Graduate Programs

The Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department graduate program is based on the same philosophy as our undergraduate program: hands-on education, classes and laboratories taught by faculty, and an emphasis on best teaching practices. Our program prepares students to be able to design and develop advanced systems, to conduct research, and to perform detailed analyses for future work in industry or to continue study towards a doctoral degree. Students can pursue an area of emphasis based on their interest such as thermal fluids, controls and robotics, mechanics and stress analysis, or composite materials.

Two degree programs are available:

  • Master of Science (MS) in Mechanical Engineering
  • Blended Bachelor and Master of Science (BMS) degree program for continuing Cal Poly ME or AERO Department students where up to 8 units of undergraduate technical elective classes (typically 2 courses)  may be used to meet part of the required MS degree units

Students can choose between either (1) the thesis option with 36 units of classes (typically 9 courses) and 9 units of thesis or (2) the all course option with a minimum of 45 units of classes (typically 12 courses) and a final comprehensive exam.

Admission Requirements

Admission to our program as a classified graduate student requires a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (with some exceptions possible). An applicant from a closely related major (such as applied physics or aerospace engineering) may be accepted as a conditionally classified graduate student if they are able to complete an adequate number of prerequisite classes to successfully fulfill the degree requirements (see item below).

To apply you must submit an application, undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation. More details regarding the application process are available here: Admissions department, graduate education catalog, graduate education department.

Admissions for M.S. Mechanical Engineering

  • Admission is granted for the fall quarter only. The deadline for applications for Fall 2019 is January 4, 2019. All required documents must be present by this date.
  • An application (that includes unofficial transcripts, unofficial GRE scores, and letters of recommendation under Program Material-Evaluations) is submitted electronically using Cal State Apply available at
  • Official transcripts must be submitted directly to the Cal Poly Admission office from all institutions where work was attempted either using a certified electronic transcript provider to or by using direct mail to the following address: Cal Poly Admissions Office, San Luis Obispo, 93407-0031
  • Please note that the University does not grant deferred admission, so if you decide not to come you will have to re-apply for the next fall term.

Admissions for Blended Degree Program for Continuing Cal Poly Students

  • Applications are due on the Friday at the end of the second week of classes prior to the quarter the student plans to begin the graduate program.
  • An application (PDF) may be sent by email or printed and delivered to the ME Department graduate coordinator. Copies of transcripts do not need to be submitted.
  • Paper copies of GRE scores must be delivered to the ME Department graduate coordinator.
  • Letters of recommendation (PDF) may be sent by email or printed and delivered to the ME Department graduate coordinator.

Applicants without a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering

A maximum of 12 units of remedial classes (needed to meet prerequisite requirements) can be taken at Cal Poly by conditionally classified graduate students. Therefore, if you are missing more than 12 units of undergraduate classes, you will need to take those classes at a community college or another institution. The ME Department does not have a set list of minimum required classes. The expectation is that you will work with the ME Department graduate coordinator to determine which classes you will need to take in order to progress through the graduate classes of your formal study plan. If your degree is not in a closely-related field, you will probably need to obtain a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering before enrolling in the MS degree program because it is very difficult to take advanced classes without the knowledge of the fundamentals learned in undergraduate classes. Taking undergraduate classes before applying does not guarantee admission.

Degree Requirements

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. An ability to develop an analytical, experimental, and/or computational research program to investigate and formulate solutions for an advanced engineering problem.
  2. An ability to investigate, understand, and build upon the work of previous researchers.
  3. An ability to communicate engineering work effectively in oral presentations and technical publications.

You are required to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 for the courses listed in your Formal Study Plan to receive your MS degree. Courses that are not explicitly listed below need to be approved by the ME Department graduate coordinator. More details regarding Cal Poly graduate degree requirements are available here on the catalog or graduate education department.

Categories for Required Courses

Core Courses (minimum of 17 units)

Course Description Units
ME 599 Design Project (Thesis) conducted for a committee of three faculty members OR courses selected from the Recommended Restricted Courses (see below) or approved substitutions and a comprehensive examination Minimum of 9 units
Approved courses Approved courses from MATH, STAT or CSC courses (e.g. MATH 408, 409, 418, 501, 502, etc.) with at least one 500 level course; ME 501 and/or ME 540 can also be used, but then cannot also be counted towards your Recommended Restricted Courses 8 units

Restricted Courses (minimum of 12 units)

Course   Units
ME 501 Continuum Mechanics and Elasticity 4
ME 503 Inelastic Stress Analysis 4
ME 504 Finite Element Analysis 4
ME 506 System Dynamics 4
ME 507 Mechanical Control System Design 4
ME 517 Advanced Vibrations 4
ME 518 Machinery Vibration and Rotor Dynamics 4
ME 540 Viscous Flow 4
ME 541 Advanced Thermodynamics 4
ME 542 Dynamics and Thermodynamics of Compressible Flow 4
ME 552 Advanced Heat Transfer I 4
ME 553 Advanced Heat Transfer II 4
ME 554 Computational Heat Transfer 4
ME 556 Advanced Heat Transfer III 4
ME 579 Fluid Power Control 4

Technical Electives (Minimum of 16 units)

Course Description Units
400-level ME or non-ME courses Maximum of 12 units
500-level ME or non-ME courses Maximum of 4 units


Continuous Enrollment Requirement

Until you completely finish all degree requirements and a thesis is uploaded, you must be continuously registered as a graduate student (except for summer quarter). Therefore, if you are finished with all your required classes, but are continuing to work on a thesis, you must continually register for 1 unit of the course GS-S597 through the Extended Education Department until you are done, regardless of whether or not you are on campus. If you plan on completing your thesis during the summer quarter, it is required that you register for GS-S597 for the summer quarter. More details regarding continuous enrollment are available on the graduate education department website.

Blended (or BMS) Degree Program Details

As noted above, the main difference for the blended program is the reduced unit requirement where up to 8 units of 400-level ME Approved Technical Electives may be applied towards your required MS degree units. An additional difference is that the undergraduate BS degree is not awarded until requirements for both the BS and MS are satisfied, thus both degrees will be conferred simultaneously. The only other difference between the two programs is the application process and financial aide.

After being accepted to the ME Department MS program, the California State University (CSU) system requires you to submit a Blended Programs Application Approval Form AND a Post Baccalaureate Change of Objective form that switches your degree goal from a BS degree to a MS degree. To submit these forms, you must have met the following criteria:

  1. Completed between 180 units and 196 to 202 units (depending on the units required for your BS degree determined by your catalog and concentration).
  2. Satisfied the Graduate Writing Requirement (GWR).

After the Post Baccalaureate Change of Objective form has been submitted and processed, your status changes to graduate student with its new fee requirement, changes in financial aid, and priority registration. For your status to be changed for a given quarter, you must submit these forms by the 4thweek of the previous quarter. You may change your objective back to a BS degree if you change your mind.

More details regarding the blended program are available on the
Graduate Education Department website.


Dr. Kim A. Shollenberger, Graduate Coordinator
Mechanical Engineering Department
Cal Poly State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0358
(805) 756-1379

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