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The Top Rated Graduate Schools for Structural Engineering

by Laura Fletcher, studioD

Structural engineers can view the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, the majesty of the Hoover Dam or the soaring heights of a skyscraper and take pride in their profession. A subspecialty of civil engineering, structural engineering combines calculus, probability, ecology and materials science to ensure that a given structure will be stable and endure in its environment. College ranking authority “U.S. News & World Report” regards the graduate program in civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the finest in the country, but other programs are also highly regarded.

The University of Illinois

The graduate program at the University of Illinois stands out by offering special dual master’s degrees in civil engineering. Students can choose to pursue double master’s degrees in architecture and civil engineering with a structural focus; they can also combine an MBA with an M.S. in civil engineering. A master’s student can complete a degree with or without a research thesis, while Ph.D. students are required to participate in world-class research and complete a dissertation. The research concentrations at the University of Illinois include earthquake engineering and risk management, smart materials, structural dynamics and control, structural health monitoring, computational solid and fluid mechanics, fluid-structure interaction, and buildings and bridges made from steel, concrete, masonry, timber and composite materials.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

While “U.S. News & World Report” favors the University of Illinois, the UK’s “The Guardian” considers the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the best school for civil and structural engineering. The graduate program in civil engineering at MIT offers a specialization in transportation, and students at the master’s level can choose either a research or a practice-focused track. Ph.D.s and research-oriented master’s students participate in experiments on environmental chemistry, environmental fluid mechanics and coastal engineering, geomechanics and geotechnology, hydrology, infrastructure systems and transportation systems alongside their professors.

University of California at Berkeley

Both “U.S. News” and “The Guardian” rank the University of California at Berkeley in the top two or three U.S. civil engineering programs. Students who choose the structural engineering, mechanics and materials (SEMM) specialty can pursue a Master of Science or Master of Engineering degree as well as a Ph.D. The SEMM program focuses on the three core research areas of structural analysis and design, mechanics of structures and solids, and materials in structures and construction. This includes structural dynamics and random vibrations, advanced concrete technology and earthquake resistant design.

Stanford University

Like UC Berkeley, both “U.S. News” and “The Guardian” recognize Stanford University as one of the top two or three civil engineering schools in the world. Within civil engineering, the school offers a specialty in structural engineering and geomechanics, which is linked with a design construction integration program. At the master’s level, students can pursue a Master of Science focused on either structural engineering or geomechanics, while the Ph.D. covers research in both disciplines. Graduate students conduct many hands-on experiments at Stanford’s John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering Center, as well as the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering and the National Program for Dam Performance.

About the Author

Laura Holland Fletcher has graduate level training in ESL, linguistics and the teaching of writing. She taught ESL and college writing for more than 10 years in both the US and Asia. She also writes for local and national magazines that cover legal, educational and social justice issues.

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