• The Office of Graduate Admissions provides general information for students wishing to pursue graduate study at the University of Iowa.
  • Find the Graduate College Application here. This option is available to both international students and U.S. citizens.
    • Materials to be submitted in addition to the application are: a statement of purpose, resume, three letters of recommendation, and departmental supplemental graduate application information form.
  • Applicants to the MS program should have a cumulative undergraduate g.p.a. of at least 3.00.  PhD applicants should have a graduate g.p.a. of at least 3.00.
  • Beginning in Fall 2022, GRE scores will no longer be required. 
  • PhD students with an MS degree may be able to apply up to 24 semester hours from their MS degree towards the PhD course requirements.
  • The requirements needed for the MS and PhD programs vary depending on the area of focus. The CEE department includes three graduate programs: 
  • The College of Engineering homepage provides general information about the UI College of Engineering and links to the six programs within the College of Engineering.


Assistantships are awarded to the most highly qualified applicants in February.  Therefore students who wish to be considered for financial aid in the fall semester must complete the application process by January 15. 

Semester to begin graduate study




International applicants

March 1

April 15

October 15


Domestic applicants

April 15

July 15

December 1

Degree Offerings

1. PhD (72 SH)
    14 classes + ethics seminar = 43 SH
    Research = 29 SH

2. MS-Thesis (30 SH)
    8 classes + ethics seminar = 25 SH
    Research = 5 SH

3. MS Non-Thesis (31 SH)
    10 classes + ethics seminar =  31 SH

4. BS/MS (U2G)

Three Research Programs

  1. Structures, Mechanics, and Materials
  2. Transportation Infrastructure
  3. Water and the Environment

U2G (BS/MS) Program in Civil & Environmental Engineering

Admission into the U2G Undergraduate-to-Graduate (BS/MS) non-thesis program is based on the student’s academic record. Students must have completed at least 80 s.h. and have a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.25. They must submit a graduate application to the Graduate College and must identify a faculty adviser. The advisor should guide the student during the second semester of the senior year, and until the completion of the MS degree. In an effort to serve the most able undergraduate engineering students at the University of Iowa, CEE, and the College of Engineering support a combined bachelor of science and master of science degree program (BS/MS). Students admitted to this program will be allowed to: apply three engineering courses (9 s.h.) toward both the BS and MS degree requirements; take an additional 3 s.h. of graduate coursework before completing their BS; and attend and participate in the departmental graduate seminar. The intent of the program is to allow an early entrance to graduate school for our most able students. Once students complete the requirements for the bachelor's degree, they are granted the BS, and they normally complete the MS one year later.

Additional information

  • Submit the online application to the Office of Admissions by May 15 in the spring of your junior year.
  • Materials to be submitted in addition to the application are: a statement of purpose, resume, three letters of recommendation, and departmental supplemental graduate application information form.
  • Students admitted into the BS/MS degree program can apply and double-count three upper level undergraduate courses toward a BS and graduate degree. If a student's schedule allows, a fourth course is possible to count towards the graduate degree, only if not needed for the BS.
  • The U2G (BS/MS) program is primarily intended for students interested in pursuing the MS/nonthesis degree option. However, the MS/thesis degree option can be pursued in those instances where (i) a student has been conducting research under the supervision of a CEE faculty member since (at least) the summer following the student’s junior year and (ii) a CEE faculty member is willing to provide RA support during (at least) the student’s second year in the BS/MS program. 
  • A GRE score is NOT required.

PhD Qualifying Exam

The objective of the PhD Qualifying Exam is to evaluate students’ ability to conduct PhD research and communicate research goals and outcomes. All PhD students must pass the PhD qualifying exam within their first year of study.1 Typically exams are scheduled for one hour in late May, early June. The PhD qualifying exam requires successful demonstration of academic ability, written technical communication, and oral technical communication. The examination will be conducted by a Qualifying Examination Committee, which includes your advisor and two CEE faculty members. Other committee members can be considered with approval of your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). The examination is conducted in two steps: (1) a review of examination materials submitted by the student, and (2) an examination meeting with the student.

To initiate the examination process, students will identify their committee members in consultation with their advisor and schedule a one hour exam time (Kim Lebeck can help with this). One week before the scheduled exam, students should provide their committee members with electronic copies of the following materials (as a single pdf):

  1. A current resume or CV including a list of oral presentations the student has made (if any) including seminars, workshops, and technical conferences.
  2. An unofficial copy of your University of Iowa transcript.
  3. A Plan of Study outlining courses taken and expected future courses.
  4. An example of written technical communication, such as a literature review on a subject chosen by the student and his/her advisor. There are no strict rules on format, but the review should be about 5 (single-spaced) or 10 (double-spaced) pages, not including references and figures. Alternatively, if the student has recently completed a manuscript of a journal article or conference proceedings on which they are lead author, the student may submit this as their writing sample (with advisor’s approval).

After review of this material, the student will meet with their PhD Qualifying Exam committee. The examination meeting will involve a discussion of the student’s research plans and qualifications with the committee. The meeting should include a short (15-minute) presentation related to the writing assignment in item (4) above, as well as a brief summary of the student’s research progress to date. The final slide(s) of the presentation should include an outline of the research proposal plan that will be defended in the subsequent PhD Comprehensive Examination. This outline should include a tentative title for your thesis, as well as the overall objective, overriding hypothesis, general approach, and key outcomes and benefits of the work to be formally proposed. At the conclusion of the presentation, the committee will lead a discussion of topics related to your writing assignment and research plans, and the student will be expected to answer oral questions on their academic preparation.

If the examination was unsatisfactory, the student, in consultation with the DGS and their advisor will develop a plan to address deficiencies and retake the exam within three months. Failure to pass the exam the second time will result in dismissal from the program. If the exam was satisfactory, the advisor will inform the Director of Graduate Studies that the examination has been successfully completely.


[1] An extension may be given with a signed waiver your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Failure to take the qualifying exam in the first year without a waiver is sufficient cause for dismissal from the PhD program.


If you are taking your comprehensive exam or are expecting to graduate you must ALWAYS be registered for something graduate-level in that session.  Even if it is the summer you must be registered.

If you are working toward a PhD and have completed your comprehensive exam you are required to be registered every spring and fall until you complete your degree. In addition, the examination must be satisfactorily completed no later than the session prior to the session of graduation.

Any time you have questions, feel free to email or call Kim Lebeck, 319-335-5647 or stop by the CEE department office in 4105 Seamans Center.

Committee Selection

When selecting your MS or PhD committee there are some requirements of the Graduate College that need to be fulfilled. For the MS committee a total of three members are required. Of the three members, at least two tenure-track faculty must be from the University of Iowa and both of these must be current, active faculty members of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

For the PhD committee a total of at least four members are required. Historically it has been five members and five is still accepted. Of the four members, at least three tenure-track faculty must be from the University of Iowa and at least two must be current, active faculty member of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Departments may request the dean's permission to replace one of the four members of the graduate faculty by a recognized scholar of professorial rank from another academic institution. Also, a voting member may be added at the discretion of the Graduate College Dean. Where appropriate, the Professional Training Experience (PTE) mentor is encouraged to be included as an outside member of the committee. Kim Lebeck can help with processing the request.

PhD Comprehensive Exam

The PhD comprehensive examination requires a research proposal plan and oral presentation. The research proposal plan is prepared in writing and distributed to the committee members at least two weeks prior to the exam, or by arrangement with each committee member. The written proposal is limited to 15 pages and should include a short literature review providing the motivation and rationale for the work, a testable hypothesis (or hypotheses), objectives, an experimental plan with an appropriate description of methods, timeline for research progress, and preliminary results. Required components of the proposal not included in the 15-page limit are a one-page abstract summarizing the key aspects of the proposed plan of research, the list of references cited, and a two-page CV of the candidate. During proposal preparation, students are encouraged to follow the guidelines for proposal structure and content put forth by the National Science Foundation.  

The structure of the oral exam includes a 30-minute presentation of the research plan followed by questions from each of the committee members. The 30-minute presentation should clearly distinguish between any preliminary work already conducted and the objectives, methods, and expected results for future work, along with an anticipated timeline for degree completion. The oral exam is also an opportunity to discuss collaborations (including potential authorship on publications resulting from the research), additional coursework, or skills that the committee recommends for successful completion of the research.

To initiate the examination process, students will identify their committee members in consultation with their advisor and once a committee, date and time have been scheduled please contact Kim Lebeck. The Graduate College needs to have all the requested information before the exam so Kim will need your information three weeks prior to the exam date. This also applies to preparing for the final exam/defense. Please make sure to contact her three weeks prior to the final exam date.