Advanced Inquiry Program –  A Master’s Degree at the Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo has partnered with Project Dragonfly at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to bring an innovative and unique Master’s degree program to Arizona.  The Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) is an inquiry-driven learning experience allowing participants to take classes in person from faculty at the Phoenix Zoo and online from Miami University faculty. AIP is an exciting and affordable way to earn a Master’s degree while maintaining full-time work.

On December 19, 2015 we celebrated 10 graduates from our inaugural cohort of the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) Master’s degree program here on grounds. The Zoo is so proud of what these students accomplished during their time in this program. We look forward to seeing how all of our current and future students, and now alumni, are making a positive impact in their communities through environmental stewardship, community-based conservation, conservation education programs and much more.

AIP Cohort 2015 800 px

AIP course content focuses on inquiry-driven learning as a powerful agent for social change, public engagement and ecological stewardship. Students in the program learn science content combined with strategies for engaging broad audiences in learning about science and environmental stewardship.

How to Apply

Applications will be available online through Project Dragonfly until February 28, 2016.

Click here for more application information.

Join us for an information session at the Zoo:
January 20, 2016, 6 – 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Zoo
January 23, 2016, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. online webinar
February 6, 2016, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. online webinar


Enrollment is open to applicants with a Bachelor’s degree regardless of academic major or profession. This program is open to all individuals regardless of profession or background.


Applicants elect to enroll in either a Master of Arts in Teaching in Biological Sciences (MAT, designed for certified teachers) or a Master of Arts in Biology (designed for all other professionals) from Miami University. MA and MAT candidates go through the AIP together. Note: The MAT program does not confer a teaching license or certification. Participants may choose to develop a portfolio adaptable to National Board Certification.


Participants take 21 credit hours at the Phoenix Zoo plus 14 credit hours online through Miami University. Students also complete a Master’s portfolio. Up to 7 credit hours from an Earth Expeditions global field course ( may count toward the degree. The AIP can be completed in 2.5 years taking classes part-time while working.


The 21 credits taken through the Phoenix Zoo consist of both online and in person coursework. All 14 credits taken through Miami University are online.

The AIP curriculum provides real-world experiences that also advance district, state, and national educational standards. AIP Master’s candidates use inquiry not only as a tool for integrated learning, but as a powerful agent for student achievement, public engagement, and ecological stewardship.

The first course, Foundations of Inquiry, begins in the summer semester, which starts mid-May with online coursework. This course meets in person at the Phoenix Zoo Monday through Friday June 6 – 10, 2016 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

View our current course descriptions.

View the Scope & Sequence for the 2016 cohort.

Estimated Costs

Miami offers substantially reduced fees for AIP courses. Costs are roughly 80% less than full Miami fees.

Miami University charges approximately $215 per credit hour plus a $25 administrative fee per course and $15 technology fee per credit. This fee applies to courses taken through the Phoenix Zoo and through Miami University. Additionally, the Phoenix Zoo will charge $160 per credit hour taken with the Phoenix Zoo.

Total estimated costs for the full degree are: $11,352*
Miami University online courses (14 credits) = $3,007
Phoenix Zoo courses (21 credits) = $3,360 to the Phoenix Zoo + $4,173 to Miami University = $7,534

*These costs are estimated and may vary per student based upon the specific courses chosen. Miami University and Phoenix Zoo charges are also subject to change.

For more information on Miami University fees click here.
Separate fees apply for any Earth Expeditions courses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should we expect for timing of the in person Course Meetings at the Zoo?
A: The first summer course, Foundations of Inquiry, meets in person at the Zoo during Monday through Friday June 6 – 10, 2016 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. In person Course Meetings for later courses typically take place on Saturdays (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) or during weekday evenings. Keep in mind that all courses have an online component in addition to the in person Course Meeting dates. Courses typically run for 12 – 16 weeks online.

Q: Which courses are required?
A: All of the Miami University online courses are required and you need to take them in the order that they are offered. For the Phoenix Zoo courses, the only required courses are Foundations of Inquiry during the first summer and Master Plan in Action during the second or third summer.

Q: What’s the minimum number of courses you can expect to take at one time?
A: With the exception of the first summer you can expect to take 5 – 10 credits each session, depending upon your individual timeline.  For the most part you will be taking a course from the Phoenix Zoo alongside at least one online course from Miami University.

Q: Do I always have to be in Phoenix to take the Phoenix Zoo courses?
A: The only time you are required to be in Phoenix is during the in person course dates. The rest of the online course time can be fulfilled from anywhere.

Q: Can I transfer to another AIP Institution if I move part way through my program?
A: This is definitely an option and will depend on the room available at the other institution. We would work with you to help allow you to continue the program as best we can.

Q: Does every course have an online portion?
A: Yes, every course has an online portion and each online portion is facilitated through the Project Dragonfly Workshop interface. Phoenix Zoo courses also include a short-term in person component.

Q: What if I took my undergraduate science course a long time ago?
A: Your course will still count for the purposes of the program.

Q: How is this program accredited?
A: Through Miami University

Q: What jobs can I qualify for after completing this program?
A: AIP will prepare you for a variety of positions that include education, community engagement, and/or a conservation focused mission.

Q: Will this program guarantee me a job at the Zoo?
A: AIP will prepare you for a variety of positions that include education, community engagement, and/or a conservation focused mission. A position with the Phoenix Zoo or any other zoo is not guaranteed and will depend upon your entire skill-set and background experience as well as available positions when you graduate.

Q: What financial aid options are available?
A: Visit: for some helpful grant tips. AIP qualifies for federal aid as long as you maintain part-time status (5 credits) during the Fall and Spring semesters. Summer is calculated separately. See for more details.

For additional questions and answers visit: