Earn your master’s degree at the Zoo or around the world!

Advanced Inquiry Program

Earn your master’s degree at the Cincinnati Zoo through this one-of-a-kind, inquiry-driven program focused on local conservation and social change. 

Applications for 2015 enrollment has passed.  If you would like to be notified when 2016 cohort applications are open (in the fall), please register here.

The Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) is a one-of-a-kind master’s degree program for formal and informal educators, as well as professionals with a heart for the environment, who want to develop their inquiry-based teaching skills inside and outside the classroom while striving to affect positive social change in their local community. Co-delivered by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, AIP combines graduate courses at the Zoo with web-based learning communities that connect you to a broad network of educators and community leaders.


  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Biological Sciences*, designed for licensed K-12 teachers
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Biology

*The MAT degree does not confer a teaching certificate

The AIP Master's Difference

AIP 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?

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.  This graduate program was designed to be done as a part-time student so those with full-time jobs, families, etc. are still able to participate.


21 credit hours at the Zoo + 14 credit hours taken with AIP Master’s students nationwide via web-based learning communities. All 35 hours have a web component. Students also complete a Master’s portfolio (our equivalent of a master’s thesis) and have the opportunity to participate in Earth Expedition courses to learn first-hand about community conservation efforts across the globe.

Sample Graduate Courses

Online coursesCourses Taught at the Zoo
Conservation, Science, & CommunitiesFoundations of Inquiry (Online & required full week in June)
Biology in the Age of TechnologyAnimal Behavior & Conservation (Online & Saturdays in the fall)
Issues in BiodiversityPlants & People (Online & Saturdays in the fall)
Issues in EvolutionHabitats, Evolution, & Adaptations (Online & Saturdays in the fall)
Leadership in Scientific InquiryIssues in Cincinnati Conservation (Online & Saturdays in the summer)
Professional Media WorkshopAND you have the option of including an Earth Expedition Course!

This is one of the most affordable graduate programs out there!  Miami offers substantially reduced tuition for AIP courses. Cost for this master’s is about $3,545 per year, roughly 50% less than full Miami tuition.  The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden also charge individual course costs, which vary by course (est. $110/credit hour).

Estimated yearly costs*- Year 1  ~$3,544;  Year 2 ~ $4,175; Year 3 ~ $2004; Total = $9,723 + graduation fees.

*costs are estimates and subject to change based on your specific schedule and increased course costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will AIP help me get a job? Potentially. Although AIP will certainly make you appealing to agencies interested in candidates with experience in inquiry-based teaching methods, we can’t predict if you will secure employment after graduation.

2. Can I get a job as a Zoo Keeper after I graduate? Not with this degree alone. Keeper positions require extensive experience in animal husbandry and animal science. These qualifications often include graduate course work, but relies more on hands-on, practical work experience in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine. Without this experience, there is simply no standalone degree that will get you a keeper position.

3. Can I apply before I graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree? Yes. You will need to submit a final transcript after your acceptance into AIP, but you can certainly apply during the final year of your bachelor’s degree program.

4. Can I hold animals and volunteer to work with the animals? Potentially, but it will take time.  The AIP journey does not include animal care or public demonstrations with animals as a part of the degree. However, there is a variety of volunteer positions available at the Zoo, and many of these include working with animals!  Check out this website for information about becoming a Zoo Volunteer.

5. 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 education realm, whether they are formal classroom teachers, or informal educators working in parks or wildlife preserves. 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.

6. Will AIP help me “get my foot in the door” at the Zoo so that I can get a job there when I’m done? Yes and no. You’ll definitely have a foot in the door, but jobs at the Zoo are hard to come by. Because it’s an internationally-recognized Zoo and center of 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, you’ll be considered along with the rest of the candidates that apply.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Each year, more than one million people visit the world-famous Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s award-winning exhibits, featuring more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species. A leading informal and formal education 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, share knowledge, and advocate active involvement with wildlife and wild places. The Zoo’s Education Department co-founded Earth Expeditions, a professional development program for educators, upon which the AIP is founded.  Being a CZBG student, you are a part of the founding Zoo family!

Enrollment for the 2015 graduate cohort has closed.  Please check back this fall (or register here to be notified) when applications go online again!

For more information, contact:
Jerran Orwig, AIP Manager,  jerran.orwig@cincinnatizoo.org

Global Field Program


The Global Field Program (GFP) brings master’s degree candidates, scientists, educators, community leaders, and others together at conservation hotspots in Africa, Asia, and the Americas for firsthand experience with inquiry-driven education, environmental stewardship, and global understanding. GFP candidates join a growing network of leaders who work collaboratively to bring about change in local and global contexts.

Because the GFP combines summer field courses (Earth Expeditions) worldwide with web-based learning communities, this master’s degree can be completed part-time from anywhere in the U.S. or abroad.


  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Biological Sciences for licensed K-12 teachers
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Biology for informal educators

*The MAT degree does not confer a teaching certificate

Learn More>

Applications are accepted through January 28 of each year for enrollment, which opens in the fall.