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Civil Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctoral Degree

We offer three doctoral degrees: (1) the PhD in Civil Engineering is a technical degree intended for students with an undergraduate degree in engineering; (2) the PhD in Civil Engineering Systems is a more flexible degree intended for students with undergraduate degrees in other fields such as science, mathematics, or economics; and (3) the PhD in Engineering and Applied Science is a multidisciplinary program in which students select courses from a primary and a secondary concentration.

Students must hold an earned master's degree before they can be admitted to a doctoral program in the Department of Civil Engineering; there is no direct admission from a bachelor's program to the doctoral program. However, a student enrolled in a master's program may apply for the doctoral program before the master's degree is granted, as long as the master's degree is conferred before they enroll as a doctoral student at CU Denver.

This website provides information for our doctoral programs in Civil Engineering and Civil Engineering Systems, both of which are jointly administered with the University of Colorado Boulder. For details on the doctoral program in Engineering and Applied Science, please click here: PhD in Engineering and Applied Science

We have six different areas from which students can choose to study. The areas of study offered are:

  • Civil Engineering Systems
  • Environmental and Sustainability Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Hydrology and Hydraulics
  • Structural Engineering
  • Transportation Engineering
updated 09/06/2015

 Admission Requirements

All civil engineering graduate applicants must submit the following materials.

  1. Application Form
  2. Application Fee
    If paid at the Bursar’s Office, submit your receipt to Civil Engineering.
  3. Statement of Purpose
    This may be included on your application form.
  4. Transcripts
    We require one official copy of each previous transcript. E-transcripts should be sent to the Graduate School at
  5. References
    We require three references (4th optional).
  6. Official GRE Scores
    Applicants must submit evidence of adequate preparation for graduate study by either (a) submitting official GRE scores, or (b) documenting an earned bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.00 or higher from an institution accredited by a U.S. accreditation body, or an earned master’s degree with a GPA of 3.50 or higher from an institution accredited by a U.S. accreditation body. Use Institution Code 4875.
  7. Letter of Support
    Doctoral admission requires a letter of support from one of our faculty, stating a willingness to serve as the dissertation advisor and outlining a plan for financial support. This letter may (or may not) be one of the three required for a complete file. In cases where the applicant has a prior relationship with the proposed dissertation advisor, this letter should be one of the three required references. In cases where no prior relationship exists, this letter will be solicited by the Graduate Admissions Committee after review of the complete application.
NOTE: Written admission materials submitted are scanned for plagiarism and are added to a local database used for plagiarism detection.

Prerequisite Coursework

All graduate students are expected to have completed the prerequisite requirements relevant to their specialization within civil engineering. These requirements are in addition to the coursework required for the graduate degree. Missing prerequisites may be resolved by taking an equivalent course at CU Denver, or an equivalent institution, or by submitting documentation of equivalent coursework to the student’s academic advisor after admission.

University of Colorado Alumni

Alumni of a University of Colorado undergraduate or graduate program (any campus) need not submit transcripts from the University of Colorado, nor submit original transcripts from other institutions, as long as the transfer credit appears on their University of Colorado transcript.


Applicants must make arrangements to ensure all their materials (including transcripts, references, and any required test scores) have been received by the relevant deadlines below. If there are outstanding materials, the application is considered incomplete and will be deferred.

Domestic applicants: fall - May 1; spring - October 1; summer - February 15
International applicants: fall - April 15; spring - September 15; summer - February 1

We do not offer rush or priority service for late applications, which will be processed for the following semester. In this circumstance, applicants may wish to temporarily enroll as a non-degree student.

How to Apply

All application materials need to be sent to the Graduate School at the following address:

Graduate School
1380 Lawrence Street, Suite 1251
Denver, CO 80204

Graduate School
Campus Box 163
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80217-3364

Contact Email:​
Phone:  303-315-2179

Click here​ to apply online.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


 Degree Requirements

Doctoral students must complete at least 60 credit hours, including at least 30 dissertation research hours and at least 30 credit hours of courses relevant to the student’s dissertation research. Additional courses may be required by the dissertation advisor in order to provide students with the expertise necessary to perform original and significant engineering research. 9 credit hours of classes must be taken at the CU Boulder campus unless students are completing the Civil Engineering Systems track. Doctoral students may transfer up to 15 credit hours toward their required course work, but not for dissertation hours.  For students who complete their master’s at CU Denver or CU Boulder, up to 21 credits may be transferred in. Prerequisites do apply to this degree program and should be completed before more than 12 credit hours of doctoral course work are completed. Current master’s students may apply to the doctoral program at any point after they begin to earn their master’s degree course work.

Students should work carefully with their dissertation advisor and discuss all classes they will take to assure that they will support dissertation completion. Students interested in our doctoral program may review our faculty’s research pages to identify professors they would like to work with on their dissertation.

Students must pass a preliminary examination, complete a comprehensive exam and orally defend their dissertation before a committee of at least five faculty members: two from Boulder and three from Denver.

For more in-depth rules, download the PhD Brochure.​​

Coursework Assessment Form