Before you delve any deeper into the prospect of earning a master’s in civil engineering, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, you’re going to want to know what to expect. A big part of that is determining how long you will have to spend in graduate school to finish your degree. Master’s degrees, in general, may require anywhere from 30 college credits to 60 college credits, all taken at the graduate level. That means you may be able to finish your master’s degree in civil engineering in as little as one year of full-time graduate study, or you may spend two or even three years knocking out your course requirements for this advanced degree.
One-Year Master’s in Civil Engineering Programs
Completing an entire master’s degree curriculum is doable, but it’s not easy, especially in a math-intensive program like civil engineering. If time is of the essence, though, looking for an accelerated master’s in civil engineering program that is intended to be completed in one year may be your best option. These fast-paced programs usually require a smaller number of credits to graduate and expect students to undertake a full load of courses each semester. Some one-year master’s degree programs run only during the fall and spring semesters, while others also include summer coursework.
Another factor that may come into play is the thesis requirement or lack thereof. Master’s degree programs often, but not always, require students to compose a lengthy academic paper that may be based on original research. It’s certainly possible to complete a thesis in the course of a one-year master’s degree program, but these programs that are designed for expediency may also be more likely to be non-thesis programs or offer a non-thesis track. Non-thesis master’s in civil engineering programs are sometimes called professional master’s degree programs, in contrast with the research-heavy focus of a master’s degree program that includes a thesis.
A one-year master’s degree program won’t give you much time to work with engineering faculty on research. Whether you want to move up at a job or develop your research skills is an important point to consider when deciding if a one-year program is right for you.
Two-Year Master’s in Civil Engineering Degrees
Although some master’s degrees are designed to take one year or less to complete, most take a little longer. A two-year target timeframe is the most common for students pursuing master’s degrees in engineering, according to U.S. News & World Report. Longer completion times are particularly more common when the program you’re pursuing is research-based and requires a thesis or some sort of extensive capstone project. If a graduate degree program requires much more than 30 credits, completing it in just one year is going to be a huge challenge, if students are even allowed to attempt it.
A master’s in civil engineering program that is meant to take two years to finish can cover more coursework. Although a program that requires more credits means more work from you, you will also get more out of it. You have more opportunity to specialize your education through more advanced and focused courses and, potentially, through specialized series of coursework in different concentration areas.
Keep in mind that programs don’t always fit neatly into one year or two years. Depending on the length of terms at your school, the number of classes you take at a time, and other factors, your degree might take one and a half years or two and a half years.
Three-Year Graduate Degrees in Civil Engineering
Even in programs with a target completion time of two years, students don’t always complete their studies quite so quickly. Two years was the most common target time for the completion of master’s in engineering degrees for graduate students who started school in 2015 and 2016, according to U.S. News & World Report, but most students actually take three years to finish their studies – and even then, the three-year graduation rate was just 55.4 percent.
Taking three years to finish your master’s degree in civil engineering may just mean you needed a little breathing room, especially if you were also working full-time in the field. It might also mean you undertook a more ambitious program of graduate study, like a dual-degree program that combined engineering studies with the coursework of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
If you study part-time while working full-time or meeting other obligations, your timeline to graduation could stretch a lot further than three years. Some part-time programs take five years to complete, according to U.S. News & World Report.