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The Civil Engineering Graduate Student Handbook sets forth the basic policies, requirements and procedures for graduate students pursuing Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in Civil Engineering. Please visit the graduate study resources site for more information. For requests related to the application for the M.S. or Ph.D. program in the CEE department, please get in touch with the CEE graduate office.

M.S. Program

The Department offers a graduate program leading to the M.S. degree in civil engineering with several areas of concentration, including construction management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, and transportation. Here are the Admission Instructions.

Close cooperation is maintained with other departments and the Water Resources Research Center. Students may choose either Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis).  Students that do not possess a B.S. degree in civil engineering must fulfill the requirements listed below.

The student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the MS program describe a skill-set that students are expected to have at the time of graduation. Specifically, our MSCE graduates will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate in-depth technical knowledge in a subdiscipline of specialization.
  2. Evaluate critically and synthesize literature to inform engineering solutions.
  3. Present effectively technical work orally in a formal setting.
  4. Produce technical reports and/or publishable manuscripts; and,
  5. Perform engineering research or conduct projects that address open-ended problems.

Each subdiscipline establishes a sequence of courses to achieve SLOs 1 and 2. To achieve SLO 3, every student is required to take a seminar course, where they are required to make an oral presentation. Also, every student presents orally during the final examination of their thesis (Plan A) or project work (typical for Plan B). To achieve SLO 4, each student must complete successfully either a research-oriented thesis (Plan A) or a research or practice-oriented project paper. The graduate student writing guidance is provided to help students to achieve SLO 4.

Minimum Prerequisites for Students Without a B.S. in Civil Engineering

The following list of courses (or equivalent) must be completed with a grade of “C” or better prior to advancement to candidacy in the selected area of concentration.

General Courses

One from the following:

  • CEE 330 Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 355 Geotechnical Engineering I (Soil Mechanics)
  • CEE 361 Fundamentals of Transportation
  • CEE 375 Construction Materials
  • CEE 381 Structural Analysis

Additional course(s) based on area of concentration

• CEE 472 Construction Management or

• CEE 473 Construction Equipment and Methods or
• CEE 474 Construction Estimating and Bidding

• CEE 431 Water and Wastewater Engineering

• CEE 455 Geotechnical Engineering II

• CEE 421 Engineering Hydraulics

• CEE 482 Indeterminate Structures or
CEE 485 Reinforced Concrete Design or
CEE 486 Structural Steel Design

• CEE 461 Pavement Engineering
• CEE 462 Traffic Engineering or
CEE 464 Urban & Regional Transportation Planning

Minimum M.S. Program Requirements*
Plan A (Thesis)
Plan B (Non-thesis)
CEE Graduate courses – > 600 (excluding CEE 699, CEE 700 and seminars)
12 credits
18 credits
Graduate and/or 400-level courses  9  9
Thesis – CEE 700 (thesis topic and title to be approved by student’s Graduate Committee)  9  0
Major research report – CEE 695  0  3
Seminars – CEE 691  1  1
Minimum Total Credits
Maximum number of CEE 699 (in addition to thesis research credits or CEE 695 report)  3  3
Final examination
Oral thesis defense
Written and/or oral exam (at discretion of student’s Graduate Committee)
Required course during semester degree is to be
CEE 700
CEE 600, if all other coursework is completed

*Additional courses may be required by the Student’s Graduate Committee

Only courses which receive a C or better will count towards M.S. starting from Fall 2019. Thus, a C- course would have to be repeated or take another class if needed to meet minimum credit requirements.

Other M.S. Program Requirements and Information

Incoming graduate students must be advised by an interim advisor that is either assigned or requested by the student.  A graduate student should select Plan A or Plan B at the start of his or her incoming semester, but no later than at the completion of 12 credits or by the end of the second semester, whichever is sooner.

Pre-Candidacy Progress Form I (Plan A) or Form 1 (Plan B)

A preliminary degree plan that lists the student’s intended courses should be developed in consultation with advisor and be submitted as soon as practical.  The list of courses may be modified at a later date.

Previous graduate credits (from unclassified status or from another institution) must be transferred during the first semester after being accepted as a conditional or regular student.  A maximum of three graduate courses from another institution can be transferred into the M.S. program.

Admission to candidacy is at the discretion of the Department and authorized by the Graduate Program Chair.  Generally, advancement occurs after one semester and 12 credits of acceptable graduate degree coursework with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.  All listed undergraduate deficiencies must be satisfied prior to admission to candidacy.  Note that conditional students can be transferred to regular status after completing 12 credits of approved graduate degree coursework with a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Advance to Candidacy Form II or Form 2

The graduate student’s committee consists of a minimum of three Graduate Faculty members.  At least two of these must be from the Department, one of which must be the chair.  The chair becomes the student’s academic advisor.  Note that the interim advisor does not have to be a member of the committee.  The student’s academic program must be approved by the Graduate Faculty Committee.

For Plan B a student must have the Graduate Faculty Committee formed and program of courses approved by the committee at least by the time that 18 credits of graduate degree courses have been completed.

Plan A: A student must have the thesis research topic and title approved by the Graduate Faculty Committee prior to registering for thesis credits (CEE 700).  Any CEE 699 that is intended to be transferred later to thesis credit must be taken as credit/no credit.

Plan B: A student must have the major research report topic and title (3 credits of CEE 699) approved by the students Graduate Faculty Committee

Thesis Evaluation Form III or Form 3

Plan A: Student’s thesis defense and oral examination are administered by the Graduate Faculty Committee.

Plan B: Comprehensive written and/or oral examination is prepared and administered by the Graduate Faculty Committee.

Residency Requirement and Time Limit

M.S. students are required to be in residency for two semesters of full-time work.  For part-time students, each 8 units completed as a classified graduate student will be equivalent to a full-time semester.

The maximum time allowed for a student to complete the M.S. degree and utilize all graduate degree credits is seven years preceding the date upon which the degree is conferred.

Fast-Track Combined Bachelor’s & Master’s Degrees in Civil Engineering (BAM)

The combined BS (4 yrs) + MS (1 yr) program provides a fast track for students to receive both BSCE and MSCE degrees in five years by allowing the double-counting of 6 credits in both programs. See program flyer.

CEE Juniors who have achieved a grade of B or better in the gateway class (CEE 361 Fundamentals of Transportation); and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher are eligible to apply to the program.

Double counted courses must be taken in the senior year after admission into the program. Six (6) credits are double-counted in the two programs: three (3) credits for CEE490 Senior Design Project, and three (3) credits for one 600+ course that depends on the student’s area of emphasis, as follows: Construction (CEE602 or 604); Environmental (CEE633 or 635); Geotechnical (CEE655); Structures (CEE681); Transportation (CEE661 or 665).

Students must apply to the Fast-Track BAM program after their fifth semester (Junior year), click here for the application form. Upon approval from the CEE Graduate Chair, students will then submit the regular on-line MS application documents to Graduate Division, see Admission Instructions. Early admission to the MS program occurs in the senior year when the two double counted courses are taken. Fast-Track BAM students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher during MS studies.

Students in the Fast-Track BAM program can choose either Plan A (Thesis) or Plan B (Non-Thesis) options to fulfill the MSCE program requirements to receive the MSCE degree in the 5th year. Students will work with their self-chosen graduate advisor to determine their personalized program of courses and their thesis option.

Dual Master’s in CE and MBA program

A dual Master’s degree in Civil Engineering and Business Administration is available. The program is offered through the Shidler College of Business at UH Manoa. Students must apply to and be accepted into both programs. Once accepted all classes must be taken as a business school graduate student while paying business school tuition rates. The intent is for students to take CE courses during the day and MBA courses in the evening. There are a total of 73 credits for the dual degree program which includes 9 credits that are double-counted to satisfy MSCE and MBA requirements. Additional details and information can be found at the Shidler Business School website.

Ph.D. Program

The Department offers a graduate program leading to the Ph.D. degree in civil engineering with areas of concentration in construction management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, and transportation. Here are the Admission Instructions.

The student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the PhD program describe a skill set that students are expected to have at the time of graduation. Specifically, our PhD graduates will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate foundational knowledge in civil engineering and comprehensive technical expertise in a subdiscipline of specialization.
  2. Evaluate critically and synthesize literature to inform engineering solutions.
  3. Present proficiently research plans and results orally in a formal setting.
  4. Perform original engineering research; and,
  5. Produce publishable manuscripts.

Each subdiscipline establishes a sequence of courses to achieve SLOs 1 and 2. To achieve SLO 3, every student is required to take a seminar course, where they make an oral presentation, and every student must write a dissertation, which they defend orally during the final examination. To achieve SLO 4 and 5, each student must complete successfully a research-oriented dissertation. The graduate student writing guidance is provided to help students to achieve SLO 4 and 5.

Program Requirements

Pre-Candidacy Progress (Form I)

All Ph.D. students are required to take a qualifying examination (QE), which is administered at a time and date that is convenient and appropriate for students taking the exam and their advisors, in coordination with the Graduate Program Chair. The QE is to be taken no later than the third semester following admission to the program. However, students usually do not take the QE during their first semester in the program, unless they are continuing Department M.S. students. It is the student’s responsibility to register for the QE in the Department office no later than the second week of classes in the semester in which the QE is to be taken.

The purpose of the QE is to assess a student’s potential for doctoral studies, including the conduct of scholarly research.  In addition, the QE is used to identify possible deficiencies in the student’s background.  If necessary, the results can be used to devise a program of remedial study to rectify any such weaknesses.

The QE consists of a five-hour, closed-book, written examination, followed within one week with an oral exam.  The first portion of the written section is 1.5 hours long and involves questions on engineering mathematics, probability and statistics.  These questions are restricted to material that would normally be expected to be part of a B.S. program in civil and environmental engineering.  The second written section is 2.5 hours long and is targeted at the student’s particular area of study.  Questions involve material that would be familiar to students who have completed a M.S. program in their area of specialty.  The third written section is one hour long and involves preparing an essay on a generic engineering topic to assess the student’s composition skills and writing ability.  All students will take the written examination at the same time.

The oral part is not conceived as an additional exam; rather, it is meant to complement the written part.  Its purpose is to discuss the results of the written part with the student, clarify errors through further questioning, and, if necessary, more clearly identify weaknesses so that a plan of remedial study can be designed.  Ordinarily, only the examination committee and the student are involved in the oral exam.  However, if a student’s solution to a written question is considered insufficient, and the faculty member who submitted the question is not a committee member, that faculty member may also attend the oral exam.

The QE is administered by a committee of at least three graduate faculty in the Department.  The committee members are appointed by the Graduate Program Chair and serve for the academic year.   There will be a separate committee for each area of specialization.  The examination committee develops the written exam, although questions may be submitted by faculty who are not members of the committee.  However, selection of questions for the QE is the sole responsibility of the committee.  Problems will be corrected by faculty members who submitted them.  Corrected problems are not returned to the student.  In addition, students are not allowed to ask committee members questions regarding the examination, either before the written or oral parts.  This policy is designed to provide the greatest fairness in the administration of the examination from year to year.

Only committee members may vote on passing or failing a student.  A simple majority of the committee is required for deciding the outcome of the examination.  Students failing the QE may repeat it once during the following offering.  A student failing the QE a second time will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Coursework and Dissertation Research

Students must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 50 credit hours in course work beyond the B.S. and a minimum of 1 credit hour in civil and environmental engineering graduate seminars as a Ph.D. student. Based on a written recommendation of the student’s dissertation committee, and with the approval of the Graduate Program Chair, students entering the Ph.D. program may be granted an equivalence of up to 30 credit hours earned as part of the student’s M.S. program.  The 30 credit hour equivalents may include up to 9 credit hours for the previous M.S. thesis work, but exclude graduate seminar credit hours taken as part of the M.S. program.

The courses that a student undertakes to fulfill the Ph.D. credit hour requirements must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee.  At least 27 credit hours must be from graduate-level civil and environmental engineering courses.  The remaining courses may include graduate and 400-level courses offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering or other appropriate departments of the University.

Only courses which receive a C or better will count towards Ph.D. starting  from Fall 2019. Thus, a C- course would have to be repeated or take another class if needed to meet minimum credit requirements.

A comprehensive dissertation is required of all students. It is to present results from innovative research that makes a significant contribution to the student’s selected field of specialization. The findings should be publishable in refereed journals and other scientific and engineering forums. A dissertation proposal needs to be prepared and presented to perspective committee members by the end of the second year of study. The Proposal must receive the unanimous approval of the dissertation committee. After the PhD committee is formed and the PhD proposal is approved, the student must update the committee members at least once a year to report on the progress of his/her research.

Advance to Candidacy (Form II)

Every Ph.D. student must pass a comprehensive examination.  The purpose of this examination is to ascertain the student’s comprehension of the advances in the chosen specialty.  Examinations are given when, in the judgment of the dissertation committee, the student has had sufficient preparation, but not sooner than six calendar months after the student has passed the qualifying examination.

The examination committee consists of all members of the dissertation committee.  The examination committee will select its own chair; however, the chair of the dissertation committee may not serve as chair of the examination committee.  The role of the chair is to schedule the exam, coordinate the written questions from the members, administer the exam to the student, and chair the oral exam.

The comprehensive examination consists of a written part and an oral part.  The written part is a take-home, open-book, 5-day exam prepared by the examination committee.  It is to be handed to the student on a Monday morning, no later than 9:00 AM, and it is to be returned by the student not earlier than noon, and no later than 5:00 PM, on the following Friday. A copy of the corrected exam will be returned to the student no later than the following Wednesday.

The oral part will then take place no earlier than the Friday following the return of the corrected written exam to the student.  It will be attended by all members of the committee, and may last a maximum of three hours.  The oral examination provides an opportunity to discuss the written exam and to pose new questions to the student.

A student passes the comprehensive examination if no more than one committee member opposes such an action.  A student who fails the comprehensive examination may, at the discretion of the examination committee, repeat it once after a time period of six calendar months.  A student who fails the examination a second time will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D, program.

Students attain the status of doctoral candidate after forming their committee, passing the comprehensive exam, getting their dissertation topic approved by their committee, and completing Form II.

Dissertation Evaluation (Form III)

Ph.D. candidates are required to take a final examination in defense of their dissertation.  The candidate’s dissertation committee conducts the examination.  Students pass upon the favorable recommendation of the majority of the committee.

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