What is a Fire Protection Engineer?

As noted on the website of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers: Fire protection engineers use science and technology to protect people, property, and businesses from destructive fires. They analyze how buildings are used, how fires start, how fires grow, and how fire and smoke affect people, buildings, and property. Fire protection engineers use the latest technologies to:

  • Design systems that control fires, alert people to danger and provide means for escape;
  • Evaluate buildings to pinpoint the risks of fires and the means to prevent them;
  • Conduct fire safety research on consumer products and construction materials;
  • Investigate fires to discover how fire spreads, why protective measures failed, and how those measures could have been designed more effectively.

Fire Protection Engineers work with architects and other engineers, state and local building officials and local fire departments to build and maintain fire safe communities. They make recommendations for cost-effective fire protection solutions to ensure that the structure is adequately protected, along with the property and occupants contained within.


How do I become a Fire Protection Engineer?

Fire Protection Engineering is an important learned profession. Many FPEs start their careers in other technical disciplines and then their job responsibilities bring them into the profession, where they learn about the profession through on-the-job training and experience. Today, more and more FPEs are educated within the discipline at one of the universities that offer degree programs in FPE. With distance education programs in FPE now available, working professionals, particularly those educated in other disciplines, can return to school to enhance their skills and qualifications within the field of FPE while continuing with their professional careers.

Because FPEs are always dealing with issues related to public safety and welfare, it is important for FPEs to become licensed as Professional Engineers in the jurisdictions where they practice. To become a registered Professional Engineer, it is necessary to gain experience under the supervision of another Professional Engineer after completing the educational requirements for registration. It is also necessary to pass a Fundamentals of Engineering exam and a Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to demonstrate that you are qualified to practice as a Professional Engineer in your chosen discipline. One of the primary goals of the FPE program at Cal Poly is to prepare students to become Professional Engineers in the FPE discipline.

Admission Requirements

The FPE program at Cal Poly is a rigorous graduate engineering degree program requiring a high level of competence in applied math and the engineering sciences for successful completion. The admission standards for the FPE program are similar to those for other MS degree programs within the College of Engineering at Cal Poly. The general requirements for admission to the FPE MS degree program are:

  • An earned bachelor's degree appropriate for the FPE MS degree; degrees in engineering or the applied sciences are most suitable.
  • A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 in the last 90 quarter units (60 semester units) of coursework. Note that this is higher than the campus minimum GPA of 2.5, but is the same as other engineering programs at Cal Poly. On occasion, where other credentials are exceptionally strong, a GPA in the 2.5-3.0 range may be accepted.

The Graduate Coordinator for the FPE MS program is Professor Christopher Pascual. Please contact Professor Pascual with any additional questions about applying to this degree program.

Application Process

Completed applications must include the following:

  • A formal application made through CSUMentor (online or using a downloaded application form), see below for more instructions
  • A required supplemental application must be made through Interfolio. Interfolio is the online provider that we use for prospective students to create an ePortfolio. See the ePortfolio Guidelines document for more instructions. Based on the admission quarter you must access one of the three following links:
    • Winter 2017(Interfolio Link 35573)
    • Spring 2017 - LINK COMING SOON
    • Fall 2017 LINK COMING SOON
  • Official transcripts from ALL colleges previously attended (except Cal Poly), mailed to:
    Cal Poly, Admissions Office, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
  • A minimum of two letters of recommendation (three are recommended) from faculty members or professional references on institutional/company letterhead, emailed to Dr. Christopher Pascual at cpascual@calpoly.edu OR submitted with your Inferfolio application. The program does not use a standard recommendation form.
  • The program does not require the GRE test. However, if you wish, you may include GRE scores in your file by mailing to:
    Dr. Christopher Pascual, Graduate Coordinator, Fire Protection Engineering Program, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0358.
    Scores may also be sent directly to Cal Poly using institution code 4038.

International applicants, including anyone who would attend Cal Poly while in the U.S. under a non-immigrant visa, must also submit results of the TOEFL test taken within the past two years. The TOEFL results must be directed to institution code 4038. Go to Cal Poly's TOEFL website for additional TOEFL instructions.


The Fire Protection Engineering curriculum is designed to build on the skills, knowledge, and broad engineering principles students acquire in an undergraduate engineering program or in a closely related technical field. The required and elective courses composing the Master of Science degree in Fire Protection Engineering address the specific body of knowledge required by the fire protection engineering profession. Students completing the program will possess the technical knowledge, skills, and tools required to practice fire protection engineering in a variety of local, national and international settings. Upon completion of this program, students will possess the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue professional certification and licensure in the fire protection engineering discipline.

The FPE MS degree program requires the successful completion of 45 credits, including ten 4-credit courses and one 5-credit culminating project experience. Students must also present and defend their culminating projects to a review committee.

Fundamental Courses

The MS degree program requires completion of the following four fundamentals courses:

Course Title Course Number Prerequisites Course Offering
Fundamental Thermal Sciences FPE S501 Consent of Instructor Fall Quarter
Fire Dynamics FPE S502 FPE S501 Consent of Instructor Winter Quarter
Flammability Assessment Methods FPE S503 FPE S502 Spring Quarter
Fire Modeling FPE S504 FPE S502, FPE S503 Summer Quarter

Applied Courses The MS degree program also requires completion of the following four applied courses:

Course Title Course Number Prerequisites Course Offering
Egress Analysis and Design FPE S521 Consent of Instructor Fall Quarter
Fire Detection, Alarm and
Communication Systems
FPE S522 Consent of Instructor Spring Quarter
Water-based Fire Suppression Systems FPE S523 FPE S501 or Consent of Instructor Winter Quarter
Structural Fire Protection FPE S524 Consent of Instructor Summer Quarter

Elective Courses Students must also complete two elective courses, from a list of approved electives. Within FPE, the following courses are currently offered:

Course Title Course Number Prerequisites Course Offering
Fire Safety Regulation and Management FPE S551 Consent of Instructor Fall Quarter
Smoke Management and Special Hazards FPE S552 FPE S502, FPE S504 Winter Quarter
Forensic Fire Analysis FPE S554 Consent of Instructor Spring Quarter
Fire Protection Management in the
Wildland-Urban Interface
FPE S555 Consent of Instructor Winter Quarter

Culminating Experience in Fire Protection Engineering (FPE S596) is also required for all students

As a part of this 5-credit course, students must complete an FPE project as their culminating experience. The culminating project experience will typically be for students to perform a comprehensive fire and life safety evaluation of a selected building, prepare a comprehensive report documenting the results of this evaluation and present their analysis and findings to a review committee. Other culminating projects of similar scope and complexity may be submitted for approval. If you reside outside of California and are considering taking online courses, please read State Authorization for Distance Education.

Program taught in:
  • English (US)

See 13 more programs offered by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo »

Last updated November 20, 2018
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sep 2020
Request Info
24,750 USD
$550 per credit
By locations
By date
Start Date
Sep 2020
End Date
Application deadline

Sep 2020

Application deadline
End Date