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 how to create more sustainable solutions in water for the future. Some degrees will focus on the implementation side, such as what the best water treatment plant may be, 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 a lot of prospective students. Online degrees allow students to complete their coursework on their own schedule without having to relocate. Often times students who enroll in online degree programs are non-traditional students who are working full time or have family obligations. Another advantage to some online degree programs is that, in some cases, the cost of the degree 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, so 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, keep in mind that most online master’s programs in water systems engineering will be found in the university’s civil and/or environmental engineering departments. In addition, many online master’s programs for water systems engineering are extensions of the 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’s of science (BS) in engineering or a related field from an accredited institution
  • GRE scores, FE scores, and/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 September 2021, there were 20 ABET-accredited online master’s degrees in engineering, with none of those being specifically in water and only one in environmental engineering. 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 in order to apply for the Professional Engineer (PE) license. Engineering licensure is regulated on a state-by-state basis and offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

Additionally, those specializing in water systems engineering may also 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 the student 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.

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

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Duration: As little as 13 months
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WEASC)
  • 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. 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 that focuses on water resource management and planning, engineering hydrology, and irrigation systems. The water resources certificate is only nine credits and focuses on water resource, 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, Colorado
  • Duration: One year for a certificate and three years for the master’s
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $685 to $993 per credit

3Villanova University

The master's 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 for completion of 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.

  • Location: Villanova, PA
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $1,505 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, which also has 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
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $19,390 per year

5Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University offers an online master's 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 to advance their professional careers.

At KSU, there is a thesis option and non-thesis option for the online MS in engineering. The thesis option requires students to take a minimum 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.

  • Location: Kennesaw, GA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $19,390 per year

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.

Francis de los Reyes PhD, North Carolina State University

Dr. Francis de los Reyes is a professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in environmental engineering in 2000. He teaches both 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.

Dr. de los Reyes 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 an associate professor for the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering. 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. His most recent article 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 also is a member of the department’s curriculum committee, where he helps chart the education of all students.

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, multi-purpose ecological infrastructure, and innovative use or reuse of wastewater.

The courses he teaches are primarily in his research areas and include wastewater system design, stormwater system design, and advanced physicochemical processes in soils. In addition to teaching and research, he mentors one post-doctoral and six doctoral students.

Sharon Walker PhD, University of California, Riverside

Dr. Sharon Walker is an adjunct professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside. She earned her doctorate in environmental engineering from Yale in 2004, and her master’s of science in chemical engineering in 2000, also from Yale. Courses she teaches to graduate students include physical and chemical separation processes in aquatic environments and special topics in microbial fate and transport in aquatic environments.

In addition to teaching at UCR, Dr. Walker served as associate dean of the graduate division at UCR, was an ELATE fellowship recipient, and received a Fulbright Scholarship at Ben Gurion University in Israel. She is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), Association of Women in Science (AWIS), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).