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Study Civil Engineering Abroad - the Definitive Guide

India is seeing an infrastructure boom with numerous construction projects in place and qualified civil engineers are in high demand.

Mahesh Ramani

Did you know that ‘Vaastushastra’ is the term given to the study of design and construction in ancient India?

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Subject modules & entry requirements

Civil Engineering is one core engineering stream that continues to maintain its sheen even as other streams are decreasing in popularity as students favour IT and Computer Science Engineering. Traditionally, the IITs at Roorkee and Kharagpur and the regional engineering colleges in Nagpur, Bengaluru and the College of Engineering in Chennai have been the top-ranked places to study Civil Engineering in India. In addition to an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering a postgraduate degree in the subject is advisable for students looking to carve a career for themselves in the highly competitive world of construction and civil engineering. This article will serve students as a guide to study Civil Engineering abroad.  

Postgraduate programme options

Students can choose from the MS in Civil Engineering, M.Tech in Civil Engineering, MSc in Civil Engineering and the M.Eng in Civil Engineering. Some institutions offer an integrated Civil Engineering programme that clubs together an undergraduate and postgraduate degree within five years. View all postgraduate programmes in Civil Engineering.

How long will you study?

The MS in Civil Engineering is usually offered as a two-year programme. In the UK, the MSc in Civil Engineering is offered as a one-year programme. Institutions like the Milwaukee School of Engineering offer a five year integrated MS in Civil Engineering that includes both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in five years. As per the QS World University Rankings 2015, the top five places to study Civil Engineering are:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Stanford University
  • National University of Singapore (NUS)
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Cambridge

What will you study?

A postgraduate programme in Civil Engineering will include modules on:

  • Soil Mechanics
  • Structural Engineering and Dynamics
  • Roads and Underground Infrastructure
  • Building Engineering Physics
  • Environmental Studies
  • Surveying
  • Urban Planning
  • Project Management
  • Flooding and Drainage Systems
  • Sustainable Design and Architecture

Typical entry requirements

Most institutions require applicants to have a relevant undergraduate degree in civil/construction engineering. Some universities accept students with an undergraduate degree in other subjects based on academic merit and additional modules of study.

English language proficiency

A score of 6.5 on the IELTS or 79 on the TOEFL is usually considered to be fair enough for admission into a postgraduate Civil Engineering programme. Some institutions may require a higher score of 7.0 on the IELTS.

GRE scores

To get into the top-ranked universities to study civil engineering a score of 1370 to 1390 on the GRE is essential. The next tier of universities would require a score of 1340 to 1360 on the GRE.    


The average cost of completing a postgraduate degree in Civil Engineering ranges between INR 20 lakhs to INR 55 lakhs based on the total duration of the programme. Students would have to earmark INR 8 lakhs a year for accommodation and living costs. The costs will vary dependent on the university and country of study. Prospective students are advised to explore all options regarding scholarships when they apply.

Subject specialisations

Civil Engineering as a subject is quite vast and offers a wide spectrum of interesting subject specialisations. The popular subject specialisations on offer are listed below.

Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical Engineering is a specialised field that looks at the impact of the soil type and seismic movements in a defined region and the construction of buildings there. To put this into simpler terms designing structures that can withstand minor earthquakes and minimise loss and damage are the key areas of study. View all postgraduate programmes in Geotechnical Engineering.

Urban Engineering

Urban engineers are in great demand. They help design new townships and improve the existing infrastructure facilities in a city. The Government of India has identified over 100 towns in the country, which are to be made into smart cities and the next decade will see the massive growth of current tier-2 towns into large cities. View all postgraduate programmes in Urban Engineering.

Public Health Engineering

The public health of a community or region is dependent on the sanitation, waste disposal and drainage facilities available. This specialisation focuses on the public health engineering techniques and models that can be applied to urban and rural planning projects. View all postgraduate programmes in Public Health Engineering.   

Water Management

This specialisation is gaining prominence and focuses on the behaviour and management of water systems and the physical and socio-economic aspects of water management.  View all postgraduate programmes in Water Management.

Coastal Engineering

Coastal areas are highly vulnerable and construction in coastal areas has to be done with extreme care. This specialisation focuses on how buildings, bridges and roads in coastal areas can be built to last. View all postgraduate programmes in Coastal Engineering.   

Wastewater Engineering

One of the biggest challenges that factories and large scale housing communities face is the safe disposal of waste water. This specialisation focuses on the disposal of waste water and other effluents that are a result of manufacturing and domestic use. View all postgraduate programmes in Wastewater Engineering.

Career prospects

As stated earlier, this is a period of massive development in India and trained civil engineers are in high demand. Projects as varied as designing townships, hospitals, bridges and highways to designing state-of-the-art factories for various manufacturing industries are lined up. Additionally, a variety of roles exist in ecological conservation projects, which focus on the design of sustainable buildings in ecologically sensitive areas.  

The following infographics sourced from Payscale indicate the average annual salaries for civil engineers in India and the USA.


Median Salary by Years Experience


Median Salary by Years Experience

The massive difference in wages is a clear indicator of the importance of an international degree and finding a job abroad.

Famous civil engineers

One of the most famous civil engineers that India has ever seen is Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya. He was popularly known as M. Visvesvaraya. Born into a family of Sanskrit scholars, he went on to study at the College of Engineering in Pune and joined the Public Works Department in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in 1884. He is famous for designing the ‘Block System’ that prevents the waste of water in dams. In the early 1900s, when the erstwhile Hyderabad State was under constant threat of flooding, he designed a proper drainage system that works even now. His biggest contribution to India is the design and erection of the Krishna Raja Sagara water reservoir and dam project across the river Kaveri in Karnataka.

Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, or E. Sreedharan is known as India’s ‘Metro Man’. He completed his degree in Civil Engineering from the Government Engineering College in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. He started his career as a lecturer in a college and joined the Indian Engineering Service – IES. His conviction and focus led to India’s first metro or underground train services project in Kolkatta. He was also instrumental in the development of the Konkan Railway Project and the Delhi Metro. He is respected by everyone for his discipline and integrity and was awarded the Padhma Vibhushan by the Indian government in 2008.

Professional associations


The Association of Consulting Civil Engineers (India) was formed in 1985 in Bengaluru. ACCE(I) has centres all over India and publishes books and a quarterly bulletin on updates in the civil engineering industry.


The American Society of Civil Engineers was founded in 1852 and has over 146,000 members in 174 countries around the world. ASCE runs eight institutes and offers a variety of programmes for civil engineers to help them keep their skills updated. ASCE also runs over 130 ‘Young Member Groups’ to foster a passion for civil engineering in young learners.

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