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Online Water Systems Engineering Degree Programs

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Is an Online Water Systems Engineering Degree Right For Me?

People passionate about water systems, resources, conservation, and solutions may find an online in water systems engineering a good fit. Content will vary from program to program, but the overarching goal is to create more sustainable solutions in water for the future. Some degrees will focus on the implementation side, such as the best water treatment plant, while others will focus on the research side, such as the best way to treat wastewater.

Completing a degree online can be an excellent option for many prospective students. Online degrees allow students to complete their coursework on their own schedule without relocating. Often, students who enroll in online degree programs are non-traditional students working full-time or have family obligations. Another advantage to some online degree programs is that, in some cases, the degree cost can be much lower because students only have to pay in-state tuition rates no matter where they are located.

The faculty that teach in online water systems engineering programs are the same faculty that teach in-person coursework. Students can rest assured that they are getting a high-quality education. Most colleges issue the same diplomas for in-person students as online ones, so there is no difference in the degree earned.

Admissions Requirements for Online Water Systems Engineering Programs

Knowing what is expected of you when applying to an online program can take some of the pressure off of what can be a stressful process. Although prospective students are advised to read carefully through the application requirements for specific programs, there are common criteria across all programs.

As a helpful strategy for finding each school’s individual requirements, remember that most online master’s programs in water systems engineering will be found in the university’s civil and environmental engineering departments. In addition, many online master’s programs for water systems engineering are extensions of traditional in-person programs and require the same requirements for admission.

Common requirements for admission to online master’s programs in water systems engineering include:

  • A bachelor of science (BS) in engineering or a related field from an accredited institution
  • GRE scores, FE scores, or demonstration of significant relevant work experience
  • Official transcripts demonstrating a competitive undergraduate GPA
  • A statement of purpose
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An application fee of $35 or higher
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (international students only)

Program Accreditation & State Authorization

The Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET) is seen as the gold standard for programmatic accreditation for bachelor’s degree programs in engineering. As of January 2023, there were several ABET-accredited online master’s degrees in engineering, none specifically in water. As a result, those seeking online master’s degrees in water systems engineering should ensure that the university offering the online program is accredited by a regional accrediting body.

To become a licensed water systems engineer, one must have completed a bachelor’s degree and at least four years of work as an engineer to apply for the Professional Engineer (PE) license. Engineering licensure is regulated state-by-state and offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

Additionally, those specializing in water systems engineering may seek professional certification through the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers (AAWRE).

1University of California, Riverside

Offering an online master's of science in engineering, UC Riverside is a conscious blend of management strategy and high-level technical skills for students interested in eventual leadership roles in the field. In the subspecialty for water systems management, entitled, “environmental engineering systems (water),” students learn the engineering principles needed to provide clean water and improve the natural environment.

Students interested in the water systems engineering specialization take 16 credits of core classes in environmental engineering and management, 16 credits of classes related specifically to water systems engineering, and four credits for capstone projects, for a total of 36 credits. Courses in the specialization include water chemistry in natural and engineered systems; biological treatment processes; physical and chemical separation processes; and advanced treatment systems.

There are no residency requirements for this program and students are not required to visit the campus to enroll. There are three start dates for the program throughout the year.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as 13 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $875 per credit

2Colorado State University

Colorado State University offers three online programs: a master's of engineering in civil engineering with a focus on water resources, a graduate certificate in water resources, and a graduate certificate in applied global stability water resources. All three programs are designed to prepare students to respond to evolving water concerns facing future generations.

The online master's of engineering is a “Plan C” coursework-only degree and does not require a thesis, project paper, or final examination. In addition, the MEng program does not require students to take the GRE, unless their undergraduate degree is below a 3.0. Students enrolled in the online MEng. program are required to complete 30 total credits, with 15 of those credits specifically in civil engineering coursework.

The graduate certificates can be completed in one year each. The applied global stability: water resources certificate consists of 12 credits in coursework focusing on water resource management and planning, engineering hydrology, and irrigation systems. The water resources certificate is only nine credits and focuses on water resources, policy, planning, and management throughout the western US and the world.

Colorado State University is located in Fort Collins, Colorado, and is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. There is no residency requirement to enroll in either program, students are not required to visit campus to apply, and potential students can apply for fall or spring admission.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Master’s (three years); certificate (one year)
  • Estimated Tuition: Master’s ($993 per credit); Certificate ($624 to $964 per credit)

3Villanova University

The master of science in water resources and environmental engineering at Villanova University is a program heavily focused on teaching students water systems management through the lens of engineering. Villanova’s MS in water resources and environmental engineering is nationally recognized for cutting-edge research, collaborative opportunities, and distinguished leadership.

The online master's of science in water resources and environmental engineering requires a minimum of 30 credits, with 21 credits required in civil and environmental engineering. Students must also complete two environmental engineering courses and two water resources courses. If desired, a student may author a thesis, but a thesis is not required to complete the program. There is no residency requirement for e-learning students, and students are not required to visit campus to apply. The school offers both fall and spring admission.

The curriculum includes courses such as masonry design; wood design; forensic engineering; water resources planning & management; water quality modeling; hazardous waste management; lake, stream, & wetland ecology; modern structural analysis; and sustainable manufacturing.

  • Location: Villanova, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to three years
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,595 per credit

4University of Florida

The University of Florida’s engineering department has an online arm known as the University of Florida Electronic Delivery of Graduate Engineering (UF EDGE). Through UF Edge, potential students can pursue a master's of engineering and a master's of science in environmental engineering sciences. Notably, the school also has a Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering with an online master’s degree. Students specializing in water systems will learn about hydrology, potable water systems, stormwater systems, and wastewater systems.

Both online master's of engineering and master's of science programs are 30-unit programs, with a 15-unit minimum requirement of coursework in environmental engineering. Students can take a maximum of 15 credits outside the focus of study. There is no residency requirement for UF Edge, and students are not required to visit campus to apply. Students can apply for admission in the spring, summer, or fall.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Florida residents ($12,740 per year); non-Florida residents ($30,134 per year)

5Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University offers an online master of science in civil engineering with a concentration in environmental engineering and water resources. The online MS in civil engineering at KSU is designed to help engineers already working in the field advance their professional careers.

At KSU, there is a thesis and non-thesis options for the online MS in engineering. The thesis option requires students to take a minimum of 24 credits of coursework, and six credits for the research thesis, for a total of 30 credits. The non-thesis option requires a minimum of 30 credits of coursework and includes three core courses, a four-course concentration, and three courses in another concentration.

There is no residency requirement to apply to the online MS of civil engineering, but some online courses designated as 95 percent online may require one visit to campus per semester for orientations or exams. Prospective students can apply for fall, spring, or summer admission.

The curriculum includes courses such as probabilistic analysis and reliability in civil engineering; hydraulic analysis and design; solid waste management and engineering; advanced hazardous waste engineering; advanced hydraulics; water resources management; transportation planning; and air pollution controls, among others.

  • Location: Kennesaw, GA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $383 per credit

6Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University offers an online master of science program in civil engineering focusing on water resources engineering, preparing students for designing, planning, and managing advanced water resources projects. Focusing on water resources engineering, the program helps students expand their capabilities as civil engineers. Students learn about the modeling techniques in hydrology and hydraulics, and topics covered in the program include water supply reliability and affordability, climate change adaptation, ecosystem restoration, low-impact stormwater management, and flood risk reduction.

This 30-credit program includes courses such as water resources engineering; water distribution and wastewater collection; water resources system modeling & design; river and floodplain hydraulics; advanced hydrology; hydraulic structures; and stream restoration, among others. Applicants to the program must hold an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree, while GRE scores are not required.

  • Location: Houghton, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to ten semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,519 per credit

7Norwich University

Norwich University’s online master’s in civil engineering program with a concentration in environmental or water resources engineering is taught by active industry experts and can be completed entirely online. It prepares students to examine the fundamentals of water resources and environmental engineering and exploring the biological and physicochemical processes for wastewater and water treatment. They will also learn about the key aspects of geo-environmental engineering and GIS.

Made up of 36 credits, the program’s core curriculum includes courses such as engineering mathematics; project management techniques, tools, and practices; and a capstone design project. Courses in the concentration include physicochemical and biological processes in water and wastewater treatment; stormwater management and GIS applications for water resources; and geoenvironmental engineering – groundwater flow and waste containment.

Admission requirements to the program include a bachelor's degree from a regionally or nationally accredited U.S. institution, or its equivalent, an application form; a current resume, official transcripts, a letter of intent, and proof of English language proficiency for students whose first language is not English.

  • Location: Northfield, VT
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $808 per credit

8University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers an online water resources engineering track in its civil engineering master of science program for students with appropriate engineering or science baccalaureate backgrounds. This program prepares students to tackle the evolving water concerns faced by our society today. It helps students deepen their knowledge on planning and designing approaches necessary for enhancing water resources modeling, hydrology, and hydraulics. Upon graduation, graduates will be ready to take up positions such as land and water asset managers, water resource specialists, planning analysts, water resources engineers, and water systems modelers.

This 30-credit program includes courses such as groundwater hydrology; hydraulic engineering; water resources engineering; numerical methods in civil and environmental engineering; water resources in a changing environment; open channel hydraulics; modeling water resources systems; and finite elements in surface water modeling.

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

9Auburn University

Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering offers an online graduate certificate in water resources engineering to both degree and non-degree-seeking students interested in continuing their education but may not be ready to commit to a master's degree program.

Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor's degree or equivalent in or related to civil engineering from an institution of recognized standing, with a GPA of 2.75. GRE scores are not required for admission.

This 12-credit program requires students to take two required and two elective graduate courses. Some of the courses available to students include open channel hydraulics; hydrologic analysis and modeling; hydraulic design of pressurized systems; groundwater hydraulics; stormwater management and modeling; surface water quality modeling; and water resources engineering special topics. All credits earned from this certificate may be applied toward a graduate degree.

Graduates of this program will be able to formulate persuasive and effective communication to technical and non-technical audiences, apply advanced principles and concepts related to water resources engineering, and analyze information presented in the scientific literature related to water resources engineering.

  • Location: Auburn, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three to four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $949 per credit

10University of California, Los Angeles

The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering offers an online master of science in an engineering program with a certificate of specialization in sustainable water engineering. Key elements covered in this degree program include hydroclimatology, surface and groundwater processes, remote sensing for hydrologic applications, watershed response to disturbance, aquatic chemistry, membrane separation in aqueous systems, environmental microbiology, and the geochemical modeling, chemical fate, and transport of contaminants in the environment.

The curriculum includes courses such as surface hydrology; aquatic chemistry; physical and chemical processes for water and wastewater treatment; green infrastructure; environmental biotechnology; remote sensing with hydrological applications; and geochemical modeling.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two academic years and one quarter
  • Estimated Tuition: $4,500 per course

Influential Water Systems Engineering Professors Who Teach Online

Because most online water systems engineering degree programs are extensions of brick-and-mortar universities, online students receive the same level of quality instruction they would by attending a traditional university program. The following five highly regarded water systems engineering professors teach on and offline.

Jennifer Becker , PhD Michigan Technological University

Jennifer Becker is an associate professor of environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her area of teaching and research interests focuses on biological treatment processes in environmental engineering. Her specific research interests are in the areas of biodegradation, microbial ecology, and bioremediation of chlorinated organic groundwater contaminants; the recovery and reuse of agricultural, municipal, and industrial waste products; and bioenergy production using microbial processes. Dr. Becker teaches classes in the area of environmental engineering such as biological treatment processes and water and wastewater treatment.

Her research has been published in prominent journals such as Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology; Environmental Science & Technology; and Bioresource Technology. She has received several awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. She completed her PhD from Northwestern University, an MS from the University of Illinois - Urbana, and a BS from Michigan Technological University.

Francis de los Reyes III , PhD North Carolina State University

Dr. Francis de los Reyes III is a civil, construction, and environmental engineering professor at North Carolina State University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in environmental engineering. He teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in wastewater treatment plant design, environmental biotechnology and microbiology, fundamentals of environmental engineering, and water and sanitation for developing countries. He is a sought-after expert in his field and has worked on sanitation issues in the Philippines, India, China, South Africa, Pakistan, Ghana, and Malawi.

He is a TED Fellow, has worked on water/sanitation issues in developing nations, and was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of the Philippines. He researches and publishes frequently.

Dara Entekhabi , PhD Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Dara Entekhabi is a Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, as well as a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences. His primary areas of interest include remote sensing, land-atmosphere interaction, and data assimilation. He teaches classes in hydrology and water resources; hydrologic modeling; the environmental fluid transport processes and hydrology laboratory; and land-atmosphere interactions.

Dr. Entekhabi puts his skills and research to practical use and is currently the Science Team Leader of the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, and has received several awards and honors in hydrologic sciences. He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

M.A. Karim , PhD Kennesaw State University

Dr. M.A. Karim is a professor of civil engineering at Kennesaw State University. Dr. Karim has more than twenty-five journal and proceeding publications in the areas of soil and sediment remediation, environmental management, statistical hydrology, and engineering education. One of his recent articles titled “Management of Sewage Sludge Ash and Fly-Ash through the Improvement of Soil Engineering Properties,” was published in the Cosmos Journal Engineering & Technology.

While he does teach lecture and laboratory classes on campus, he teaches several online classes, including environmental engineering; solid waste engineering; and hazardous waste engineering. He completed his PhD from Cleveland State University and his MS and BS degrees from Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET).

John Sansalone , PhD University of Florida

Dr. John Sansalone is a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences at the University of Florida. Dr. Sansalone has taught and researched in the US and abroad and has contributed to over 50 peer-reviewed articles in the environmental engineering field. His research interests include unit operations and processes for stormwater and snowmelt, green materials and infrastructure systems in the urban environment, and innovative use or reuse of wastewater.

The courses he teaches are primarily in his research areas and include wastewater systems design, stormwater system design, geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering, urban hydrologic cycling, and environmental hydrology.