The Graduate Program in
Water Resources Engineering at
Texas A&M University

Information for Prospective Students
This page is organized as answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).  The FAQs are indexed immediately below and color coded (program characteristics, Masters-level, Doctoral-level, financial).

 

What areas of water resources engineering does your program include?
How big is your program?
What do your graduates do after they finish their degrees?
Is there a good job market in water resources engineering?
I don't have an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering.  Can I still apply to your graduate program?
How is the "Water Resources Engineering" program different from the "Water Degree Program" or "Water Management and Hydrologic Science" program at TAMU?

What's the difference between the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees?
Should I do a M.Eng. or M.S. degree?
Do employers regard the M.Eng. and M.S. degrees differently?
If I know that I want to work on a Ph.D. later, do I have to do the M.S. now?
If I commit to the M.S. degree and a thesis, will that get me a Research Assistantship (RA)?

Can I apply for the Ph.D. program if I don't yet have a Masters degree?
I want to get a doctoral degree, but I don't want to do research.  Can I still apply for the Ph.D. program?
What is a Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) degree?  How is it different from a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree?
Should I get a Ph.D.?
How long does it take to finish a Ph.D.?

How much does it cost to attend graduate school at Texas A&M?
What is the availability of funding for students in your graduate program?
Do I need to fill out an application for funding?
I am not a U.S. citizen and/or resident of Texas.  Will I need to pay out-of-state tuition?
Can I get a research assistantship (RA)?

Can I get a teaching assistantship (TA)?
Can I get a scholarship or fellowship?
Can I get an internship?

 

What areas of water resources engineering does your program include?
Please read the group's official website at https://www.civil.tamu.edu/Areas/waterresources/index.html and read the individual faculty webpages accessible from that site to see complete information on the areas in which we teach and research.  A brief list of topics includes: water resources planning and management, ecohydrology, groundwater hydrology, hydrologic measurements and data analysis, water distribution systems, geographic information systems, sustainable engineering design, decision support systems, and many others.

How big is your program?
As of Fall semester 2009, there are 6 faculty and 32 students in our graduate program.  Of our 32 students, 21 are working on Masters-level degrees and 11 are working on Doctoral degrees.

What do your graduates do after they finish their degrees?
Our graduates go into a very wide variety of positions and work environments.  The largest group of our graduates is hired by consulting engineering firms to work as practicing engineers, especially at the Masters level.  These firms are located throughout the country, but many are in Texas.  Other destinations include government agencies at all levels, academia, research labs, and further education in engineering and other areas such as law.  A few of our students have entered short-term internships between graduation and full-time employment with volunteer service and developmental organizations.

Is there a good job market in water resources engineering?
Generally, yes, there is a very good job market for water resources engineers.  In the current recession, hiring has slowed somewhat, and all of us are looking for things to pick up soon.  Worldwide there are a tremendous number of problems related to water resources infrastructure, planning, and management.  These problems, to be frank, are generally not getting better and are often worsening.  Engineers will be needed to work on these problems for many, many years.  In the long term there will be high demand and plenty of jobs.

I don't have an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering.  Can I still apply to your graduate program?
We do accept some students with non-civil engineering undergraduate degrees.  Students do need to have strong backgrounds in math and science and very good grades.  There are no fixed guidelines on these admissions; we evaluate each on its own merits. 

Students who do not have undergraduate engineering degrees will be required to complete a certain number of "leveling" courses before they can begin their graduate coursework.  As graduates from our program will hopefully apply for licensure as professional engineers, we require these leveling courses to meet state licensing expectations.  The number of leveling courses a student will be required to take is determined based on that student's undergraduate record, and it can be anything from 1 class to over a year of study.  Leveling classes are not eligible for credit as part of a graduate degree.

How is the "Water Resources Engineering" program different from the "Water Degree Program" or "Water Management and Hydrologic Science" program at TAMU?
The Water Resources Engineering program is part of the Civil Engineering department.  Our program is based on a body of technical engineering and scientific knowledge and research needed for quantitative analysis, design, planning, and management of water resources infrastructure and systems.  Our graduates are generally eligible for licensure as professional engineers in the United States, subject to each state's licensure requirements.  Because water resources systems are fundamental to so many aspects of life, we are very cognizant of the need to also understand systems through qualitative means; we frequently collaborate with our colleagues in non-engineering fields, and encourage our students to take some coursework outside of our department.

The "Water Management and Hydrologic Science" program (a.k.a.,"WMHS" or "Water Degree Program") is an interdisciplinary graduate program intended to prepare students for later careers through broad exposure to subjects relevant to hydrology and water management.  It is a relatively new program, enrolling its first students in 2006, and it includes participation from 12 academic departments in 4 colleges at TAMU (Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Engineering, and Geosciences.  Civil Engineering is a participating department in the program.  Graduates of the WMHS program are generally not eligible for licensure as professional engineers in the U.S. unless they have completed a separate engineering degree.

 

What's the difference between the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees?
The M.Eng. degree is a coursework-only degree with no research component that is intended to prepare students for engineering practice.  A typical M.Eng. student fulfills degree requirements by taking 10 classes and attending a weekly seminar for one semester.  No thesis is required.  The M.Eng. can be completed in as little as 1 calendar-year with very reasonable course loads, but by a slight majority most students take 1.5 years.

The M.S. degree is a coursework and research degree. A typical M.S. student takes 8 classes, 2 semesters of seminar, and completes the balance of semester hour requirements with research credits.  A research thesis is required.  M.S. students typically take 1.5 to 2 years to finish the degree.

Should I do a M.Eng. or M.S. degree?
You should work on the degree that is appropriate to your own career goals.  Most students attend graduate school to gain specialized knowledge to prepare them for careers as practicing engineers and have no plans to pursue research careers.  For these students, the M.Eng. is appropriate.  Students who are interested in research careers (usually including further study at the Ph.D. level) and/or who want to engage in the type of concentrated study on a particular subject possible in a thesis should consider the M.S. degree.

Do employers regard the M.Eng. and M.S. degrees differently?
From my personal knowledge, I would say that 90% of employers do not regard the two degrees differently.  They regard both as a "Masters degree."  There are a small number of engineering firms that prefer M.Eng. degrees because they believe that the additional coursework on engineering practice topics is better suited to their work.  There are a small number of firms that appreciate the intellectual rigor and discipline that a thesis requires and prefer to hire M.S. graduates.  In the end, I would advise an incoming student not to worry about this question unless they know they want to work for a particular employer that has an expresses preference.

If I know that I want to work on a Ph.D. later, do I have to do the M.S. now?
The short answer is, "Not necessarily, but it definitely helps."  A Ph.D. program is all about research.  Having previously completed a research thesis for your M.S. definitively shows that you know what research is, and you are capable of doing it.  That is very attractive to a potential Ph.D. advisor.  However, there are many students who complete non-thesis Masters degrees and go on to be very successful at the Ph.D. level.  I have advised some of these students myself.

If I commit to the M.S. degree and a thesis, will I get a Research Assistantship (RA)?
RA positions are funded by research grants received by individual faculty.  M.S. theses are academic exercises completed at the discretion of individual students.  While it is common and desirable for a sponsored research project to form the basis for an academic thesis, research grants and M.S. students are not the same thing and occur through different processes.  These can be completed by students who don't have RA positions, and research projects can employ RA's who do not write theses and get M.S. degrees.
This answer is a long way of saying, "No, applying or committing to an M.S. degree will not get you an RA."  Each faculty member is responsible for hiring students into RA positions as they become available.  Students should contact a professor with whom they wish to work and ask if any RA positions are available.  Research grants are awarded to faculty throughout the year, so a position may become available in the middle of an academic year (for example, in April).  Students should be aware that RA's are expected to contribute significantly to the accomplishment of research project goals.  Leaving a project before its completion is frowned upon unless the RA and professor agree to that arrangement when the RA is hired.

 

Can I apply for the Ph.D. program if I don't yet have a Masters degree?
Current policy in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering is that a student must have a Masters degree before they can be formally admitted to Ph.D. student classification.  If you do not have a Masters degree and you indicate on your application that you wish to enter Ph.D. studies, you will be admitted as an M.S. student.  However, students with strong interest and motivation to enter Ph.D. studies can complete requirements for a Masters degree in our program and immediately enter Ph.D. studies in an almost seamless process.  While some universities promote "direct-to-Ph.D." admissions, the actual procession of events is basically the same as that at TAMU.

Students who have been awarded significant fellowships requiring them to be immediately classified as Ph.D. students (e.g., Fulbright) can be exempted from the above policy.  If this situation applies, please contact me immediately, and I will begin the process of obtaining the exemption.

I want to get a doctoral degree, but I don't want to do research.  Can I still apply for the Ph.D. program?
The main objective of a Ph.D. program is to train a student to perform research.  You might consider the Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) degree, which is described in the next answer.

What is a Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) degree?  How is it different from a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree?
The D.Eng. degree is a professional degree oriented towards preparing students for high-level careers in professional practice.  Unlike the Ph.D., it has no research requirements.  D.Eng. study is required to include technical, business, communication, and social institution courses.  More complete information can be found in the TAMU Graduate Catalog at this page.

Should I get a Ph.D.?
The main objective of a Ph.D. program is to train a student to perform research that is technically well-grounded and contributes in meaningful ways to the profession and society as a whole.  If you are interested in a research career or one that involves research skills in professional practice, then you should think about working on a Ph.D. degree.  Many prospective students' career goals do not include research (the great majority of engineering practice does not include research), and they should consider other degree programs.  A Ph.D. program is a fairly long process that requires a student to become increasingly self-sufficient and self-starting.  Moreover, the financial reality is that a student defers significant potential income while they are in school.  These factors should be considered thoughtfully.  These things being said, academic research and successful completion of a Ph.D. can open the possibilities for very exciting and impactful work. 

How long does it take to finish a Ph.D.?
Length of a Ph.D. program varies significantly with many factors: success and setbacks in research, initial familiarity with research topic, an individual's work ethic, external commitments to family, interactions with collaborators, etc.  A typical student requires about 3.5 to 4 years after completion of a Masters degree to finish a Ph.D.  This range can extend to anywhere from 2.5 to 6 years for particular students.

 

How much does it cost to attend graduate school at Texas A&M?
Tuition and fees and overall costs of attendance are discussed at this page maintained by Student Business Services.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you review these numbers: 

  • The estimated living expenses are for the "average" case; students can spend more or less by individual choices. 

  • Students who are not residents of Texas can be granted waivers for out-of-state tuition if they are awarded a competitive fellowship or scholarship of at least $1000.

  • Students should be sure to look at both "tuition" and "fees" required.  Because of some unusual aspects of TAMU's history, much of the cost of attendance is assessed as fees.  These fees are mandatory and constitute about half of direct payments to TAMU for an in-state tuition payer.  Some funding sources and opportunities may pay for tuition only.

  • International students will generally need to have available funds and awards sufficient to cover at least 1 full year of study before being granted a student visa.

What is the availability of funding for students in your graduate program?
Financial support for graduate students in the WRE program comes in four principal forms:

  1. Fellowships are financial awards given to students with no additional requirements other than to maintain full-time student status (enrolled in at least 9 credit hours in Fall and Spring and 6 hours in Summer) and Good academic standing (grade point average at least 3.0, no grades below C).  "Fellowships" are like "scholarships" at the undergraduate level.

  2. Teaching Assistantships (TA's) are paid, part-time working positions to assist faculty in class teaching activities.  TA's receive a monthly stipend adequate to cover living expenses and books, paid tuition (but not fees), and group health insurance coverage.

  3. Research Assistantships (RA's) are paid, part-time working positions to assist faculty on externally sponsored research projects.  RA's receive a monthly stipend adequate to cover living expenses and books, paid tuition and fees, and group health insurance coverage.

  4. Internships are available at some local engineering firms for students desiring to enter engineering practice after graduation.  These positions are not arranged by the university and are strictly an employment relationship between the student and the firm.  TAMU faculty can provide names of firms that have hired our students in the past, but a formal list is not currently maintained.  Students must be able to work in the U.S. outside of academic settings for these positions, which effectively limits them to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Do I need to fill out an application for funding?
All applicants to the WRE graduate program are automatically considered for fellowships, TA, and RA positions.  No further application is necessary.  Internships are handled outside of TAMU, so students will need to contact local firms directly.
 

I am not a U.S. citizen and/or resident of Texas.  Will I need to pay out-of-state tuition?
If you are not a resident of Texas at the time you submit your application, you will need to pay out-of-state tuition unless you are awarded a TA or RA position or a competitive fellowship of at least $1000.  Waivers to out-of-state tuition are granted for current academic years only.  A student who enters a new academic year without a TA, RA, or fellowship will need to pay out-of-state tuition even if they had a waiver in the previous year.  There are other cases where waivers are granted, but they tend to be uncommon.  More on those can be found on this page.

Can I get a research assistantship (RA)?
RA positions are funded by research grants received by individual faculty.  Each faculty member is responsible for hiring students into RA positions as they become available.  All applicants are automatically considered for RA positions for the upcoming year.  Students should contact a professor with whom they wish to work and ask if any RA positions are available.  Research grants are awarded to faculty throughout the year, so a position may become available in the middle of an academic year (for example, in April).  Students should be aware that RA's are expected to contribute significantly to the accomplishment of research project goals.  Leaving a project before its completion is frowned upon unless the RA and professor agree to that arrangement when the RA is hired.  

Can I get a teaching assistantship (TA)?
The WRE group can place students in a small number of TA positions that changes year-to-year.  All applicants are automatically considered for RA positions for the upcoming year.  Requirements to be a TA at TAMU are very high: students must have taken the class for which they TA, and they
 must be a native English speaker or have passed the English Language Proficiency Exam (ELPE).  TA positions awarded by the WRE group are generally used to recruit new students.  It is very rare for TA positions to become available mid-year.  For further information, you can ask me.

Can I get a scholarship or fellowship?
The WRE group has a limited pool of funds from which to award fellowships to graduate students each academic year.  All applicants are automatically considered for fellowships for the upcoming year.  The primary purpose of these funds is to recruit students who will work to advance the research program in WRE, especially at the Ph.D. level.  All fellowships are awarded by group decision of the entire WRE faculty.  Unlike RA or TA positions, fellowships do not require a student to meet further requirements or work expectations other than remaining a full-time student in good academic standing. 

There are also many external fellowships available.  Among these opportunities are awards from the Texas Water Resources Institute, ASCE-National, and ASCE-Texas Section.  Students should check these organizations for more details.

Can I get an internship?
Internships are arranged directly between students and the employing firms.  TAMU faculty can provide the names of firms that have hired students in the past, but we do not operate a formal placement service and can not guarantee these positions.