The graduate programs in Fire Protection Engineering at Cal Poly are now in their sixth year of operation. Started as a pilot program in the Fall 2010 term, the FPE program is now a regular program within the CSU system and was ranked in the top 25 online graduate engineering program by US News and World Report this year. The FPE programs at Cal Poly include a Master of Science degree program and two Graduate Certificate programs, one in FPE Science and the other in FPE Applications.

Students in the MS degree program must complete 45 units. This typically entails the completion of ten 4-unit courses and one 5-unit culminating project. Cal Poly operates on the quarter system, so each 4-unit course is equivalent to a 3-unit course under the semester system. Students in the Graduate Certificate programs must complete four 4-unit courses designated for each of these programs. Credits earned in one of these programs can then be applied to the MS degree if students decide to continue.

The culminating project is one unique aspect of the Cal Poly FPE program. Students select a building and perform a comprehensive fire and life safety analysis of the building, including both prescriptive and performance-based analyses. Students prepare a comprehensive report of their findings and then present and defend their analysis to a panel of FPE professionals. In this way, the culminating project helps to develop both the written and oral communication skills of the student.

Another unique aspect of the Cal Poly FPE program is that online students can participate synchronously or asynchronously in lectures. Distance students take the same courses and participate in the same lectures as on-campus students. Most classes are scheduled between 4 and 6 PM Pacific Time to allow working professionals to participate live in lectures after normal business hours throughout the US. All lectures are recorded to allow both on-campus and online students to review lectures they may have missed or to reinforce concepts that they did not fully understand.

The cost of the Cal Poly FPE program is very competitive with other graduate programs in FPE. Tuition is currently $550 per unit, so each course costs $2200. Tuition for the 45-unit MS degree program is currently $24,750; tuition for the 4-course Graduate Certificate programs is currently $8800. Students are responsible for purchasing their own textbooks and for the cost of traveling to Cal Poly to present their culminating projects. These costs are subject to change without notice.

The Cal Poly FPE program has graduated 54 students so far. Many of these graduates have been working professionals who have continued working for the same companies. Others have been recent graduates who have found employment mostly with prominent consulting firms. The demand for Cal Poly FPE graduates has been strong, particularly on the West Coast, and this demand has been increasing as employers realize that Cal Poly graduates have both the fundamental and practical knowledge needed for the modern practice of Fire Protection Engineering.

For more information on FPE programs at Cal Poly, please visit the program website at