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Cal Poly ARCE
This video highlights some of the special things we do in this program, in and out of the classroom.
The students in this program embrace the Cal Poly motto of "Learn by Doing", and they form lasting relations with their professors and each other along the way.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Architectural Engineering Program
What is Architectural Engineering?
How is it different from Civil Engineering or Architecture?
What makes Cal Poly ARCE special?
Our Department Head Al Estes has all the answers for you.
Let us know if you have any more questions! email@example.com
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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 courses, giving them an appreciation for these disciplines as well.
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.
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.
Click here for a list of ARCE course offerings
Program Objectives & Outcomes
Three to five years after graduation, we expect our graduates to:
- Advance in the structural engineering profession through a combination of continuing education, graduate studies, lifelong learning and professional society participation
- Obtain a PE license and be working toward an SE license
- Communicate effectively with colleagues, clients and the public
- Display leadership, initiative, creativity, teamwork, ethical behavior, work ethic and technical expertise in the chosen profession while exhibiting confidence and humility.
At the time of graduation, we expect our graduates to be able to:
- Identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
- Apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
- Communicate effectively with a range of audiences
- Recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
- Function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
- Develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
- Acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
Undergraduate enrollment in the ARCE program since 2014 is shown below:
The number of undergraduate degrees awarded in Architectural Engineering since 2014 is shown below:
Architectural Engineering (ARCE) vs. Architecture (ARCH)
While there are strong ties between the two departments Architecture (ARCH) and Architectural Engineering (ARCE), Architectural Engineering leads to a career as a Structural Engineer rather than as an architect.
The Architectural Engineering program is a 4 year program in which upon graduation you will receive a Bachelors of Science in Architectural Engineering where as the Architecture program is a 5 year program. There is also the possibility of receiving a Masters of Science with an Architectural Engineering Specialization.
In the most general sense, Architecture focuses on more of the design aspect of the construction process, specializing in the aesthetics and function of a building. Architectural Engineering focuses on the systems that support the building and its operation, such as heating and cooling, structural support and lighting. A career in Architectural Engineering is very similar to structural engineering which involves the analysis and design of physical objects such as buildings, bridges, equipment supports, towers and walls. Architectural Engineering students at Cal Poly have expertise in the strength of materials and in seismic design of structures. Architectural Engineers work closely with architects, construction managers and other engineering specialists.
Architectural Engineering (ARCE) vs. Civil Engineering (CE)
Architectural Engineering is also sometimes confused with Civil Engineering (CE). While similar, 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.
Profile of an Incoming Student
Successful students in the architectural engineering program are among the most highly qualified to enter the university. The general profile of an incoming Architectural Engineering student is:
- 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
- They want to be an active part of a team, a skill that develops naturally within the department's pedagogy
The department has a requirement that all students have a laptop computer. A laptop computer is the key to having computing capability available at all times and all locations. Financial aid may be available to cover the cost of the computer laptop. Go to the Cal Poly Financial Aid Office web site for more information.
A note about Mac laptops.
We get a number of people asking about using Mac vs a PC. Your student can use a Mac if he or she chooses, however, most of the programs ARCE requires will only run on Windows. If this seems like too much hassle, a PC may be the better choice.
- Equal to or greater than 10th gen Intel® Core™ i7 Quad-Core processor (or equivalent)
- Windows 10 64-bit or Windows 11 64-bit Operating System
- Equal to or greater than 1920x1080 or higher
Memory and Storage
- Equal to or greater than 16GB RAM
- 1 TB (SSD) Hard Drive (or Greater)
- Wireless Capability
In the Pocket
- 32 GB Flash Drive
Students can get Windows 10 & Windows 11 free through OnTheHub.com.
The Architectural Engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET abet.org
Which type of prospective student are you?
Information about the first year in the Architectural Engineering program
Information for transfer students
Change of Major
All the information you need to know about changing to the Architectural Engineering Major
Interested in getting your Master's in Architectural Engineering