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

Our Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree program is aimed at students with an undergraduate degree in Biology, Zoology, Wildlife Biology, or Animal Science who plan to pursue applied careers 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 our program homepage for more information.

What is the deadline for applications?

There is only one admission cycle each year with each new class starting in the Fall of each year, and students generally move through the program together in cohorts. We do not accept any applications to start in Spring semesters.

The deadline for application materials to be received is January 1. We usually recommend you contact your references for letters of recommendation ahead of time to encourage them to have their letters submitted by January 1.

How do I apply for the PSM program?

Please see our detailed information on the Apply page.

If you are interested in the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) option for this degree, please see our curriculum page and explore the AMP tab, or the FAQ detailing the difference between AMP and the Traditional 2-Year Program below for directions on application.

What if my GPA is not a 3.0?

The cumulative minimum GPA for non-provisional admittance by the Graduate School is a 3.000 GPA (on a 4.0 scale).  There are options through the Endorsed Admission Pathway and Graduate Program Access Pathway for applicants with a cumulative GPA between 2.800 and 3.000 OR a cumulative GPA below 2.800 and who have taken six credits of regular, graduate‐level coursework (500 level or higher) at CSU and obtain a B or better in all courses, respectively. The pathway is determined by your cumulative GPA. You can be considered for formal admission in these situations by committing to regular meetings where professional and personal needs are identified and the needs of the student are matched with campus resources. This is standard in the PSM program already for all students regardless of admission pathway. Additionally, a 3.000 GPA must be achieved in the first semester of the program.

We cannot tell you ahead of time if your application will be competitive since our applicant pool varies from year to year. Past academic performance is the best predictor of future performance; the only way to know is to apply.

However, if your cumulative GPA is less than 2.75, it is not likely you would be competitive in our selection process. 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 bachelor’s degree to reset your GPA. CSU uses a cumulative GPA for all of your higher learning 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.

Lastly, 3.000 is the minimum GPA required to maintain your status as a graduate student within the program as well as to graduate.

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 (GTAs), 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 jennie.willis@colostate.edu 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 AMP and the two-year master’s program?

Both the Traditional 2-Year Program and Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) are primarily taught in person.

Accelerated Master’s Program:

If you are an undergraduate Biology or Zoology major at CSU then the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) might be a great option for you! The AMP program allows students to apply to the PSM program during their junior year and begin taking coursework as seniors in their undergraduate Biology or Zoology degree program at CSU. With just 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 final year of undergrad, graduate with your Bachelor’s degree, then do your capstone project during the summer after graduation. Your one additional year would be comprised of only graduate work, allowing you to earn two degrees in five years. You must have a 3.0 GPA and no lower than B’s in your major-required coursework. In addition, you must have demonstrated an ability to successfully handle a rigorous schedule.

Sound like you? Motivated third-years/juniors, especially those who are ahead in their required coursework, should talk to their Academic Success Coordinator, PSM Assistant Coordinator Annie Wallin, or PSM Director and Advisor Dr. Willis about the program and application questions. 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 to five undergraduate students are admitted into this special program.

AMP students apply through this Microsoft Form and should direct references to send recommendation letters to Annie Wallin at annie.wallin@colostate.edu.

Traditional 2-Year Program:

If you have already graduated, are completing degree work at another university or are at CSU in a major outside of Biology or Zoology, then the two-year traditional program is for you! The two-year program is a traditionally paced program the allows students to focus on PSM coursework and experiential opportunities. There are typically fewer credits per semester than in the AMP 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. It is highly recommended for you to have already completed three or more internships or volunteer experiences with animal organizations. A cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 is required for regular admittance to our graduate programs, but applicants can be admitted provisionally if they have cumulative GPA between 2.8 and 3.0 OR if they have a cumulative GPA below 2.8 and a grade of B or better in six credits of regular, graduate‐level CSU coursework (500 level or higher). Provisionally admitted students must achieve a 3.0 GPA in the first semester of graduate school to remain in the program.

Traditional two-year applicants should use the Graduate School application.

There is no difference in the coursework between the two programs, solely differences in how the degree 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 specialization of science electives 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/English Proficiency scores reported to CSU?

Note that GRE scores are NOT required to apply to our program or Department of Biology graduate programs.

Colorado State University’s institution code is 4075 for TOEFL scores, and the department code is 76. Please reach out the The Graduate School for further guidance on English Proficiency scores and any codes needed to route them for your application.

How can students contact someone for more information?

Visit the Contact Us page for program contacts.

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 Annie Wallin, PSM.