The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Geotech Degree Programs


M.S. Degree

M.S. Coursework Option

Ph.D. Degree

Master of Science

The principal objectives of the Master's degree program in Geotechnical Engineering are to educate qualified students in the discipline of Geotechnical Engineering and prepare individuals for careers as geotechnical engineers in the areas of soil mechanics, foundation engineering and environmental geotechnics. These objectives are achieved through a course program carefully prepared by the student and his/her advisor. The basic understanding of geotechnical problems is obtained from a core of required fundamental courses. In addition to the core courses, a variety of other elective courses are offered which allow individuals to complete their career goals.

At the M.S. level, students may choose to follow either a career path in traditional Geotechnical Engineering or a path in Environmental Geotechnics. Course requirements for each of these paths differ. In addition to the general Graduate School requirements for the M.S. Degree, a minimum of 31 graduate credits must be earned for a M.S. in Geo

technical Engineering. In

 either program students earn a Master of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.


Geotechnical Engineering

24 credits of course work

1. Core Courses typically consist of:

  • CEE 620 Shear Strength and Soil Behavior  (3 credits)
  • CEE 523 Ground Improvement  (4 credits)
  • CEE 623 Advanced Foundation Engineering (4 credits)
  • CEE 527 Earthquake Engineering (4 credits)

2. Geosciences Elective:

  • One Geoscience Course (examples include: CEE 575 Hydrogeology, GEO 560 Geomorphology, GEO 562 Glacial Geology, etc.)

3. Additional Electives

  • Additional credit hours (usually 6 to 9) of additional graduate level coursework in Geotechnical Engineering or other related field as approved by your academic advisor

4. Plus Thesis and Seminar

  • Six credit hours of Master's Research Project
  • One credit hour of Geotechnical Seminar

Net Total Credits = 24(courses) + 6(thesis) + 1(seminar) = 31 credits

Master of Science Coursework Option

This program allows students to obtain an M.S. degree which is based on coursework only and does not involve a research project which would normally be undertaken in the traditional M.S. program. The program presents the opportunity for persons currently employed to take a nine month leave of absence to complete the degree requirements. The program is intended for students who are not being supported on either a teaching assistantship (TA) or research assistantship (RA) and who are self-supported. Students in this program will receive no financial assistance from the Geotechnical Engineering Group and will be expected to cover the cost of fees, tuition, and other expenses. The program is a regimented curriculum consisting of 31 credit hours of graduate coursework in Geotechnical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Geology (this typically amounts to 10 - 3 credit classes plus 1 credit seminar). The curriculum is designed to allow completion of the degree requirements in two consecutive semesters, and must be initiated in the fall semester in order to complete in 2 semesters. Students can at their choosing take longer than two semesters to complete the degree.


The courses taken by a student to satisfy the degree requirements are set upon mutual agreement between the student and his/her advisor. Specific programs of study will vary depending on course offerings. However, in the degree requirements are generally as follows (course are typically either 3 or 4 credits):

  1. Geotechnical Engineering courses – usually 15 to 20 credits
  2. 1 required Geosciences course – usually 4 credits
  3. Additional graduate level electives – usually 9 to 12 credits
  4. Geotechnical Engineering Seminar – 1 credit

Electives include other Geotechnical Engineering courses or relevant courses in Environmental Engineering, Structural Engineering, Soil Science, Geosciences, etc.

In terms of anticipated cost, for Massachusetts Residents, Tuition and Fees for the Fall and Spring academic year is approximately $11,000. Latest information on this is available at the UMass Amherst Graduate School.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The objective of the Ph.D. degree in Geotechnical Engineering is to provide advanced study in specific areas related to Geotechnical Engineering. Considerably more emphasis is placed on research activities in the Ph.D. degree than in the M.S. degree program. It is expected that the Ph.D. candidate will produce work which will be a significant contribution to the profession.

Individual Ph.D. programs are specially designed for each student to reflect individual interests and needs. Before being admitted to the Ph.D. program the student normally must hold an M.S. degree in Geotechnical Engineering. The Ph.D. requirements are as follows:

  1. 18 credit hours of graduate level coursework beyond the master's degree.
  2. 18 credit hours of dissertation credits.
  3. One credit hour of Geotechnical Seminar
  4. A Preliminary Comprehensive Examination to demonstrate general breadth of background knowledge in Geotechnical Engineering.
  5. One year in residency.
  6. Dissertation.