University of Texas at El Paso Academic Catalog

Academic Catalog

Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

Educational Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate an ability to apply advanced science and engineering concepts to the solution of complex engineering problems
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively orally and in written form
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to research, analyze, and/or design complex engineering systems to meet a desired need

Graduates from the program will have the technical background to contribute to improvements in the reliability, maintenance, and management of infrastructure systems. Graduates will be able to undertake integrated programs of research, education, and technology transfer to produce new knowledge that will enhance the performance of transportation, environmental, and urban infrastructures.

Admission Requirements 

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Civil Engineering or a closely related discipline. The admissions committee evaluates the preparation of non-Civil Engineering applicants and recommends leveling courses as appropriate. These courses are in addition to the PhD degree plan. Applicants from countries where English is not the first language are required to demonstrate English proficiency. Please consult the graduate school website for required scores.

Recommendations for admission are made on the basis of the following:

  • Grade point average in upper-division or graduate work as appropriate
  • Submission of GRE scores is required for applicants who do not have an earned degree in a closely related discipline from a U.S. university 
  • Research and professional commitment, and interest as demonstrated by a Statement of Purpose, and other materials as available
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Alignment of the applicant's research interest with the research needs of the faculty. 

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree can elect to complete a master’s degree in Civil Engineering, but will be required to complete all of the requirements of the master's degree as indicated in this catalog.

Degree Requirements 

The Ph.D. in Civil Engineering degree requires every student to complete at least 72 Semester-Credit-Hours (SCHs) of work accumulated through courses, doctoral research, and dissertation. In addition, each student must sign a Milestones Agreement, and successfully pass three examinations: the Qualifying Examination, the Dissertation Proposal Examination, and the Dissertation Defense Examination. The following sections explain the degree requirements in approximately the order of a student's progress toward the completion of the Ph.D. in Civil Engineering degree. 


Every newly admitted student will be assigned an Academic Advisor and given a Degree Plan Form. The student must meet with the Academic Advisor at least once per semester to update the Degree Plan Form, review the progress, selection of courses, etc. Additional advice will be provided by the Ph.D. Advisory Committee and the Dissertation Committee as the student progresses in his/her study. 

Milestones Agreement

In the first semester of study, the student must sign a Milestones Agreement with the Academic Advisor. This Milestones Agreement states the milestones of the Ph.D. in Civil Engineering program, and the expected timelines to reach the milestones.


Each student must accumulate at least 42 SCHs through coursework. The coursework credits may be earned by taking any graduate or Ph.D. level course (except CE 5394 Graduate Research, CE 5396 Graduate ProjectsCE 5397 Graduate Projects, CE 5398 ThesisCE 5399 Thesis, CE 6393 Dissertation Proposal, CE 6396 Doctoral Research, CE 6398 Dissertation, CE 6399 Dissertation) taught by the Civil Engineering Department. Students maya also take graduate or PH.D. level courses taught by other departments at UTEP, as long as they are approved by the Academic Advisor or the Ph.D. Advisory Committee. 

A student who is admitted with a recognized master's degree may, at the recommendation of the Academic Advisor or the Ph.D. Advisory Committee, and the Program Director, transfer up to 24 SCHs from the courses taken during the master's degree into the Ph.D. degree plan. Only taught courses with earned grades of B or better may be transferred. Research and thesis courses cannot be transferred. Graduate courses taken at UTEP as part of the fast-track program, or dual master's degrees may be transferred. All the courses recommended for the transfer must be approved by the Graduate School.   

Qualifying Examinations

Every Ph.D. in Civil Engineering student must take the Qualifying Examination before the third semester. The Qualifying Examination is administered by the student's Ph.D. Advisory Committee. The Ph.D. Advisory Committee will be appointed by the Graduate Program Director and will consist of three Civil Engineering faculty members. The chair of the Ph.D. Advisory Committee is the Academic Advisor. The Qualifying Examination assesses the student's general competency in all areas of civil engineering, and in-depth competency in the student's chosen sub-discipline (e.g., construction, environmental, geotechnical, structural, or transportation). Based on the student's performance in the Qualifying Examination, the Committee may prescribe specific courses for the student to take with the minimum earned grades to rectify the weakness, or to prepare the student to take on the anticipated research work. These courses may be part of the 42 SCHs of coursework in the degree plan, on in addition to the 42 SCHs in the degree plan. The Committee may prescribe additional non-coursework requirements as it sees fit. A student must register for CE 6091 Qualifying Exam in the same semester when he/she takes the Qualifying Examination. A student has up to two attempts to pass the Qualifying Examination, in two different semesters. 

Doctoral Research

Each student must accumulate at least 21 SCHs of doctoral research credits. These 21 SCHs are earned by registering CE 6396 Doctoral Research multiple times. A student who registers for CE 6396 Doctoral Research will conduct doctoral level research under the direction of his/her Academic Advisor on a topic that is expected to be developed into the student's dissertation topic.  

Dissertation Committee 

After the student has progressed toward the end of the doctoral research and has decided on a dissertation topic, he/she should, in consultation with the Academic Advisor, form a dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee appointed by the Department of Civil Engineering, should have at least four graduate faculty members; the Committee Chair (who is the Academic Advisor), two faculty members in the Department of Civil Engineering, and one outside member. The outside member must be from another department at UTEP, from other universities, or from the industry. The outside member must be approved by the Graduate School as a Temporary Graduate Faculty before he/she can serve in the Dissertation Committee. The role of the Dissertation Committee is to advise the student in his/her dissertation work, and to administer the Dissertation Proposal Examination and the Dissertation Defense Examination. 

Dissertation Research

The dissertation is a scholarly document that reports the student's original, independent, and scientific research on a civil engineering topic. The technical content of the dissertation must be of high quality, and publishable in at least a high-impact, peer reviewed journal. Every student must complete at least 9 SCHs of dissertation work, by taking the following dissertation research courses toward the end of the study program:

These three courses must be taken in a series, starting with CE 6393 Dissertation Proposal, followed by CE 6398 Dissertation, and then CE 6399 Dissertation at one course per semester. When a student registers for CE 6393 Dissertation Proposal, he/she is expected to develop and write a dissertation proposal as the deliverable. He/she must take the Dissertation Proposal Examination as part of the CE 6393 Dissertation Proposal requirement. Only after he/she has passed the Dissertation Proposal Examination, he/she is permitted to register for CE 6398 Dissertation in the following semester to continue with the proposed research. In the subsequent semester, the student will register for CE 6399 Dissertation when he/she will finish the dissertation research and take the Dissertation Defense Examination. 

Dissertation Proposal Examination

After a student has passed the Qualifying Examination, he/she will be encouraged to start his/her doctoral research by registering for CE 6396 Doctoral Research. From the third semester onwards, the student will begin to transition from registering for mostly coursework credits to mostly research credits. A student who has been admitted with a master's degree is expected to register for CE 6393 Dissertation Proposal and take the Dissertation Proposal Examination before the fifth semester. A student who has been admitted without a master's degree is expected to register for CE 6393 Dissertation Proposal and take the Dissertation Proposal Examination before the seventh semester. The Dissertation Proposal Examination is a public examination administered by the Dissertation Committee. The purpose of the Dissertation Proposal Examination is to assess the student's ability to (1) identify a civil engineering problem; (2) review the past and existing solutions; (3) formulate an original solution approach; (4) design and conduct experiments to gather data; and (5) explain how the data will be analyzed. The Dissertation Committee may advise the student on the remaining parts of the dissertation work, and/or specific requirements that must be completed before the Dissertation Examination. Each Ph.D. student has a maximum of two attempts to pass the Dissertation Proposal Examination. 

Ph.D. Candidacy

A student who has passed the Dissertation Proposal Examination and has completed at least 42 SCHs of coursework (plus additional courses prescribed by the Ph.D. Advisory Committee after the Qualifying Examination, if any) may apply to the Graduate School to elevate his/her status to a Ph.D. Candidate. The Ph.D. candidate may register for CE 6398 Dissertation followed by CE 6399 Dissertation in two separate semesters. He/she is expected to take the Dissertation Defense Examination in the second semester after passing the Dissertation Proposal Examination. 

Dissertation Defense Examination

The Dissertation Defense Examination is the last and final examination. The candidate will defend his dissertation work in front of the Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Defense Examination is open to the public. The candidate must register for CE 6399 Dissertation and take the Dissertation Defense Examination not later than the end of the sixth semester, if he/she was admitted with a master's degree, or not later than the end of the eighth semester if he/she was admitted without a master's degree. Each Ph.D. candidate has a maximum of two attempts to pass the Dissertation Defense Examination. 

Degree Plan

Required Credits: 72

PhD in Civil Engineering Program (All courses require a grade of C or better)
Required Courses:42
Select forty-two hours of the following:
Infrastructure Management
Grndwtr Hydro & Polltn
Engineering Analysis
Adv Design of Struct Systms
Advanced Structural Analysis
Infrastructure Engineering
Finite Element Method
Risk/Reliability Anal-Engr Sys
Environmental Processes
Water Resources Mgmt
Stats Methods for Civil Eng
Bridge Engineering
Advanced Geotechnical Eng.
Prestressed Concrete
Construction Management
Design for Dynamic Loads
Air Pollution Control
Mod Methods/Engr Computation
Surface Water Hydrology
Hydraulic Computer Application
Biol Unit Operations/Processes
Adv Phy-Chem Water Treat
Design-Filtrat'n/Membrane Proc
Mech Pavement Design/Analysis
Foundation Design II
Geotech. Site Investigation
Advanced Civil Eng. Materials
Sustainable Engr Design
Structural Loads Models
Traffic Engineering
Foundation Design I
Highway Geometric Design
Traffic Flow/Simulat Modeling
Urban Transportation Planning
Infrastrct Syst Design & Eval
Construction Dispute Resolutn
Adv Constr Cost Analysis & Bid
Adv Construction Law & Ethics
Adv Construction Scheduling
Advanced Construction Safety
Adv Constr Methods & Materials
Special Topics Civil Engr
Individual Studies
Earth Construction
Construction Claims
Environmental Eng Chemistry
Fundamentals of Smart Cities
Smart Cities Design
Strategic Information Systems
Environmental Law and Policy
Financial Management
Geophysical Inverse Theory
Geop App-Digital Signal Proces
Topics in Applied Mathematics
Numer Solution Part Diff Equat
Solid Mechanics II
Analytical Dynamics
Seminar-Public Policy Analysis
Any graduate or Ph.D. courses approved by the Academic Advisor or the Ph.D. Advisory Committee
Doctoral Research:
Take twenty-one hours of the following:21
Doctoral Research
Take the following sequence of courses at one course per semester:
CE 6393Dissertation Proposal3
CE 6398Dissertation3
CE 6399Dissertation3
Total Hours72