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) in Mechanical Engineering 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. More detailed information about these options is available under the link for Current Students in the Graduate Program above.

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).

    • Admission is granted for the fall quarter only. The deadline for applications for the Fall 2024 quarter is January 4, 2024. All required documents must be present by this date.
    • An application (that includes unofficial transcripts, three letters of recommendation under Program Material-Evaluations, and a statement of purpose) is submitted electronically using Cal State Apply available at
    • Official transcripts from all institutions where work was attempted must be submitted directly to the Cal Poly Admission office. Transcripts can be submitted either using a certified electronic transcript provider to or by 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.
    • Applications are due on the Monday at the beginning of the 2nd week of classes for the Fall, Winter, or Spring quarters (see details below to consider which quarter to apply). All required documents must be present by this date. Thus, applicants should submit their part of the application at least one week early to give your references adequate time to complete their part of the form.
    • An application (that includes three references and a statement of purpose) is submitted electronically using an ONLINE APPLICATION. Enter email addresses for yourself and your three references to initiate the process. An email is then sent to you with a link that allows you to fill out the application. Once you submit your part of the application, an email is then sent to each of your references that allows them to complete their recommendation form.

More details regarding the application process are available from the Admissions Department website, Graduate Education Department Catalog page, Graduate Education Department website.

Applicants without a BS 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

    • An ability to develop an analytical, experimental, and/or computational research program to investigate and formulate solutions for an advanced engineering problem.
    • An ability to investigate, understand, and build upon the work of previous researchers.
    • 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 that are to be counted towards your graduate degree. More details regarding Cal Poly graduate degree requirements are available from the Graduate Education Department Catalog page for degree requirements, the Graduate Education Department website, or the MS in Mechanical Engineering Catalog page.


Blended (or BMS) Degree Program Details

As noted above, the main difference for the blended degree program is the reduced unit requirement, where up to 8 units of 400-level or 500-level ME Approved Technical Electives may be applied towards your required MS degree units. In addition, the undergraduate BS degree is not awarded until requirements for both the BS and MS are satisfied, thus both degrees are conferred simultaneously. The only other differences between the two programs are the application process and financial aid.

To apply to the BMS program, you should have completed approximately 180 of the units needed to satisfy your BS in ME degree requirements. Thus, for most applicants there will be 2 to 3 different quarters when they are eligible to apply. However, there cannot be a gap quarter between completing your BS degree requirements and starting the graduate program (unless you request a leave of absence). Thus, your enrollment at Cal Poly must be continuous.

After being accepted into the BMS program, the California State University (CSU) system requires you to submit the following forms: (1) Blended Programs Application Approval Form and (2) Post Baccalaureate Change of Objective form that switches your degree goal from a BS degree to a MS degree for the quarter specified on the form.

To submit these forms you must meet the following criteria:

    • Completed 91% of your degree applicable units. For ME students this is approximately 180 units (depending on your concentration and catalog).
    • Satisfied the Graduate Writing Requirement (GWR).

For your status to be changed for a given quarter, you must submit these forms by the 4th week of the previous quarter (please refer to the Graduate Education Department for the exact date). You may change your objective back to a BS degree at any time if you change your mind.

After these forms have been submitted and processed, your status changes to graduate student for the quarter indicated on the form with its new fee requirement, changes in financial aid, and priority registration. Finally, note that you must enroll in at least one graduate level class during the first quarter you are registered as a graduate student and be registered as a full-time graduate student (which is 8 units) for at least two quarters. 

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

For questions about the program, please contact:

Dr. Kim A. Shollenberger,  Graduate Coordinator

Mechanical Engineering Department
Building 13, Room 251
Cal Poly State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0358
(805) 756-1379