PSM: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Professional Science Master’s program in Zoo, Aquarium and Animal Shelter Management?

Our PSM Master’s Degree program is aimed at those students with an undergraduate degree in Biology, Wildlife Biology or Animal Science who would like an applied career with organizations such as animal shelters, zoos, or aquariums. Undergraduate science majors need business skills to succeed in management and be among the most qualified job candidates. Our degree provides both the coursework and experience related to running a business with animals in a variety of capacities. Employers value these real-world job skills as well as the advanced science coursework accomplished by our graduates. Please see About Our Program for more information.

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for application materials to be received is January 1. We usually recommend you contact your letters of recommendation ahead of time to encourage them to have their letters in by January 1. There is only one admission cycle each year for Fall of that year. We do not accept any applications for starting Spring Semester.

How do I apply for the PSM program?

Please see our detailed information on the Apply page.

What if my GPA is not a 3.0?

If your undergraduate GPA is just a little less than 3.0, you may apply to be considered with the applicant pool. Occasionally, students who have nearly a 3.0 GPA may be selected if their academic rigor, experience, writing skill and GRE scores indicate they are competitive and would be capable of graduate level work. The only way to know is to apply. We cannot tell you ahead time if your application will be competitive since each year we have different students applying. Past academic performance is the best predictor of future performance. As a graduate student, you will need to maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to graduate. To be admitted with less than a 3.0, you must have additional letters of support that indicate your readiness for graduate work.

If your undergraduate GPA is less than a 2.75, it is not likely you would be competitive in our selection process in any year. If you know that this field is for you and you want to be a part of our program, you may want to consider a second bachelors degree to reset your GPA. CSU does use a cumulative GPA for all of your credits to calculate your GPA for admission, but you would have demonstrated you could take rigorous coursework and maintain an adequate GPA. Taking a single course and getting a good grade is not indicative of being able to carry a rigorous graduate load. There are many ways forward in this field and we cannot give specific advice on how to proceed with a second bachelor’s degree.

What should be included in my Statement of Purpose?

This is your opportunity to share with us your individual qualifications, passion for this field and career plans. This is a very important part of the application and should demonstrate your commitment and creativity.

Is there financial support for PSM students?

More than half of our students are supported through graduate teaching assistantships, which pay tuition and a monthly stipend for teaching undergraduate lab courses. Students with a high GPA, previous college teaching experience and strong undergraduate science coursework are most likely to be competitive for these positions. Students are eligible for various kinds of financial aid as graduate students. Many students have been successful in receiving grants when they have applied. Please see our Financial Support page.

Are non-science majors eligible for admission to the PSM specialization?

While we prefer students who have a strong science background, we will consider applications from other majors. It is unlikely for non-science majors to obtain GTA support. In your personal statement and CV/resume, give us a sense of your qualifications and help us know you better. Feel free to send a letter of introduction to if you would like a better sense of how you may qualify.

What is the tuition cost for the PSM program?

Information about graduate tuition and fees can be found:

Information about financial aid can be found here.

The differential tuition for the PSM program is $2000/semester. This fee covers support to instructors, many of whom come from off campus to present in seminars, presenters at on-site workshops that you will attend and to prepare you for a successful project and career. Fieldtrips, experiential learning opportunities and special trainings are available to you and only you as a part of the PSM program. Additionally, you are able to travel to a scientific meeting your second year and a portion of this is supported through the program. As a small specialized program, the differential tuition is necessary to provide the highly educational and unique opportunities available to you in this program.

What is the difference between the SDP and the two year master’s program?

If you are an undergraduate Biology or Zoology major at CSU then this might be a great option for you! The SDP program allows students to approach us as Juniors and begin taking coursework as seniors in their undergraduate Biology or Zoology degree program at CSU. With one additional year you could graduate with both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree! You would take courses for both undergraduate and graduate degrees in your senior year, graduate with your Bachelor’s degree, then do their project during the summer after graduation. Your one additional year would be only graduate work, allowing you to earn two degrees in five years. Your must have a 3.2 GPA and no lower than B’s in your major-required coursework. In addition, you must have demonstrated you can take a rigorous schedule and be successful.

Sound like you? Motivated juniors who are ahead in their required coursework should talk to Dr. Willis about how to apply. Interested sophomores should get in touch to see how to plan coursework so this could be an option for them the following year. Each year as many as four undergraduate students are admitted into this very special program. (SDP Curriculum and

If you have already graduated, are completing degree work at another university or are at CSU in a different major, then the two-year program is for you! The two-year program is a traditionally paced program allows students to just focus on the PSM coursework. There are typically fewer credits per semester than in the IDP program and you will have already received your Bachelor’s degree by the time you start this program.. The project occurs during the summer between your first and second year . A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required, and the GRE needs to be taken prior to application. In this competitive program, it is highly desired for you to have already completed three or more internships or volunteer experiences with animal organizations.
Two-Year Curriculum

There is no difference in the coursework between the two programs, it is just different in how it is accomplished.

What kind of coursework will PSM students be taking?

This Capstone Project-based Master’s Degree program includes:

  • Advanced science coursework in applied animal behavior and nutrition
    Coursework in leadership, administration, marketing and communication
  • Experience with grant writing and science interpretation
  • Room for science electives to specialize your program to fit your particular career goals
  • Hands on experience working with a variety of agencies in many areas
  • A Capstone Master’s Project at a zoo, aquarium, shelter or other animal organization, allowing you to demonstrate your skills to potential employers and develop a professional network

Find more information here.

What kind of jobs will graduates obtain?

One of the strengths of this program is the diversity of career goals in each cohort. Students can go in a variety of directions with this degree. Some have started their own agencies, capitalizing on the entrepreneurial aspects of the business education. Others are pursuing various levels of managerial positions, including overseeing areas of behavior & enrichment, marketing, volunteer coordinator or education in a variety of animal organizations. Since in this field both education and experience are needed, graduates will be upwardly mobile in any agency. Many students have developed their own 501 C-3 organizations or LLC consulting companies after graduation, either as their primary employment or in addition to another position.

How do students get official GRE or TOEFL scores reported to CSU?

Colorado State University’s institution code is 4075 for both the GRE and the TOEFL. For the GRE the department code is 0808; for the TOEFL the department code is 76. Those codes, particularly the institution code, are what you need to tell the Educational Testing Service to have your official scores reported to us.

How can students contact someone for more information?

The Program Coordinator is Dr. Jennie Willis, in the Department of Biology. Office: 252 Biology Building

If you meet the minimum qualifications for admission and are interested to know whether this program would be a good fit for your needs please contact Dr. Willis.