Department Resources

Prospective Students

Prospective Students

The architectural engineering program was created originally as an academic body of knowledge primarily concerned with people occupied structures. The accredited programs throughout the United States, while sharing a common general mission, all have their own specialties supplemented by other specific proficiencies related to the field.

Cal Poly's Department of Architectural Engineering's (ARCE) curriculum focuses on the structural engineering of buildings. By focusing on building design students are able to take many more structural engineering courses than is possible in a traditional civil engineering program. Beyond structural engineering courses, students take several architecture and construction management, giving them an appreciation for these disciplines.

Our department is unique because the curriculum consists of a mix of theoretical and practical courses.  Students take several intensive design labs in which they design actual buildings, and have many opportunities to build models and test building components in the labs.  Our limited class sizes encourage greater faculty-to-student interaction.  The student chapter of the Structural Engineers' Association of California (SEAOC) is a very active professional student club, and we have an excellent network of alumni.  Additionally, there are numerous scholarships which our students are eligible for.  Companies actively seek and recruit students from our department for internships and career opportunities. 

Program Objectives & Outcomes

Three to five years after graduation, we expect our graduates to: Advance in a career path primarily in structural engineering or a building industry field, attain a graduate degree, engage in lifelong learning, and meet increasing professional demands to communicate effectively.

At the time of graduation, we expect our graduates to be able to: apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering to building structures; design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data; design a building system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as regulatory, economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, constructability, and sustainability; function in interdisciplinary teams for the design and construction of buildings; identify, formulate and solve structural engineering problems; understand professional and ethical responsibility; communicate effectively; have the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context; have a recognition of the need for and an ability to engage in life-long learning; have a knowledge of how the built environment is related to contemporary issues; use the techniques, skills and tools necessary for structural engineering practice; and apply construction and constructability issues in buildings.

How does ARCE differ from Civil Engineering or Architecture?Architectural engineering (ARCE) should not be confused with architecture (ARCH). While there are strong ties between the two departments, architectural engineering leads to a career as a structural engineer rather than as an architect.

Architectural engineering differs from civil engineering in that the focus of the ARCE program is on structural engineering of buildings whereas a traditional civil engineering program offers a broader curriculum that includes courses in transportation, wastewater, environmental engineering, etc. in addition to structural engineering courses. By focusing on the engineering of buildings, the architectural engineering department is able to offer many more courses related to structures. For students interested in designing buildings - ARCE is probably the place for you! For students who aren't sure which branch of engineering they wish to pursue - Civil Engineering may be the way to go...


The Architectural  Engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET

Profile of an Incoming Student

Successful students in the architectural engineering program are among the most highly qualified to enter the university. They have balanced aptitudes in mathematics and verbal skills. They generally have an interest in or have matured skills in graphics and/or art. They are noted for their ability to think through abstract problems and have a passion for what they are doing. Hopefully the student understands the mission of the department and has a general sense of where the program leads a successful graduate. A sense of wanting to be an active part of a team is desired and is a skill that develops naturally within the department's pedagogy. During the first year at Cal Poly, the student will not take any architectural engineering courses but rather mathematics, physics, and architectural courses along with fulfilling the general education and breadth requirements. While this can be distracting to a young person's ambition to be in the architectural engineering program, the second year starts to expose the student to the fundamentals of the profession. The third and fourth year include the transition to the design labs and are the signature classes within the program.

Computing Recommendations

Students in the Department of Architectural Engineering are not required to purchase a personal computer. The ARCE department does maintain its own computer lab for its students and there are many labs around campus for general student use. Many students, however, find it convenient to have access to their own computer.

Wireless access is available in all of the Architectural Engineering design laboratories as well as most areas on campus. Laptops are favored by students because they can use them in the design studios (where juniors and seniors tend to spend a large portion of their day).

If purchasing a computer, the department recommends a PC/Windows based machine with the following minimum specifications:

  • Intel 3.0 GHz multi core processor (or greater)
  • 500 GB or greater hard drive
  • 256 MB or greater video memory
  • 4GB or greater RAM


Information about the first year in the Architectural Engineering program

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Information for transfer studetns

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Change of Major

All the information you need to know about changing to the Architectural Engineering Major

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Interested in getting your Master's in Architectural Engineering

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