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Geotechnical Engineering


The graduate program provides an environment rich in research and education opportunities. Primary focus areas include geomechanics (soil & rock), earth structures, foundation engineering, earthquake engineering, environmental geotechnics, geological engineering and the emerging area of geotechnical composites. Recent research activities include laboratory and in-situ testing of soils, computer analysis and design of earth structures, surface characterization, interface engineering and design, liquefaction analysis, geologic hazards, and geological engineering. Throughout, emphasis is placed on fundamental understanding of geo-material properties and behavior and on applications of modern numerical methods and other techniques in engineering practice.

There are typically 30 to 40 students in the program with 5 to 10 working toward Ph.D. degrees. Each graduate student develops a program of coursework with the assistance of an advisor. Assistantships and fellowships are available for graduate students in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Via Fellowships are available for outstanding students, and provide a very high level of financial support.

Job Opportunities for our graduates are excellent. Our students are in great demand because of the strength of our course offerings, and because employers recognize that we integrate practice, research, and education to create a comprehensive professional experience. Salaries are high, often come with signing bonuses, and our graduates receive multiple job offers.

For more Information,

contact Professor Russell Green, Geotechnical Engineering Graduate Admissions Coordinator:

Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
200 Patton Hall
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0105.
Phone: 540-231-9826
Fax: 540-231-1620

Master of Science – General Degree Requirements

The M.S. degree requires completion of 30 semester hours of coursework. The graduate catalog provides a discussion of the specific requirements. Geotechnical engineering students normally obtain a Master of Science by the non-thesis option which can be completed through coursework and project and report, or by completing coursework only. The project is a research topic selected in conjunction with one of the faculty with the general goal of contributing to the geotechnical profession through publication of a report or scholarly paper. Thesis research is generally more involved than the non-thesis project and report.

Graduate Courses in Geotechnical Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy – General Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 90 semester hours of graduate study (beyond the bachelors degree) and a dissertation. The dissertation documents a specific research topic and is a unique contribution to society and is prepared under the guidance of a faculty advisor and a thesis committee. The advisor and committee assist in developing a program of coursework that meets the objectives of the student. Typically, a Ph.D. requires 3 or more years of graduate study and research. To be considered a Ph.D. candidate, the student must first successfully complete an oral and written Comprehensive Examination. This is usually taken in the second year of study.

Persons interested in pursuing Ph.D. should contact Graduate Admissions Coordinator, or faculty member(s) with a research program in the area(s) of interest.


CEE 3514 - Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering

Engineering properties of soils including their descriptions and classifications, the effects of water, soil strength and compressibility. Introduction to soil stabilization, earth pressures, slope stability, and foundations.

CEE 4514 - Methods in Geotechnical Engineering

Principles and techniques for characterizing earth materials (soil and rock) for civil engineering projects in various regional environments; with emphasis on the interdisciplinary approach to field exploration and site description through soil mechanics theory, geologic correlations, geophysical methods, in site testing and sampling.

CEE 4534 - Earth Pressures and Foundation Structures

Earth pressure theories and their applications to the design of retaining structures, anchors, and excavation bracing. Bearing capacity and settlement of shallow foundations. Types and capacity of deep foundations.

CEE 4544 - Design of Earth Structures

Application of geotechnical engineering principles in the design and construction of earth structures. Subsurface models, shear strength of soil, slope stability, earth fills, earth retention, ground improvement, sustainability considerations, geotechnical reporting.

CEE 4554 - Natural Disaster Mitigation

Causes, mechanics, classification, and forces associated with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and landslides. Resistance evaluation for existing ground, facilities and structures. Hazard-resistant design of new facilities. Risk and reliability assessment and decision analysis. Strategies and designs for natural disaster risk mitigation. Emergency response for protection of life and property and restoration of lifelines. Includes an interdisciplinary team project.

CEE 4564 - Intro. to Coastal and Marine Geotechnics

With a likely acceleration in coastal flooding, sea-level rise and related coastal erosion in the future, as well as increased industrial usage of the coastal zone and oceans, there is an increasing demand for qualified civil engineers with an understanding of coastal and marine processes. This course provides an introduction to coastal and marine geotechnical engineering, and exposes students to the array of geotechnical engineering considerations unique to coastal projects. These considerations include subaqueous sediment dynamics, in-situ geotechnical methods, complementary survey techniques and specific applications such as for offshore renewable energy and port and navigation infrastructure. In summary, the course will cover the following topics: Geotechnical aspects of coastal and marine engineering. Introduction of the coastal zone as a working environment. In-situ geotechnical methods and complementary techniques for investigation. Survey strategies. Local field trips for demonstrating methods, practice and design.

CEE 5500 - Numerical Methods in Geotechnics

Numerical modeling of geotechnical systems. Numerical methods in geotechnics. Finite element method, formulations of boundary value problems, principles of coupled hydromechanical analysis. Structure and use of finite element software.

CEE 5504 - Risk Analysis in Geotechnical Engineering

Methods for risk analysis of complex systems. Basic concepts of probability and reliability applied to geotechnical engineering problems. Geostatistics concepts. Probabilistic seismic hazard analysis and performance based design. Computational tools and simulation methods.

CEE 5514 - Soil Behavior

Behavior of soil examined from a fundamental soil perspective. Review of methods of testing to define response; rationale for choosing shear strength and deformation parameters for soils for design applications.

CEE 5524 - Advanced Soil Testing for Engineering Purposes

Methods of testing and analysis of soil for engineering properties including compressibility; strength in triaxial, simple, and direct shear; permeability; and stability.

CEE 5534 - Foundation Engineering I

Behavior and design of retaining walls and shallow foundations. Earth pressures, bearing capacity, and settlement. Stress distribution and consolidation theories. Settlement of shallow foundations.

CEE 5544 - Foundation Engineering II

Behavior and design of anchored bulkheads, excavation bracing, driven piles, drilled piers and buried structures. Effects of pile driving. Response of deep foundations to vertical and horizontal loads.

CEE 5554 - Soil and Site Improvement

Methods of soil and site improvement including design techniques for dewatering systems, grouting, reinforced earth, in-situ densification, stone columns, slurry trenches, and the use of geotextiles. Construction techniques for each system are described.

CEE 5564 - Seepage and Earth Structures

Soil permeability and seepage through soils. Embankment design. Compaction, earth pressures and pressures in embankments. Slope stability analysis. Settlements and horizontal movements in embankments. Landslide stabilization.

CEE 5574 - Environmental Geotechnics

Geotechnical aspects of environmental engineering projects. Fundamentals of soil behavior, site characterization, and contaminant transport; methods for geotechnical engineering practice for waste disposal, waste containment, and site remediation; waste landfills.

CEE 5584 - Geotechnical Aspects of Earthquake Engineering

Causative mechanisms of earthquake, earthquake magnitudes, ground motion, effect of local soil conditions on motions. Response of soils to seismic loading, liquefaction phenomena and analysis of pore pressure development, laboratory and in-situ testing for seismic loading. Analysis and design of slopes, embankments, foundations, and earth retaining structures for seismic loading.

CEE 5594 - Geological Engineering

Mechanical and hydraulic properties of rock masses; analysis and design of rock foundations, slopes, tunnels, and other forms of civil infrastructure; rock reinforcement.

CEE 5814 - Structure-Sediment Interaction in the Coastal Zone

Scour processes at structure foundations in the coastal zone. Erosion and undermining at port walls, pipelines, piers, jetties, breakwaters, artificial reefs. Foundations and moorings for nearshore renewable energy devices. Sediment remobilization and liquefaction as a consequence of cyclic loadings and extreme events.

CEE 5864 - Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics

Sediment transport in marine environments, shoreline change, bedform evolution and morphodynamics, tidal inlet morphodynamics, barrier island processes, storm erosion, delta development, beach dynamics. Evolution of estuarine waterways and wetland systems.

CEE 5874 - Coastal and Marine Geotechnics

Geotechnical aspects of coastal and marine engineering. The coastal zone as a working environment. Geotechnical properties of beach and seafloor sediments, methods and processes for subaqueous and coastal site investigations, complementary techniques for investigation. In-situ survey strategies, planning and management.

CEE 5984 - (Fall 2018) Modeling with MPM

This course is designed to introduce the basis of the material point method (MPM), which is an advanced numerical approach especially suited to model large deformation problems. The course includes lectures and hands-on computer sessions in which students will have the opportunity to have their first experience with the Anura3D software. Anura3D is an MPM software especially developed to solve geotechnical problems and incorporates a dynamic hydro-mechanical approach capable of modeling multi-phase analysis and soil-structure interaction problems. During training lectures, the students will learn first-hand capabilities of MPM by means of a set of practical exercises that will be undertaken following a tutorial specially designed for the course.

CEE 6504 - Theoretical Soil Mechanics

Constitutive Laws for Soils, nonlinear elastic and plastic models. Consolidation, inverted systems and drains, approximate three-dimensional theories and Biot's poro-elastic formulation. Plastic equilibrium in soils. Sokolovski's method of characteristics, applications to earth pressure, bearing capacity and slope stability problems. Analysis of machine foundation problems, elastic waves through soils, dynamic properties of soils.

CEE 6514 - Dynamics Soil and Foundations

Principles of the dynamics of soils and foundations. Seismic waves. Non-linear dynamic soil behaviors and vibrations. Dynamic-soil-structure interaction. Impedance functions and machine foundation design. Pre: CEE 5584

CEE 6514 - Dynamics Soil and Foundations

Principles of the dynamics of soils and foundations. Seismic waves, Non-linear dynamic soil behavior and vibrations. Dynamic-soil-structure interaction. Impedance functions and machine foundation design. Pre: CEE 5584 (3H, 3C)

Thank you for your interest in graduate study in Geotechnical Engineering at Virginia Tech. To be considered for graduate admission and financial assistance, it is necessary that you formally apply to Virginia Tech’s Graduate School.

For guidance on the admissions process, please see the department’s application page

If you have any questions regarding the geotechnical graduate program or wish to arrange a visit to campus, please contact:

Professor Russell Green (
Graduate Admissions Coordinator-Geotechnical Engineering
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Office: 540.231.9826
Fax: 540.231.7532

Eligibility. The majority of students who enter the graduate program in Geotechnical Engineering have completed an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering. Talented and motivated students with degrees in areas such as Geological Sciences, Mining Engineering, Geological Engineering or Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences are also encouraged to apply. Click on the following link to learn about expected prior coursework.

Ph. D. Program. Students applying for the Ph.D. program must have a GPA of 3.5/4.0 or greater.

Evaluations regarding admission to the program and financial aid are made as packages are received. International students pursuing a Ph.D. as their ultimate degree goal are admitted into the MS program first unless they have an MS degree from a U.S. institution. After successful completion of MS studies a petition may be filed with the faculty to be admitted into the Ph.D. program.