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California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

San Luis Obispo, CA


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Introduction | California Polytechnic State University: College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences

Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) provides students with access to state-of-the-art laboratories, including ranch lands, forests, vineyards and orchards that allow faculty to create meaningful Learn by Doing experiences for graduate students. 

Faculty in CAFES focus on transforming academically motivated students into innovative professionals. As a result of their ability to combine professional skills and technical competence with a big-picture vision and an innovative spirit, Cal Poly CAFES graduates are highly sought after by a broad cross-section of prestigious employers.

Key Facts and Overview | California Polytechnic State University: College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

CAFES offers graduate students diverse programs reflecting today’s need for skilled professionals including modern agriculture, life sciences, and related professions. The College offers five diverse masters degrees including, a Masters of Agricultural Education, M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Management, M.S. Nutrition, M.S. Food Science and the popular M.S. Agriculture with eight distinctive specialties.

There are currently 44,000 alumni from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. These alumni are renowned for their experience and significant contributions to their particular industry. Alumni serve as ambassadors and advisors and are always willing to help graduates following graduation. 

California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) fosters scholarship, service, and teaching in a Learn by Doing environment. The application of theory to practice, active-learning methods, and field and laboratory work form the core of this academic approach. Established in 1901, Cal Poly is a public, coeducational university located in San Luis Obispo, California in the western region of the United States. According to Colleges in California, its campus is one of the most beautiful in the state. The university is situated in an area known for its mild climate, natural beauty, and outdoor recreational options.

Majors and Degrees | California Polytechnic State University: College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences offers five graduate degrees. 

M.S. Agriculture

The M.S. degree in agriculture reflects the growing diversity of choices available and skills required in modern agriculture, life sciences and related professions. Students can choose from eight specializations and a common core of courses that include research planning, communication, ethics, advanced statistics, and experimental design.

Masters in Agriculture has the following specializations:

Specialization in Animal Science

Students are given the opportunity to apply the principles of animal biology, molecular biology, and other life sciences to a variety of species, including farm animals, exotic pets, and laboratory animals. This degree provides students with an interdisciplinary, science-based curriculum in which students develop basic scientific knowledge, apply that knowledge to a research project, then write and defend a thesis.

Specialization in BioResource and Agricultural Systems 

Graduates will be prepared to enter a career in production agriculture, consulting, regulatory compliance, equipment sales, and technical support. The multidisciplinary nature of this program will allow students to select electives in departments throughout the university with advisor approval.

Specialization in Crop Science 

This specialization is intended for students with undergraduate preparation in plant agriculture and/or plant science. Current research areas emphasize applied fruit crop physiology; vegetable breeding and physiology; sustainable fruit and vegetable production; post-harvest technology, including sustainable packaging and packaging safety; and integrated pest management.

Specialization in Dairy Products Technology

This specialization is intended for students with an academic background in food science, nutrition, dairy science, microbiology, chemistry, engineering and biochemistry. Students will have the opportunity to work on research projects at the Cal Poly Dairy Products Technology Center and interact with multidisciplinary teams of scientists from around the world. 

Specialization in Environmental Horticultural Science

This specialization is intended for students with undergraduate preparation in horticulture and/or plant science. Current research emphasizes applied plant physiology, nursery and potted plant production, sustainable landscape development and maintenance, and integrated pest management.

Specialization in Irrigation

The program allows students to gain deeper knowledge of general irrigation, soil science, crop science, and hydraulics, thereby preparing them for positions within the agricultural professional community.

Specialization in Plant Protection Science

This program provides students the opportunity to conduct field and/or laboratory research with corporate stakeholders for career enhancement while also providing a deeper understanding of crop production principles, ecology, biotechnology, pesticide toxicology, and environmental science.

Specialization in Water Engineering

The program of study includes water, water transmission, water treatment, and water management. It produces students who can design infrastructure and manage water resources with an interdisciplinary approach to agriculture, industry and municipalities. Students may select elective courses to reinforce these areas or examine other areas, such as water treatment, urban water planning, groundwater, and surface water hydrology. 

M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Management

The M.S. degree in environmental sciences and management is an interdisciplinary degree designed to provide core knowledge in research methods and planning, environmental science, and environmental management, while providing for specialization through directed electives. Primary areas of excellence are environmental management, forestry science, earth science and soil science. The program prepares students for a broad range of careers in science, research and environmental management. 

M.S. in Food Science 

The M.S. degree in food science gives individuals advanced knowledge and skills in food science. Students will be able to select one of several emphasis areas: food chemistry, food microbiology/food safety, sensory/ product development, sustainability, dairy food science, and meat science. 

M.S. in Nutrition 

The M.S. degree in nutrition prepares graduates for further education in dietetic internships, professional schools, allied health professions, and doctoral studies in a number of academic areas, including public health, animal science, and the social sciences. The interdisciplinary nature of the program allows students to work with faculty from several departments and to choose a research topic from a broad range of themes, including human nutrition, animal nutrition, kinesiology, public health, business, and social sciences. Students will be able to select one of three emphasis areas: molecular nutrition, public health nutrition, or health and wellness.

Admissions | California Polytechnic State University: College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Admission to a graduate program at Cal Poly is centralized through the Cal Poly Admission Office, in direct collaboration with coordinators in each of the graduate programs.  Applicants to Cal Poly will follow the official process as described through Cal State Apply, selecting Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which is one of 23 campuses of the California State University system.

Cal Poly recommends that applicants investigate the program of interest, and research any curriculum questions related to the program.  Program overview information can be found in the Graduate Education Programs Catalog on the Graduate Education website.  Each program has a Faculty Graduate Coordinator who can provide answers about curriculum and professional opportunities.  A list of Graduate Coordinators by program can be found on the Cal Poly Graduate Education website. 

Cal Poly also recommends that applicants familiarize themselves with the graduate admission information outlined on the Office of Admissions website, as well as with information provided on the Graduate Education website.  In addition to these resources, applicants should consult the program for additional program-specific requirements, if any.

General Requirements to be considered for admission to Cal Poly:

    • - Have completed a four-year college course of study at an accredited institution. 
    • - Be in good standing at the previous institution attended. 
    • - Provide official transcripts from the undergraduate degree granting institution to the Cal Poly Admissions Office by the appropriate deadline. 
    • - A GPA from the bachelor degree granting institution of 3.0 of better. A GRE score demonstrating a 50th percentile or higher in each of the 3 categories may allow an application with a GPA of 2.5 or below to be considered. 
    • - Some programs require GRE scores for all applicants. Refer to the Admissions Office and program as there are some exceptions. If your program requires GRE scores, official scores must be reported to the Cal Poly Admissions Office by the deadline. 
    • - Letters of Recommendation as required by the program on interest. 
    • - All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must demonstrate competence in English. Those who do not possess a bachelor's degree from a post-secondary institution where English in the principal language of instruction must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of 80 or better, or the International English Language Testing system (IELTS) exam with a score of 6.5 or better. 

International applicant admission to Cal Poly:  

The CSU must assess the academic preparation of international students. For this purpose, international students include those who hold U.S. temporary visas as students, exchange visitors, or in other non-immigrant classifications. The CSU uses separate requirements and application filing dates in the admission of international students. The process for filing an international application can be found on the Cal Poly Admissions website.

Cost, Financial Aid, and Tuition | College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences

Cal Poly ranked 37th in the U.S. in PayScale’s 2018 “College ROI Report,” which ranked 1,878 colleges and universities. According to PayScale’s projections, Cal Poly has a 20-year net return on investment of $699,000. This ROI is the 2nd highest in the California State University system and is higher than all of the University of California schools.

 The estimated tuition and fees for a full-time, resident graduate student is $11,376 for three quarters. For full-time students who are not residents of the state of California, estimated tuition and fees are $17,712 for three quarters. For full-time international students, estimated tuition and fees are $19,902 for three quarters. Additional information about living expenses, supplies and transportation can be found here.

 Cal Poly provides several opportunities to reduce tuition and fees, including resident tuition waivers, non-resident tuition waivers, and State University Grants. Applicants can apply for Resident and Non-Resident Tuition Waivers here. State University Grants are need-based financial aid. Students interested in need-based financial aid should submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or the California Dream Act Application if they are not eligible for federal financial aid. Students who complete one of these applications are automatically considered for need-based grant programs. Graduate Education also oversees the Graduate Equity Fellowship, which provides support students with demonstrated financial need. Graduate Education also provides Graduate Assistant positions to support the professional development and mastery of your chosen field.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Master of Science (MS)
Master of Agricultural Education (MAE)

Degrees Awarded

Degree Number Awarded
Master's Degrees 60

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? Yes
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Distance learning programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? No

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Master's Degrees Entrance Exam GRE Required for some
Comp Exam Required for some
Thesis Required for some


Acceptance Rate



Application Fee - Domestic
applications accepted?
Applications processed
on a rolling basis?

Application Deadlines

Type Domestic International Priority date
Fall deadline April 1st April 1st No
Winter deadline October 1st Not reported No
Spring deadline February 1st January 1st No

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Master's Degree Exam GRE required for some

International Students

Exam Details
TOEFL: Required TOEFL IBT score: 80

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Financial award applicants must submit: FAFSA or California Dream Act Application
Application deadlines for financial awards March 1 and June 1 
Types of financial support available Tuition Waivers
Scholarship and/or Loans
Graduate Assistantships

Student Body

Total Graduate Students
International Breakout (representing other countries)


Hispanic/Latino 17.07%
Black or African American 0%
White or Caucasian 64%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 9.76%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 3.66%
Unknown 3.66%


Male (34%)
Female (65%)


Total faculty
Full-time - 27
Part-time - 1
Male (17)
Female (11)


Focus of faculty research: Environmental science; food science and nutrition; dairy products development; irrigation and water engineering; agricultural education; animal science
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year: 0

Location & Contact

Address 1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA  93407
United States
Contact Dr. Jim Prince 
Associate Dean
Phone: 805-756-2161
Fax: 805-756-6577

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California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
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