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 Mines’ Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering graduate program 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 30-credit 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

Degree Options

PhD

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

Master’s

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering (Thesis)
  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering (Non-Thesis)

Graduate Certificates

  • Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

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Program Details

Graduate Certificate

  • A bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering discipline and prerequisite coursework related to strength of materials (or mechanics of materials) and fluid mechanics
  • A statement of purpose that presents your professional and personal goals
  • Resume / CV
  • For international applicants or applicants whose native language is not English, please review the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY requirement

Master’s Thesis, Master’s Non-Thesis, Doctorate

  • A bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering discipline and prerequisite coursework related to strength of materials (or mechanics of materials) and fluid mechanics
  • A statement of purpose that presents your professional and personal goals
  • Resume / CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • For international applicants or applicants whose native language is not English, please review the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY requirement

*The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for admission into the UCTE program. If you have previously taken the GRE, you are welcome to submit your scores.

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

Graduate Certificate in Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering, 10 credit hours

The program consists of three signature courses:

  • CEEN 523 Underground Construction Engineering in Soft Ground, 4.0
  • MNGN 504 Underground Construction Engineering in Hard Rock, 3.0
  • MNGN 509 Construction Engineering in Management, 3.0

Master of Science, Non-Thesis Option, 30 credit hours

  • Coursework: 27 credit hours
    • The following 18 credit hours are required for MS and PhD degrees:
      • GEGN 468 Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, 4.0
      • GEGN 561 Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 1, 0.5
      • GEGN 562 Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 2, 0.5 
      • CEEN 523 Underground Construction Engineering in Soft Ground
      • MNGN 504 Underground Construction Engineering in Hard Rock, 3.0
      • CEEN 512 Soil Behavior, 3.0
      • MNGN 509 Construction Engineering in Management, 3.0
  • Independent Study: 3.0 credit hours
    • Where possible, MS non-thesis students should complete a practically-focused independent study in partnership with an industry partner; this may include student participation in an industry internship on a UCTE project.
  • UCTE Seminar: 0.0 credit hours
    • All MS students are required to attend the UCTE seminar series; no registration is required
  • MS non-thesis students must complete a practically focused project, registering as an independent study in the home department of the faculty advisor. This requirement may be waived for students with sufficient UC&T industry experience.

Master of Science, Thesis Option, 30 credit hours

  • Coursework: 24 credit hours
    • The following 18 credit hours are required for MS and PhD degrees:
      • GEGN 468 Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, 4.0
      • GEGN 561 Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 1, 0.5
      • GEGN 562 Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 2, 0.5 
      • CEEN 523 Underground Construction Engineering in Soft Ground
      • MNGN 504 Underground Construction Engineering in Hard Rock, 3.0
      • CEEN 512 Soil Behavior, 3.0
      • MNGN 509 Construction Engineering in Management, 3.0
  • Research: 3.0 credit hours (minimum)
    • MS Thesis students must write and successfully defend a thesis report of their research. Ideally, MS thesis research should be industry-focused and should provide value to industry UCTE practice.
  • UCTE Seminar: 0.0 credit hours
    • All MS students are required to attend the UCTE seminar series; no registration is required

Doctor of Philosophy, 72 credit hours

  • Coursework: 42 credit hours
    • The following 18 credit hours are required for MS and PhD degrees:
      • GEGN 468 Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, 4.0
      • GEGN 561 Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 1, 0.5
      • GEGN 562 Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 2, 0.5 
      • CEEN 523 Underground Construction Engineering in Soft Ground
      • MNGN 504 Underground Construction Engineering in Hard Rock, 3.0
      • CEEN 512 Soil Behavior, 3.0
      • MNGN 509 Construction Engineering in Management, 3.0
  • Independent Study: 3.0 credit hours
    • PhD students are expected to complete an internship of approximately 3 months in duration (with a design firm, contractor, owner, equipment manufacturer, etc., and preferably on a UCTE job site). If an internship is not available or if the student has sufficient industry experience (determined by advisor and committee), the student may complete an industry-focused research project via independent study with a UCTE faculty member and industry partner culminating with a written report and presentation.
  • Research: 24.0 credit hours (minimum)
    • PhD students must also successfully complete qualifying examinations, write and defend a dissertation proposal, and write and defend a doctoral dissertation. PhD research is aimed at fundamentally advancing the state of the art in UCTE. PhD students are expected to submit the dissertation work for publication in scholarly journals and disseminate findings throughout industry periodicals.
  • UCTE Seminar: 0.0 credit hours
    • All PhD students are required to attend the UCTE seminar series; no registration is required
  • PhD students must complete a practically-focused project (separate from the thesis), registering as an independent study in the home department of the faculty advisor. This requirement may be waived for students with sufficient UC&T industry experience.

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Required Coursework

GEGN 468. Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, 4.0

Application of geology to evaluation of construction, mining, and environmental projects such as dams, water ways, tunnels, highways, bridges, buildings, mine design, and land-based waste disposal facilities. Design projects including field, laboratory, and computer analysis are an important part of the course. Prerequisite: MNGN321 and CEEN312/CEEN312L. 3 hours lecture, 3 hours lab, 4 semester hours.

GEGN 561. Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 1, 0.5

This course provides students with hands-on experience with tools and skills which are commonly used in the underground construction industry. Bi-weekly labs integrate with other courses in the field of Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering. Co-requisites: CEEN513. 1.5 hours lab; 0.5 semester hours.

GEGN 562. Underground Construction Engineering Laboratory 2, 0.5

This course provides students with hands-on experience with tools and skills which are commonly used in the underground construction industry. Bi-weekly labs integrate with other courses in the field of Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering. Co-requisites: MNGN504 or CEEN523. 1.5 hours lab; 0.5 hours.

CEEN 523. Underground Construction Engineering in Soft Ground, 4.0

Design and construction of water, wastewater, transportation and utility tunnels, underground space and shafts/excavations in soft ground conditions (soil and weak rock). Addresses geotechnical site characterization, selection of design parameters, stability and deformation analysis of the ground and overlying structures, and construction methods. Includes design of temporary and permanent structural ground support according to ASD (allowable stress design) and LRFD (load resistance factor design) approaches, and design of ground improvement schemes and instrumentation/monitoring approaches to mitigate risk. This course requires post-graduate level knowledge of soil mechanics, fundamental understanding of engineering geology, and an undergraduate level knowledge of structural analysis and design. Prerequisites: CEEN513 and GEGN468. Co-requisites: GEGN562. 4 hours lecture; 4 semester hours.

MNGN 504. Underground Construction Engineering in Hard Rock, 3.0

This course is developed to introduce students to the integrated science, engineering, design and management concepts of engineered underground construction. The course will cover advanced rock engineering in application to underground construction, geological interpretation and subsurface investigations, equipment options and system selection for projects with realistic constraints, underground excavation initial support and final shotcrete/lining design, and approaches to uncertainty evaluation and risk assessment for underground construction projects. Team design projects and presentations will be required. Prerequisites: CEEN513. Co-requisites: GEGN562. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours.

CEEN 512. Soil Behavior, 3.0

The focus of this course is on interrelationships among the composition, fabric, and geotechnical and hydrologic properties of soils that consist partly or wholly of clay. The course will be divided into two parts. The first part provides an introduction to the composition and fabric of natural soils, their surface and pore-fluid chemistry, and the physico-chemical factors that govern soil behavior. The second part examines what is known about how these fundamental characteristics and factors affect geotechnical properties, including the hydrologic properties that govern the conduction of pore fluid and pore fluid constituents, and the geomechanical properties that govern volume change, shear deformation, and shear strength. The course is designed for graduate students in various branches of engineering and geology that are concerned with the engineering and hydrologic behavior of earth systems, including geotechnical engineering, geological engineering, environmental engineering, mining engineering, and petroleum engineering. When this course is cross-listed and concurrent with CEEN411, students that enroll in CEEN512 will complete additional and/or more complex assignments. Prerequisites: CEEN361 Soil Mechanics. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours.

Elective Coursework

CEEN 415. Foundation Engineering, 3.0

Techniques of subsoil investigation, types of foundations and foundation problems, selection of basis for design of foundation types. Open-ended problem solving and decision making. Prerequisite: CEEN312. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours.

CEEN 506. Finite Element Methods for Engineers, 3.0

A course combining finite element theory with practical programming experience in which the multidisciplinary nature of the finite element method as a numerical technique for solving differential equations is emphasized. Topics covered include simple structural elements, beams on elastic foundations, solid elasticity, steady state analysis and transient analysis. Some of the applications will lie in the general area of geomechanics, reflecting the research interests of the instructor. Students get a copy of all the source code published in the course textbook. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor.

CEEN 510. Advanced Soil Mechanics, 3.0

Advanced soil mechanics theories and concepts as applied to analysis and design in geotechnical engineering. Topics covered will include seepage, consolidation, shear strength, failure criteria and constitutive models for soil. The course will have an emphasis on numerical solution techniques to geotechnical problems by finite elements and finite differences. Prerequisites: A first course in soil mechanics. 3 Lecture Hours, 3 semester hours. Fall even years.

CEEN 541. Design of Reinforced Concrete Structures II, 3.0

Advanced problems in the analysis and design of concrete structures, design of slender columns; biaxial bending; two-way slabs; strut and tie models; lateral and vertical load analysis of multistory buildings; introduction to design for seismic forces; use of structural computer programs. Prerequisite: CEEN445. 3 hour lectures, 3 semester hours. Delivered in the spring of even numbered years.

CEEN 599. Independent Study, 0.5-6.0

GEGN 466. Groundwater Engineering, 3.0

Theory of groundwater occurrence and flow. Relation of groundwater to surface; potential distribution and flow; theory of aquifer tests; water chemistry, water quality, and contaminant transport. Prerequisites: Calc III (MATH213 or MATH223 or MATH224) and DiffEQ (MATH225 or MATH235) and GEGN351 or MEGN351. 3 hours lecture, 3 semester hours.

GEGN 563. Applied Numerical Modelling for Geomechanics, 3.0

Course focuses on a comprehensive suite of numerical analysis techniques suited to geotechnical design with a focus on excavations in rock/soil and landslides. Finite element, finite difference, discrete/distinct element and boundary element methods are all discussed with hands-on application workshops using state-of-the-art geomechanics software. Analytical models and pre- and post- processing techniques suited to typical rock engineering problems are developed through assignments. Strength criteria and non-linear inelastic constitutive models for continuum plasticity, brittle fracture and discontinuum deformation are explored in detail. Projects involving real case histories are undertaken to highlight the application of and engineering judgment associated with numerical analysis for problems involving rockmasses. Prerequisites: GEGN468, MNGN321 or CEEN312. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours.

GEGN 573. Geological Engineering Site Investigation, 3.0

Methods of field investigation, testing, and monitoring for geotechnical and hazardous waste sites, including: drilling and sampling methods, sample logging, field testing methods, instrumentation, trench logging, foundation inspection, engineering stratigraphic column and engineering soils map construction. Projects will include technical writing for investigations (reports, memos, proposals, workplans). Class will culminate in practice conducting simulated investigations (using a computer simulator). 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours.

GEGN 581. Analytical Hydrology, 3.0

Introduction to the theory, and hydrological application of, probability, statistics, linear algebra, differential equations, numerical analysis, and integral transforms. The course will require more challenging assignments and exams commensurate with graduate credit. Prerequisites: GEGN467. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours.

GEGN 672. Advanced Geotechnics, 3.0

Practical analysis and application of techniques in weak rock engineering, ground-water control in construction, fluvial stabilization and control, earthquake hazard assessment, engineering geology in construction, engineering geology in dam investigation, and other current topics in geotechnics practice. Prerequisite: GEGN468, CEEN312, CEEN312L and MNGN321. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours. Offered alternate years.

GEGN 673. Advanced Geological Engineering Design

Application of geological principles and analytical techniques to solve complex engineering problems related to geology, such as mitigation of natural hazards, stabilization of earth materials, and optimization of construction options. Design tools to be covered will include problem solving techniques, optimization, reliability, maintainability, and economic analysis. Students will complete independent and group design projects, as well as a case analysis of a design failure. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours. Offered alternate years.

GEGN 599. Independent Study in Engineering Geology or Engineering Hydrogeology

MNGN 424. Mine Ventilation

Fundamentals of mine ventilation, including control of gas, dust, temperature, and humidity; ventilation network analysis and design of systems. Prerequisites: PEGN251 or MEGN351, CHGN209 or MEGN361, and MNGN314. 2 hours lecture, 3 hours lab; 3 semester hours.

MNGN 506. Design and Support of Underground Excavations

Design of underground excavations and support. Analysis of stress and rock mass deformations around excavations using analytical and numerical methods. Collections, preparation, and evaluation of insitu and laboratory data for excavation design. Use of rock mass rating systems for site characterization and excavation design. Study of support types and selection of support for underground excavations. Use of numerical models for design of shafts, tunnels and large chambers. Prerequisite: none. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours. Offered in odd years.

MNGN 507. Advanced Drilling and Blasting

An advanced study of the theories of rock penetration including percussion, rotary, and rotary percussion drilling. Rock fragmentation including explosives and the theories of blasting rock. Application of theory to drilling and blasting practice at mines, pits, and quarries. Prerequisite: MNGN407. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours. Offered in odd years.

MNGN 524. Advanced Mine Ventilation

Advanced topics of mine ventilation including specific ventilation designs for various mining methods, ventilation numerical modeling, mine atmosphere management, mine air cooling, prevention and ventilation response to mine fires and explosions, mine dust control. Prerequisites: MNGN424 Mine Ventilation. Lecture and Lab Contact Hours: 3 hours lecture; 3 semester credit hours.

MNGN 590. Mechanical Excavation in Mining

This course provides a comprehensive review of the existing and emerging mechanical excavation technologies for mine development and production in surface and underground mining. The major topics covered in the course include: history and development of mechanical excavators, theory and principles of mechanical rock fragmentation, design and performance of rock cutting tools, design and operational characteristics of mechanical excavators (e.g. continuous miners, roadheaders, tunnel boring machines, raise drills, shaft borers, impact miners, slotters), applications to mine development and production, performance prediction and geotechnical investigations, costs versus conventional methods, new mine designs for applying mechanical excavators, case histories, future trends and anticipated developments and novel rock fragmentation methods including water jets, lasers, microwaves, electron beams, penetrators, electrical discharge and sonic rock breakers. Prerequisite: Senior or graduate status. 3 hours lecture; 3 semester hours. Offered in odd years.

MNGN 599. Independent Study

 

 

 Colorado ResidentOut-of-State Student
Tuition**$17,154$38,466
Fees*$2,378$2,378
Room & Board$16,700$16,700
Books & Supplies$1,500$1,500
Misc. Expenses$1,800$1,800
Transportation$1,300$1,300
Total$41,013$62,325
**Cost per credit hour$1,087$2,269

*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.

Student Testimonial

Wei Hu
Earth-related science and engineering programs are still the core of what Mines can offer. Among them, tunneling is one of the most dynamic programs. It is also the trend of infrastructure construction in the years to come.

Wei Hu
PhD Candidate, Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering

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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