Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

Graduate Program at Colorado School of Mines

Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

Graduate Program at Colorado School of Mines

Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering Program Overview

Some of the most important urban innovations happen underground. The only program of its kind in North America the Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering graduate program at Mines educates top engineers on the design, construction, rehabilitation and management of underground spaces. This interdisciplinary program, offered jointly by the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geological Engineering and Mining Engineering, provides funded research and networking opportunities with unique industry and national lab partnerships that prepares graduates for successful careers.

The interdisciplinary graduate certificate in Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering comprises three signature courses, totaling 10 credit hours. Two anchor courses teaches underground construction engineering in soft ground and in hard rock, while the third courses covers construction engineering and management principles.

The Master of Science program, which can be completed with or without a thesis, prepares graduates to apply design, construction, maintenance and rehabilitation techniques to structures unique to the underground space, all while considering a host of environmental and other factors. Both master’s options are built on a foundation of seven courses totaling 18 credit hours. In addition to the three courses that make up the graduate certificate, students learn about engineering geology and geotechnics and soil behavior and take lab courses that provide hands-on experience with the tools and skills commonly used in underground construction.

The thesis MS option requires a minimum of 6 credit hours in independent research, ideally focused on industry. When possible, non-thesis MS students should complete a practically focused independent study with an industry partner—this may include an internship on an underground construction and tunnel engineering project.

The PhD program requires the same core courses as the MS program and a total of 42 credit hours in coursework. PhD students must also successfully complete qualifying exams, write and defend a dissertation proposal and write and defend a doctoral dissertation. A minimum of 24 credit hours must be devoted to this research, which is expected to fundamentally advance the state of the art and be disseminated via scholarly journals and industry periodicals. PhD candidates are also expected to complete a three-month internship or, alternatively, complete an industry-focused research project via independent study.

Mines is home to the only Underground Construction Association student chapter in the U.S.

money

Tunnel engineers earned an average annual salary of $105,497 as of February 2021

Underground drill

University Transportation Center for Underground Transportation Infrastructure is the first and only UTC focused on underground construction

Program Details

Graduate Certificate

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Required 
  • GRE: Not Required
  • Letters of Recommendation: Not Required 
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Not Required. Suggested if GPA is less than 3.0/4.0
  • Transcript(s): Required. Must be submitted for all schools attended (unofficial transcripts accepted for admissions review and must show successful completion of any required prerequisite course(s).
  • For international applicants or applicants whose native language is not English, please review the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY requirement

Master’s Non-Thesis

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Required
  • GRE: Not Required
  • Letters of Recommendation: Required – two letters.  Letters of recommendation are not required for current Mines students. 
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Required
  • Transcript(s): Required. Must be submitted for all schools attended (unofficial transcripts accepted for admissions review and must show successful completion of any required prerequisite course(s).
  • For international applicants or applicants whose native language is not English, please review the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY requirement

Master’s Thesis

  • Bachelor’s degree: Required
  • GRE: Not Required
  • Letters of Recommendation: Required – three letters.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Required
  • Transcript(s): Required. Must be submitted for all schools attended (unofficial transcripts accepted for admissions review and must show successful completion of any required prerequisite course(s).
  • For international applicants or applicants whose native language is not English, please review the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY requirement.

Doctorate

  • Bachelor’s degree: Required
  • GRE: Not Required
  • Letters of Recommendation: Required – three letters.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Required
  • Transcript(s): Required. Must be submitted for all schools attended (unofficial transcripts accepted for admissions review and must show successful completion of any required prerequisite course(s).
  • For international applicants or applicants whose native language is not English, please review the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY requirement.

For additional information about these admissions requirements, please refer to the Admissions Requirements page

 Colorado ResidentOut-of-State Student
Tuition**$17,676$39,618
Fees*$2,520$2,520
Room & Board$17,496$17,496
Books & Supplies$1,500$1,500
Misc. Expenses$1,800$1,800
Transportation$1,300$1,300
Total$42,473$64,415
**Cost per credit hour$982$2,201

*Allowance for fees based on mandatory fees charged to all students. Does not include fees for orientation, library, yearbook, refrigerator rental, voice messaging, ect.

At less than 4.5 credit hours, you may be ineligible for financial aid.

Degree Options

Graduate Certificates

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

Master’s Non-Thesis

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering 

Master’s Thesis

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering 

PhD

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

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Career Outcomes

  • Civil Designer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Construction Engineer
  • Construction Field Quality Control Engineer
  • Construction Manager
  • Construction Superintendent
  • Contractor Compliance Engineer
  • Design Engineer
  • Drilling Superintendent
  • Estimator
  • Field Engineer
  • Geophysicist
  • Geotechnical Engineer for Ground Improvement / Tunneling
  • Geotechnical Engineer, Power & Dams
  • Hydrologist
  • Infrastructure Manager
  • Land Use Engineer
  • Loop Operations Engineer
  • Mine Engineer
  • Mining Engineer
  • Port Engineer
  • Principal Mining Consultant
  • Power Generation Project Engineer
  • Project Controls Cost Engineer
  • Project Engineer
  • Quality Control Engineer
  • Structural Engineer
  • Survey Engineer
  • Transmission Line Engineer
  • Tunnel Boring Machine Engineer
  • Tunnel Construction Manager
  • Tunnel Construction Quality Assurance Inspector
  • Tunnel Shaft Superintendent
  • Tunnel Shift Engineer
  • Tunnel / Track Project Engineer
  • Tunnel Engineer
  • Tunneling Engineer
  • Underground Drill and Blast Engineer
  • Underground Engineer
  • Underground Geotechnical Engineer
  • Underground Mine Planning Engineer
  • Underground Mining Engineer
  • Underground Project Engineer
  • Underground Storage / Reservoir Engineer
  • Underground Utilities Project Manager
  • Underground Utility and Earthwork Estimator
  • Underground Works Field Engineer
  • Water and Wastewater Engineer
  • Traylor Brothers
  • Kiewit
  • Atkinson
  • Barnard
  • CBNA
  • Dragados
  • Flatiron
  • Frontier Kemper
  • Jay Dee
  • Granite/Kenny
  • Obayashi
  • Kajima Corporation
  • McNally
  • Michels
  • Lane
  • Schiavone
  • Shea
  • Skanska
  • Walsh
  • Hayward Baker
  • Malcolm
  • Moretrench
  • Nicholson
  • Soil Freeze
  • Simem Underground
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Arup
  • WSP
  • Parsons
  • MacMillan Jacobs Associates
  • HNTB
  • AECOM
  • Aldea
  • Brierley Associates
  • CDM Smith
  • Gall Zeidler
  • Jacobs
  • Stantec

Organizations recruiting Mines students at the 2019 Career Fair

The underground construction and tunneling industry is growing. In February 2020, Tunnel Business Magazine spoke to four high-level tunneling professionals who all found much to be optimistic about in the North American tunneling market, citing continued expansion in the transportation and water/wastewater sectors in the U.S. and Canada.

Bruce Matheson of Terratec noted the many projects mandated by the U.S. Clean Water Act and the Canada Water Act to protect bodies of water. “Whilst not so glamorous as the big mega-projects, they play a vital role from an environmental point of view,” he said. “Tunneling isn’t just about mega-projects, however. Whether they are big or small, there seem to be a lot of projects about.”

“Tunneling is an exciting market to be part of, particularly as a younger professional,” said Brian Gettinger, tunneling services leader for Freese and Nichols Inc. “The industry has a growing need for leadership at all levels: project, corporate and technical management. And we are seeing challenging mega-projects get started all over the county. Excavation technology continues to improve and allow even challenging conditions to be excavated reliably and safely.”

While federal funding for transportation has flattened, local and state governments have increased their investment in tunnel construction. That, combined with the growth of public-private partnerships, has sustained growth in the industry, which is expected to grow in the next five years.

Reports on the growth of the tunnel boring machine market are also promising: it’s expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2025, from $5.2 billion in 2017, according to Allied Market Research.

This means engineers who specialize in underground construction and tunneling are in high demand. “We have 100 percent placement of our graduates,” says Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Mike Mooney, who leads the UCTE graduate program at Colorado School of Mines. He reports an average of two to three job offers for every student who completes the program.

Job titles for underground construction and tunnel engineers vary. According to ZipRecruiter, tunnel engineers earn an average annual salary of $105,517. Glassdoor pegs the average salary for senior underground engineers at $94,485 per year, while Comparably.com says the average chief underground engineer in the United States makes $124,903 yearly. Mining and geological engineers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, had a median pay of $92,250 per year in 2018.

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