Geotechnical Engineering (GEOE)

Note: Any degree requirement stated below is applicable for 2018-2019 catalog year. Refer to for previous catalog year requirements.

Geotechnical engineering is the branch of civil engineering related to the behavior of soil and rock in the context of civil engineering.  Geotechnical engineers must evaluate site suitability for a tunnel that will penetrate a mountain or a seabed, or lie beneath a city in an earthquake active zone; an embankment dam that will be constructed of the indigenous soil and rock; an offshore island that will provide storm protection for a coastal city; or a deep disposal site that will contain nuclear waste for 10,000 years.   Geotechnical engineers are members of design teams, collaborating with structural engineers, water resources and environmental engineers, and construction engineers.

The geotechnical engineering concentration builds on undergraduate civil engineering education to prepare students for more advanced geotechnical engineering practice, or for further academic studies leading ultimately to the Ph.D.  Students with related undergraduate degrees, for example, in other branches of engineering or in the related physical sciences (eg. geology), may be admitted with a requirement to complete civil engineering undergraduate articulation courses before beginning coursework creditable toward the M.S.

Application for graduate studies begins by reviewing the graduate admissions requirements. Information on tuition and funding is provided here.

Students must complete a faculty-approved plan of study with a minimum of 30 credits of graduate work, including two general core courses (CEIE601 and CEIE605); at least three geotechnical engineering core courses; electives selected by the student with the approval of a faculty advisor; and a seminar requirement (CEIE795).

Students are responsible for developing and receiving faculty approval on a plan of study no later than the end of their second semester of study. Courses taken without prior approval by the faculty advisor may not be accepted for credit toward the degree. No more than three courses used for credit toward the M.S. may be cross-listed as undergraduate courses. None may repeat material completed as part of the student’s previous studies. Most M.S. courses are offered on a three semester rotation.

Geotechnical engineering students are required to take at least three of the following five GEOE core courses.

  • CEIE 531 – Earth Retaining Structures and Slope Stability Credits: 3
  • CEIE 634 – Groundwater and Geoenvironmental Design Credits: 3
  • CEIE 635 – Advanced Soil Mechanics Credits: 3
  • CEIE 636 – Sources of Geotechnical Data Credits: 3
  • CEIE 638 – Advanced Foundation Design Credits: 3

The remaining elective credits depend on whether the student is pursuing research credits or not.  Students choose one of the following options:

  • Thesis: 6 credits of CEIE 799 and at least 9 credits of electives
  • Project: 3 credits of CEIE 798 and at least 12 credits of electives
  • All coursework: at least 15 credits of electives

A list of approved electives for the geotechnical engineering concentration is provided below. Note that the remaining geotechnical engineering core courses can also be selected as electives.

  • CEIE 524 – Introduction to Bridge Engineering Credits: 3
  • CEIE 532 – Foundation Design Credits: 3 *
  • CEIE 535 – Engineering Geology Credits: 3 *
  • CEIE 573 – Legal Aspects of the Construction Process Credits: 3
  • CEIE 575 – Design for Constructability Credits: 3
  • CEIE 607 – Public Infrastructure Management and Finance Credits: 3
  • or GBUS 510 – Engineering Marketing and Financial Analysis Credits: 3
  • CEIE 639 – Special Topics in Geotechnical Engineering Credits: 1-3
  • CEIE 659 – Hazardous Waste Credits: 3
  • GGS 553 – Geographic Information System Credits: 3

Electives outside of the chosen concentration can only be taken or substituted with the approval of the faculty advisor.

(Courses marked with * are cross-listed as undergraduate courses. No more than three electives used for credit towards the M.S. may be cross-listed as undergraduate courses)