resume, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students whose first language is not English. GRE test scores are not required for admission.

Made up of 28 credits, the program includes courses such as advanced mechanics; dynamics of structures; data analytics in engineering; finite element analysis; structural instability & failure; structural mechanics of composite materials; geotechnical earthquake engineering; and advanced steel structures.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in the areas of building maintenance, construction design, architecture, environmental engineering, project management, project planning, and surveying.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Full-time (18 to 24 months); part-time (30 to 36 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,309 per credit

2Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University offers an online master of science program in civil engineering that prepares students in designing, building, analyzing, and leading advanced structural and civil engineering projects anywhere in the world. Focusing on structural engineering, this program helps students expand their capabilities as civil engineers. Students in this program will examine structural dynamics, dig deeper into building code, and further examine the materials that create our world.

Applicants to the program must hold an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree and provide relevant transcripts, a current resume or CV, a personal statement, and a statement of purpose. GRE scores are not required for admission.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as probabilistic analysis and reliability; bridge design and construction; structural dynamics; structural timber design; steel design; concrete and masonry building systems; prestressed concrete design; finite element analysis; loads for civil structures; and matrix structural analysis.

Michigan Tech also offers several online graduate certificates in structural engineering: advanced analysis; bridge analysis and design; building design; hazard analysis; and timber building design.

  • Location: Houghton, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Five semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,433 per credit

3University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida’s College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a master of science program in civil engineering focused on structural engineering preparing students to create solutions to the infrastructure challenges faced by our community. Students learn to evaluate the framework of structures and design them with security, sustainability, and safety in mind.

This 30-credit program includes courses such as soil dynamics; matrix methods for structural analysis; bridge engineering; advanced steel structures; advanced reinforced concrete; masonry and timber design; structural reliability; finite element structural analysis; dynamics of structures; and composite steel concrete structures.

Graduates can take up positions such as architectural engineers, bridge engineers, construction engineers, consulting engineers, public works managers, and structural project engineers.

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($327.32 per credit); out-of-state ($1,151.72 per credit)

4Ohio University

Ohio University’s online civil engineering master’s degree is delivered completely online. This online program focuses on teaching students how to address sustainability, emerging technologies, and globalization using advanced principles and techniques of physical science and mathematics. With four unique concentration options, students can specialize their studies to align with their desired career path. They can choose from environmental engineering; construction engineering and management; transportation engineering; and structural engineering.

In the structural engineering concentration, students will be able to investigate the technical and practical aspects of maintaining and designing reliable and safe structures with various materials. They will also be prepared best to use these materials in transportation design and bridge engineering.

The program’s core courses include engineering writing; project management; and a civil engineering seminar. Courses in the structural engineering concentration include advanced steel design; prestressed concrete design; timber design; bridge engineering; structural reliability; structural dynamics; and masonry design.

  • Location: Athens, OH
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($840 per credit); out-of-state and international ($859 per credit)

5University of North Dakota

Graduates of the University of North Dakota’s civil engineering program can expect various job opportunities in many specialties such as structural engineering, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, soil engineering, transportation engineering, waste management engineering, and water resource engineering.

The university offers two civil engineering master’s degrees: a master of science program and a master of engineering program. Students can research their chosen area of interest by specializing in structural, environmental, transportation, or water resources, or choose the general civil engineering option.

The structural engineering option includes courses such as structural stability; structural dynamics; prestressed concrete analysis and design; and a design project. The program is made up of 30 credits.

  • Location: Grand Forks, ND
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $798.08 per credit

6Purdue University

Purdue University’s online master of science program in civil engineering prepares students for leadership roles in the engineering industry. Its flexible curriculum is designed for beginners as well as experienced professionals. Students in this program study civil engineering in depth and choose from three interdisciplinary tracks: infrastructure, resilience, & sustainability; smart mobility; and sustainable water. The program is taught by the same expert faculty members that teach on-campus and students will complete the same coursework.

The infrastructure, resiliency, and sustainability (IRS) track focuses on the latest advancements in the design, construction, and analysis of civil infrastructure including bridges, buildings, industrial facilities, power plants, and roadways. These advancements include digital twinning for planning and construction; design for natural hazards and resilience; and sustainable materials and non-destructive evaluation.

The program’s 30-credit curriculum includes courses such as advanced structural mechanics; design of prestressed concrete structures; advanced steel design; finite elements in elasticity; structural stability and design; and seismic design of steel structures.

  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $750 per credit

7University of Alabama at Birmingham

The School of Engineering and the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers students a unique opportunity to earn a master of engineering program with a structural engineering concentration. This program is particularly designed for qualified working professionals who hold an ABET-accredited undergraduate degree from a U.S. university or college. This fully online 30-credit program can be completed in just 19 months.

Some topics students will delve into include advanced mechanics for structural engineering; advanced design of steel structures; advanced reinforced concrete; prestressed concrete behavior and design; advanced structural analysis; bridge engineering; structural dynamics and earthquake engineering; and design of structural steel connections.

GRE or GMAT scores are required for domestic students; however, international candidates with undergraduate degrees will be required to submit TOEFL and GRE scores in addition to degree transcripts.

  • Location: Birmingham, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 19 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $571 per credit

8New Jersey Institute of Technology

New Jersey Institute of Technology’s online master of science program in civil engineering can be completed online or through hybrid learning. This program also offers several areas of specialization, each with its list of required and elective courses. Structural engineering is one such specialization offered within this program.

Applicants who do not possess a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, but wish to obtain a master's in civil engineering must complete a bridge program for their chosen area of specialization. These courses are not counted for degree credit. The bridge courses required in the structural engineering specialization include reinforced concrete design; soil mechanics; steel design; differential equations; and strength of materials.

Consisting of 30 credits, the program includes courses such as matrix analysis of structures; structural dynamics; mechanics and stability of structures; advanced reinforced concrete design; short span bridge design; design of tall buildings and space structures; and design of metal structures.

  • Location: Newark, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,112 per credit

9University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering offers an online master of science degree in civil engineering with a specialization in structural engineering. This non-thesis civil engineering program can be completed entirely online and has been ranked by the U.S. News and World Report (2023) as the best in the nation among top online masters in civil engineering programs.

The structural engineering specialization comprises 36 credits and incurs core courses such as structural analysis; structural mechanics; structural dynamics; steel structures; reinforced concrete; and finite element methods. Structural electives include decision and risk analysis; highway bridge design; earthquake engineering; and fracture and fatigue.

Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor of science degree or the equivalent from an accredited college with a minimum GPA of 3.0. GRE test scores are optional and are not required for admission. Application requirements include Three letters of reference, a statement of purpose, a current resume, most current transcripts, and proof of English proficiency for applicants whose native language is not English.

  • Location: Champaign, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,110 per credit

10Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University’s online master’s in civil engineering program provides graduate instruction in geotechnical, structural, preservation, and ocean and coastal engineering. Designed mainly for working professionals, this online part-time civil engineering program features practice-oriented courses in small classes taught by industry experts.

Students in this program can choose a focus area that provides tailored education for those looking to specialize in a specific field. The structural engineering focus area includes courses such as mathematical methods for engineers; structural mechanics; applied finite element methods; advanced steel design; advanced reinforced concrete design; bridge design and evaluation; and design of wood structures, among others.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $4,920 per course

11University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma offers an online master of science program in civil engineering that can be completed in just 21 months. Focusing on analytical and technical civil engineering knowledge, the program offers the choice between structural, transportation, or geotechnical tracks.

The structural engineering track provides students with advanced practical designing skills and a basis for experimental or analytical research. Students who wish to pursue this track must hold a BS in civil engineering or a related field with a strong background in differential equations, calculus, soil mechanics, structural analysis, rigid body mechanics, and design with steel and concrete.

Made up of 32 credits, the program includes courses such as advanced mechanics of materials; prestressed concrete structures; structural design – wood; structural design - concrete; structural design – steel; soil-structure interaction; dynamics of structures; a capstone design experience.

  • Location: Norman, OK
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 21 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $31,520 total

Campus Visitation Requirements for Online Structural Engineering Programs

Not all online structural engineering programs consistently and actively report how many campus visits may be required to complete their programs. However, it is possible to give an overview of some different possibilities.

Because online structural engineering programs are largely targeted toward working engineers, they can generally be completed without ever setting foot on campus. This is true of programs as varied as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

For students who are looking for a more hybrid option, Johns Hopkins University offers many courses that are available both online and on-campus, allowing students to choose whether or not they want that type of personal interaction.

Other Considerations for Selecting the Right Online Program

Prospective structural engineering students should examine post-graduate job placement data, which may shed light on the institution's quality (or the reach of its graduates). Furthermore, students may also inquire about online student support (including tech support) and career and advising services available during and after program completion.

Influential Structural Engineering Professors

The quality of the faculty at any school is a critical part of the quality of education offered there. The following professors teach at schools that offer online structural engineering courses and have shown a commitment to their field and teaching.

Theresa M. Ahlborn , PhD Michigan Technological University

Dr. Theresa Ahlborn is a civil, environmental, and geospatial engineering professor at Michigan Technological University and director of the Center for Structural Durability, an MDOT Center of Excellence. Her teaching interests include reinforced concrete design; prestressed concrete design; structural analysis; structural mechanics; and bridge engineering. Dr. Ahlborn’s research interests are in structural engineering, nondestructive evaluation and testing, prestressed concrete bridges, remote sensing for bridge condition assessment, anchorage and development of reinforcement, and bridge inspection with today’s advancing technologies.

In 2010, she received the prestigious PCI Distinguished Educator Award and was named WTS Woman of the Year in Michigan in 2013. In 2014, Dr. Ahlborn was honored with Michigan Technological University’s Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award. She has more than 110 publications in renowned journals. Dr. Theresa completed her PhD from the University of Minnesota and her MS and BS degrees from Michigan Technological University.

Matthew Bandelt , PhD New Jersey Institute of Technology

Dr. Matthew Bandelt is an associate professor of civil & environmental engineering and an associate dean of research and graduate studies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Dr. Bandelt teaches graduate and undergraduate structural engineering, mechanics, materials, and numerical modeling courses. Some of the courses he has taught include reinforced concrete design, advanced reinforced concrete design, and matrix analysis of structures. He conducts computational and experimental research on damage-tolerant, durable, and sustainable building materials and structural systems.

His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Structural Engineering, Construction and Building Materials, and Engineering Structures. Dr. Bandelt completed his PhD from Stanford University, and his MS and BS degrees from Villanova University.

Necati Catbas , PhD University of Central Florida

Dr. Necati Catbas serves as the Lockheed Martin St. Laurent Professor at the University of Central Florida teaching graduates and undergraduate courses in the areas of structural engineering, structural dynamics, bridge engineering, structural health monitoring, finite element analysis, and advanced engineering topics. His research has evolved around structural health monitoring of civil infrastructure systems.

His research has been published in prominent journals such as the Journal of Steel and Composite Structures, Computers and Structures Journal, and Structural Health Monitoring Journal. Dr. Catbas completed his PhD from the University of Cincinnati and his MS and BS degrees from Bogazici University.

Sattar Dorafshan , PhD University of North Dakota

Dr. Sattar Dorafshan is an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of North Dakota teaching courses such as reinforced concrete; structural dynamics; and prestressed concrete analysis and design. His research efforts are focused on intelligent infrastructure, sustainability, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, nondestructive evaluation and testing, remote sensing, and additive manufacturing.

He has received several awards such as the NRC Research Associate Award, Dissertation Fellowship Award, Doctoral Researcher of the Year award, and the ACI Intermountain scholarship award. Professor Dorafshan’s research has been published in prominent journals such as Construction and Building Materials; Journal of Civil Structural Health Monitoring; Journal of bridge engineering; and Infrastructures. He completed his PhD from Utah State University, an MS from the Isfahan University of Technology, and a BS degree from the University of Tabriz.

Armando Duarte , PhD University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Dr. Armando Duarte is Nathan M. Newmark Distinguished Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in methods of structural mechanics, structural analysis, advanced finite element methods, and analysis and mechanics of plates and shells. His research interests include computational methods, three-dimensional linear and non-linear computational fracture mechanics, and multiscale and multiphysics problems.

Dr. Duarte has published over 80 book chapters and scientific articles and co-edited two books on computational methods. He completed his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, MS from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, and BS from the Federal University of Pernambuco.

Bora Gencturk , PhD University of Southern California

Dr. Bora Gencturk is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Sonny Astani Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Southern California. He teaches or has taught courses such as mechanical behavior of materials; engineering mechanics; structural reliability; and earthquake engineering. His research focuses on the durability and extreme event resilience of reinforced concrete structures. He has conducted research in areas such as field investigations, structural assessment, structural optimization, reliability analysis, advanced structural testing, and environmental durability.

His research has been published in prominent journals such as Engineering Structures, International Journal of Concrete Structures and Materials, and International Journal of Concrete Structures and Materials. Bora Gencturk completed his PhD and MS degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BS from Bogazici University.

Edwin Schmeckpeper , PhD Norwich University

Dr. Edwin Schmeckpeper, a licensed professional engineer, is a professor of civil engineering and construction management at Norwich University. His research interests involve structural engineering, engineering education, construction issues, affordable housing, and resilient infrastructure. At Norwich, he teaches courses on structures and is the chairman of the civil and environmental engineering and construction management departments.

Professor Schmeckpeper completed his PhD in structural engineering from the University of New Hampshire and a BS in civil engineering from Valparaiso University.

Amit H. Varma , PhD Purdue University

Dr. Amit H. Varma is Karl H. Kettelhut Professor of civil engineering and the director of Bowen Laboratory at Purdue University’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering. He teaches or has taught courses such as the structural design in metals; stability; finite elements in elasticity; bridge design; and introductory to structural mechanics. His research efforts are focused on Seismic and fire behavior, analysis and design of steel-concrete composite structures, and repair and retrofit of deterioration and damaged infrastructure.

Dr. Varma has received several awards such as the AISC Milek Faculty Fellowship Award, Seeds for Success ACORN Award, and the Harold Munson Outstanding Teacher Award. His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Structural Engineering and the Journal of Constructional Steel Research. He completed his PhD from Lehigh University, MS from the University of Oklahoma, and a BS from the Indian Institute of Technology.

Christopher Waldron , PhD University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Christopher Waldron is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He teaches or has taught courses such as statics; structural analysis; mechanics of materials; reinforced concrete design; elastic stability of structures; and concrete materials. His research efforts are focused on improving the design and construction of bridges.

Dr. Waldron completed his BS from Drexel University in Philadelphia and his MS and PhD degrees from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, all in civil engineering with a concentration in structural engineering.

Ken Walsh , PhD, Ohio University

Dr. Ken Walsh is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Ohio University. He teaches or has taught introductory courses in structural analysis, steel design, and mechanics as well as advanced courses in structural dynamics and structural analysis. His research interests include vibration absorption and isolation, passive and semi-active vibration control, innovative materials for improved structural performance, and structural health monitoring.

Professor Walsh has published several refereed journal articles and conference papers in renowned journals such as the Journal of Structural Engineering, Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Vibration, and the Journal of Earthquake Engineering. He completed his PhD and MS from Florida A&M University and a BS from Florida State University.

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