Coursework Options

Coursework for a graduate degree can include a variety of construction-related courses (BC, CNST, CEE 5XXX) from departments across campus. Click the following links to see descriptions of currently approved courses related to construction:

Please be sure to check HokieSpa for construction-related special studies courses in these departments with the number 5984. Special studies courses are cutting-edge classes on current topics that can count toward your degree, but have not yet gone through the formal university approval process. There is a limit on the number of special studies credit hours you may take, depending on your degree option. Please see plan of study requirements for more information on these limitations, or consult with your faculty advisor.

Core Coursework

Nineteen hours of core coursework is recommended for all MS students. Students who have taken equivalent courses elsewhere may substitute other electives pending approval from their advisory committee and the Graduate Chair. 

Supporting Courses

Incoming students without a U.S. construction background may be encouraged or required to take supporting courses dependent upon their academic background and work experience. These courses may or may not count toward degree credit requirements. Specific supporting course requirements will be identified by the student’s academic advisory committee during the first semester of study.

Research Preparation Courses

Research students are required to take CNST 5084: Methods in Construction Research to support the design of their independent inquiry, and CNST 5424: Construction Research Presentation to present the final results of their work. 

Research Credit Hours

Students signing up for research credits (BC 5994/EDP 7994) must have the approval of a supervising faculty member, typically their faculty advisor, and are responsible with that faculty member for agreeing upon expectations for research activities during those hours. The supervising faculty will assign a grade at the end of each semester based on how well students meet those expectations.

Masters students should only enroll in these hours if they have elected to take the Research Track, and should consult with their committee regarding how many hours are appropriate. Typically, Project & Report students may count only three (3) credit hours of research on their Plan of Study, and Thesis students may count only six (6) credit hours. Students may enroll for more than these minimums to maintain minimum credit hour enrollment requirements, but credits beyond the minimum will not count toward the requirements of the Plan of Study.


Students may take a variety of additional courses on topics of interest, including electives from the Department of Building Construction or the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, electives from other departments at Virginia Tech, study abroad and service learning courses, independent study courses, and special study courses. Graduate students are permitted to choose electives subject to the minimum requirements set forth in the Plan of Study and any course prerequisites required for individual courses of interest. Descriptions of courses that can be potentially counted as electives for graduate credit are listed by department in the graduate school catalog. Note that this listing shows all courses currently approved to be taught by the university, but all courses are not necessarily offered on a regular basis by each department. Students should consult directly with the offering department for courses of interest to determine the semester(s) in which those courses will be taught when developing the Plan of Study.

Independent Study Hours

Students wishing to learn about topics not covered by available courses at Virginia Tech may enroll for independent study hours as part of their plan of study. Independent studies require a commitment from a faculty member with expertise in that topic to monitor and evaluate the student’s learning. Students interested in independent studies should identify an appropriate faculty and discuss their interests to determine whether an independent study is appropriate.

Working with the faculty, the student must submit a Request for Independent Study form for approval that describes the title and scope of the proposed study, learning objectives, materials and methods to be used, and method of evaluation. Upon approval, this form represents an agreement between the student and supervising faculty that establishes criteria for the student’s grade on the independent study and specific deliverables that must be produced to provide evidence of student learning.

Independent study requests must be reviewed and approved by the student’s advisor, supervising faculty, the Graduate Chair of Building Construction, and the Academic Dean in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. If included as part of the student’s plan of study, the request form and all supporting documentation must be provided at the time the plan of study is submitted to the department for approval. Up to the limit per degree, students may work with faculty to design one or more independent studies on different topics, worth different numbers of credit hours, to count toward their degree requirements.

Transfer Credits from Other Institutions

No more than 50% of the graded credit hours needed to satisfy the requirements for a Virginia Tech graduate degree may be transferred in from a regionally accredited university. All such credits must have earned grades of "B" or better, have been earned while in good standing in graduate status, and must have been graduate courses (numbered 5000 or higher) at the institution where the student took the courses. Grades of "S" or "P" are not acceptable for transfer credit. All transfer courses must be acceptable to the student’s Advisory Committee and the Graduate Chair. For transfer coursework more than five years old, a Justification of “Old” Course Work form must be filed with the Plan of Study.

Credits from other universities are transferred to a Virginia Tech graduate degree at the time the Plan of Study including those courses is approved by the Graduate School. Transferred courses count only as credit hours and are not included in the calculation of the Virginia Tech GPA. Official transcripts are required before transfer course work can be approved for the Plan of Study.

Research, Project and Report, Practicum or Internship credit hours may not be transferred in from another university to meet Virginia Tech graduate degree requirements (i.e., they cannot be included on the Plan of Study). Credits taken while in undergraduate status or for an undergraduate degree cannot be used as transfer credit for a graduate degree.

“Old” Coursework

A student’s Plan of Study should consist of graduate coursework not older than five years at the time of filing the plan with the Graduate School. In some cases, graduate coursework older than five years may be included on the plan. Justification for inclusion of such coursework should be provided by the student’s advisor using the Course Justification Request form, with the support of the student's advisory committee, at the time of Plan of Study submission. Justification should consist of an explanation of how the student will achieve currency in the subject matter of the old coursework during the time in degree. Examples of how this may be achieved include:

  • Taking related courses in the same subject area
  • Work experience that requires currency in the subject area
  • Certification or professional credentials in the relevant domain that require education for credential maintenance
  • Reading original literature in the area as needed for the thesis/dissertation
  • Other strategies deemed appropriate by the advisory committee.

Once the Plan of Study is approved, no further justification is required for active graduate students. If a student becomes "inactive" (i.e., is on a Leave of Absence or does not register for a calendar year or more), the student must apply for readmission to the degree program. If readmission is recommended by the Department of Building Construction, the Plan of Study must be reviewed to determine if its content is still appropriate for the degree, and all old coursework must be re­justified at that time.

Auditing Courses

Students may audit a course if they wish to experience the benefit of the course content without receiving a grade for work in that course. Auditing a course requires approval of the instructor for that course and the student's graduate advisor, and is subject to the discretion of the instructor and availability of space and resources for the course. Auditing of laboratory work is not permitted. Students should note that many courses in the Building Construction curriculum require significant team projects and may have extensive in­class team exercises. Auditing courses such as these requires considerable commitment on the part of the auditing student and should be discussed carefully with the instructor to ensure that the auditing student will receive benefit without disrupting the course for other students. Not all courses are appropriate for auditing.

Registration for audit may not be changed to credit, or vice versa, after the last day to add classes without the signature of the instructor, student's major advisor, and the dean of the Graduate School. At the end of the course period, the instructor will determine if an audit is "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" based on participation and other expectations set forth at the beginning of the course period. Audited courses do not count toward full­time enrollment and do not count as part of the Plan of Study. In order to follow the governance directive that unsatisfactory audits do not appear on transcripts, the Graduate School drops (on request) any NRs awarded. Therefore, the GPA is not affected. Students are assessed the same rate for tuition and fees for auditing courses as for courses taken for credit.