aipAIP Master’s candidates use inquiry not only as a tool for integrated learning, but as a powerful agent for student achievement, public engagement in science, and ecological stewardship. AIP students join a network of local and national leaders, working together to improve their professions, institutions, neighborhoods, and environments.

Who is Eligible?

Bachelor’s degree. Enrollment is open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree, regardless of academic major.  The AIP is designed for a broad range of environmental and education professionals, as well as those who have a vested, personal interest in our natural world.  Our cohorts include teachers, informal educators, working professionals outside the sciences, retirees, stay-at-home parents, recent college graduates, and more!  This graduate program was designed to be done on a part-time so those with full-time jobs, families, etc. are still able to participate as long as they can manage their time effectively.

GPA of good standing.  For admission to Miami’s Graduate School as a degree candidate, you must have earned a grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.75 (4.0 scale) at the institution awarding your bachelor’s degree.  Undergraduate coursework taken after the completion of your bachelor’s degree will not be considered in determining your grade point average.  Please visit the Miami University Graduate School’s Admissions page for more details.

General university-level biology course.  All MA/MAT students are required to have completed (receiving a final grade of B- or better) one university-level general biology course or its equivalent prior to completion of their MA/MAT degree.  Students admitted to the program who have not previously met this requirement through their undergraduate studies can take such a course while pursuing their master’s, but will need to complete it in order to graduate.  The Dragonfly Graduate Committee highly recommends that students complete this requirement within the first two years of the master’s program.  More information may be found in the Biology Requirement FAQs.

Course of Study

Students take a combination of 21 credit hours of Web+ Courses (online with in-person Zoo experiences) and 14 credit hours of Core Courses (online only) taken with Project Dragonfly master’s students nationwide via web-based learning communities. All 35 hours include a web-based learning community (i.e. online work/assignments with every course in the program).  Students complete a master’s portfolio (our version of a master’s thesis) throughout their time in the program based on an overarching theme or passion/interest they want to apply their various course projects toward.  AIP students in their 3rd year (and in good standing) are eligible to apply for an Earth Expeditions course to learn firsthand about community conservation efforts across the globe.

The fastest pace this degree can be completed is in 2.5 years, but students have up to 5 years (consecutively) to finish their coursework, so you can choose to go at a slower pace with lighter courseloads per semester if needed.

Not too sure about a full master’s program yet?  Try one of our standalone courses as a Continuing Graduate Status (CGS) student!

Conservation Science & Community (Fall, Year 1) Foundations of Inquiry (Summer, Year 1 – Online + Zoo time June 1-5, 2020)
Biology in the Age of Technology (Spring, Year 1) Animal Behavior & Conservation (Fall, rotating – Online + Zoo time Sep 12, Oct 3, Nov 7, & Dec 5, 2020)
Issues in Biodiversity (Spring, Year 1) Plants & People (Fall, rotating – Online + Zoo time Sep 12, Oct 3, Nov 7, & Dec 5, 2020)
Issues in Evolution (Fall, Year 2) Habitats, Evolution, & Adaptations (Fall, rotating – Online + Zoo time Sep 12, Oct 3, Nov 7, & Dec 5, 2020)
Leadership in Science Inquiry (Spring, Year 2) Issues in Cincinnati Conservation (Summer, Year 2 – Online & Zoo time May 30, Jun 13, Jul 11, & Aug 1, 2020)
Professional Media Workshop (Spring, Year 2) Master Plan in Action (Summer, Year 2 – Online & peer meetings)

An academic year is compiled of three semesters:  Summer (late May – early August), Fall (late Aug – early Dec), and Spring (late Jan – early May).  Typically, students take one Web+ Course concurrently with one or two Core Courses each semester.  All of our courses have an online component to them.  The fastest pace to complete the program is 2.5 years, but students have up to 5 years (consecutively) to complete it, so there are many students that choose to go slower and just take one course at a time. To see the general sequence of AIP courses, click here; for a CZBG-specific example, please click here.  (Note: These illustrate an example sequence taken in 2.5 years.)

Your very first course as an AIP student, Foundations of Inquiry, includes a week-long session at the Zoo in early June.  For 2020, “Zoo Week” is set for June 1-5 and full attendance is required for all students. This particular in-person week is an integral part of the program, so full attendance is expected and no make-up opportunities are given for missed days, regardless of the reason.



The cost for this master’s degree is on average $5,670 per year at the 2.5-year pace, roughly 30% less than full Miami University in-state tuition.  The estimated total tuition for this degree = $14,175 + graduation fees.  Tuition costs are estimates and subject to change based on Miami University and Zoo fluctuations in course fees.  For more information about tuition, please see Miami’s AIP Costs page.

  • Core Courses (online only) – $300 per credit hour
  • Web+ Courses (online + in-person Zoo time) – $475 per credit hour

For example, a 2-credit Conservation Science & Community class (Core Course) would cost $600, while a 3-credit Animal Behavior & Conservation class (Web+ Course) would cost $1,425.

Financial Aid

With reduced fees as part of Miami University’s support for this program, each AIP course is already offered at a fraction of actual costs that most Miami graduate courses are at, but there are a few options to help even with those costs.  There are few scholarships and grants offered for nominal amounts through Miami, and some students find it valuable to ask their current employer about tuition reimbursement options.  A limited number of small scholarship funds (in the range of $250-$500, varying by year) are available to AIP students once they get into the program.  Scholarship descriptions and application information is distributed by email to all students in late spring of each year.  Students often are also eligible to apply for federal loans or can defer their current student loans as long as they’re taking 5 credits worth of courses each semester (which is possible).

If you have further questions about financial aid, please contact Project Dragonfly’s office at Miami University specifically, as the Zoo does not disburse scholarships or handle the tuition portion of the graduate program.


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Applications for the Advanced Inquiry Program go live every September for the following cohort year, with classes starting in May. Part of the preliminary process includes filling out a short interest form which helps us gauge general interest in the program (filling it out does not mean you have to commit to applying).  The open application period is September through the following February, with all application materials due to Miami University’s Graduate School by February 28 of each year.

While applications are accepted through February 28, we encourage you to complete the Miami University Graduate School application portion of your AIP application by February 18.  Doing so will help ensure that all materials (e.g. undergraduate transcripts, professional recommendations, etc.) will be received and processed in a timely manner by the 28th deadline.  Otherwise, a decision on your application may be delayed or disqualified.

Candidate screening will begin immediately following this February deadline, with acceptance decisions being made starting mid-March through mid-April.  Applicants will be notified about their recommendation for admission to the program by April 15. Your admittance into the program is not final until you receive the official letter from the Graduate School of Miami University. For more information on the application process, please click here.


Please read below for frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Advanced Inquiry Program:

  • What is the nature of these courses and their associated projects?  
    • At the heart of this program is making an environmental and social change in your community, whatever “community” means to you (your neighborhood, school district, workplace, zoo, nature center, metropark, city, faith family, etc.).  We encourage a lot of inquiry-based learning and our courses revolve around environmental topics and how to communicate and share those issues.  In large part, students drive their own master’s experience through projects they design, so what a student ends up focusing on depends on where he or she wants to go.  Students also develop specific content knowledge and skills in the realms of biodiversity threats and conservation, evolution, community engagement, inquiry-based education, science writing and publishing, and leadership, among many others.aip2
  • What are the in-person commitments like?  Do I need to live in Cincinnati?  
    • We do not have any courses that require you to travel to the main Oxford campus of Miami University.  We try to do most of our in-person Zoo components on Saturdays for those who work during the week or have a drive to Cincinnati.  Usually, you only have “Zoo Days” about 4 times spread out in a semester.
    • There are two Web+ Courses where this deviates: 1) Foundations of Inquiry – The very first course you take as a student includes a full week of class at the Zoo (full 9 am to 4 pm days).  It is a required, large piece of the course and the program in general.  2)  Barrows Lecture Series Seminar – A spring course that involves coming to the Zoo for 4 lectures typically on Wednesday evenings to hear from internationally-known conservationists.
    • We do have many students in our program who do not live in Greater Cincinnati, coming from all over Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, and even places like Florida.  As long as you plan ahead and make the trek to Cincinnati for each course’s in-person components (typically 4 times a semester), you can live practically anywhere.
  • I have a full-time job and/or a family and other life commitments I’m responsible for.  Is this program still doable?  Is it possible to take a semester off here and there when needed?  
    • This program was designed to be accomplished at a part-time pace for working or busy individuals, and many of our students graduate while juggling all of the above as well.  It is important to note, as with all graduate school endeavors, that it will definitely be a significant commitment that will require your time and attention, so take stock of your availability and ensure you carve out time weekly to tackle your assignments and project work.  Time management is key in this program.
    • As for life happening, which it often does, it’s not uncommon for students to take a lighter load occasionally or even take a full semester or two off while things in their personal/work life settle.  Students just have to plan to finish within 5 years from when you started the program.
  • I’m not ready to jump into a full master’s program quite yet.  Is there a way to check out your courses for a semester or just earn standalone graduate credit for professional development/recertification purposes?
    • Yes!  We open up a few of our AIP courses to non-AIP students each year.  This allows those who want to check out the program to see what it’s like or also allows those who are just looking for graduate credit opportunities for professional development to join our unique experiences. Try out a standalone graduate course and join us for a semester!
  • How many students do you take?  Who makes up your graduate cohorts?
    • We typically accept only 20-25 students per cohort each year. Graduate students in our program come from a variety of backgrounds.  Many are preK-12 teachers, but we also are stay-at-home parents, retail and food service employees, administrative assistants, financial consultants, retirees, health care workers, recent graduates from college, EPA specialists, nature center educators, animal care professionals, and more.  It’s great having variety in our cohorts, especially since at the end of the day, we all have an appreciation for conservation, the environment, and education.
  • What key outcomes often come from a program like this?
    • In addition to making numerous new contacts and friends, and diving into a world of environmental studies, two major themes come out of this program – leadership and community engagement.  Throughout the various courses and assignments, students are asked to tackle issues and topics they’re passionate about, and also asked to dream bigger and push themselves beyond their normal day-to-day routines.
    • Through our Project Dragonfly family, students have gone on to receive grants, create brand new events or programs in their communities, collaborate with sanctuaries and preserves, take on leadership roles at work or promotions, write books, improve husbandry practices at zoos, etc.  This program creates opportunities for people to do and explore the things they’ve always wanted to.
  • Can this master’s degree lead to a Ph.D. program?  
    • Possibly.  It depends on what field a student wants to get a Ph.D. in.  Overall, because this is an M.A./M.A.T. degree program, if you are trying to go for a Ph.D. in a hard science field with a heavy research base like biology, chemistry, etc., it might be tougher to find a Ph.D. program that will accept an M.A./M.A.T. over an M.S.   On the other hand, going into a Ph.Ed. or a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies (or other interdisciplinary-type fields like sustainability education, etc.) would be more feasible.  If you have an advisor or Ph.D. program that you’re interested in already, we recommend talking with them and see what their initial thoughts are.  In addition, because this is a non-traditional academic program, it might require educating the Ph.D. department/university in question a bit more about what the AIP is about and help them understand what we accomplish, coursework, philosophies, etc.  Any Ph.D. program advisor is welcome to reach out to Project Dragonfly’s leadership team at Miami University to inquire further.
  • Can I apply before I graduate with my bachelor’s degree?  Do I need to take the GRE for this program?
    • Yes!  During the application process, just upload your most recent version of your unofficial transcripts.  Then, you will need to submit a final transcript to Miami University after your acceptance into AIP and graduating with your bachelor’s degree, but you can certainly apply during the final year of your undergraduate degree program.
    • No – no GRE is needed for your application to this program.
  • I’m interested in a career change.  What could this degree help me with?  
    • This and the other career-related questions below are popular ones we receive often.  As with most careers, it depends on the mixture of your relevant experience, academic background, and skills.  This experience would expose to you people, places, issues, projects, challenges, inspirations, and more that no other graduate program would.
    • Being in this program would give you deeper background on related topics and will connect you to new contacts and opportunities (i.e. volunteering, possible part-time work, internships, etc.), but graduating from the program does not guarantee a job either.  It is up to you to make the most of any possibilities that come available and add relevant experience to your resume.  Ask yourself if this program material/content would be interesting to you beyond solely looking for a career change: Would the time and effort would be worth it regardless of what happens?
  • Can I get a job as a zookeeper after I graduate with this degree?  
    • Not with this degree alone. Keeper positions require extensive experience in animal husbandry and animal science. These qualifications often include college degrees these days, but also heavily relies on hands-on, practical work experience in animal husbandry or veterinary medicine. Without this experience, there is simply no stand-alone degree that will get you a keeper position.
    • The AIP would help build you up in terms of conservation content, leadership skills, and networking possibilities, but our courses do not focus on “how to be a zookeeper” or put you in any direct animal care scenarios.  Those skills only really come from volunteer/internships and work experiences or being at a teaching or trade school specifically for animal care (like the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in FL).
  • Will AIP help me “get my foot in the door” at the Cincinnati Zoo so that I can get a job there when I’m done?
    • Potentially, but no guarantees.  You’ll definitely meet Zoo staff and learn about opportunities along the way, but jobs at the Zoo are hard to come by (especially full-time ones). Because it’s an internationally-recognized Zoo and a center for wildlife conservation, job openings at the Zoo are promoted far and wide so that the very best candidate can be found. So, even though you may hear about a job opening as soon as it opens up because you are an AIP student, you’ll be considered along with the rest of the candidates that apply.AIPEmilyABB
  • I want to become a conservation biologist and help protect wildlife. Will AIP help me achieve this?  
    • In part.  The AIP, being a Master of Arts program, leans more towards those in the environmental studies and community engagement realm versus building up large amounts of field methods skills. Being able to communicate conservation plans to the public requires you to know how to engage people in conservation issues. So, AIP will certainly enhance your career as a conservation biologist, but you’ll need more pure conservation research experience before you’ll be ready to find a job as a conservation biologist.
    • That being said, the M.A. degree is pretty open to interpretation and is often largely impacted or influenced by the projects, experiences, and new contacts you create while you’re in the program.  So if field conservation is your passion, and you work to leverage your projects and community partnerships to support those goals, then you could use this degree program to build the hands-on experience and the academic background you’re looking for.
  • Can I hold animals or volunteer to work with the animals?  
    • Limited potential, but possible for the right candidate.  The AIP master’s journey does not include direct animal care or training with animals as a part of the degree. However, there are a variety of volunteer and internship positions available at the Zoo, and many of these could lead to opportunities to work closer with our animal ambassadors.  Learn more about becoming a Zoo Volunteer or Zoo Intern.

Can’t find your question above? Have more logistical questions about pre-requisites, the application process, or registration?  Check out Project Dragonfly’s FAQs HERE.

The CZBG Difference

Each year, more than 1.7 million people visit the world-famous Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s award-winning exhibits, featuring more than 380 animal and 3,000 plant species. A leading educational facility, the Zoo provides a unique and ideal learning environment in which to gain an appreciation and understanding of science and nature. Education programs for all ages foster a sense of wonder, encourage the sharing of knowledge, and advocate active involvement with (and on behalf of) wildlife and wild places. The Zoo’s Education Department actually co-founded Earth Expeditions and the Advanced Inquiry Program with Miami University.  By being a CZBG student, you are a part of the founding family!

The application period is OPEN — now through February 28, 2020.

Let us know you’re interested and APPLY today!