What will this program prepare me to do as a career?

Through the Advanced Inquiry Program, students develop specific content knowledge and skills in the following areas: biodiversity and conservation biology, evolution, community engagement, inquiry-based science education, ecological literacy, science writing and publishing, environmental stewardship, leadership, and more. These skills can be beneficial in a current work environment or help prepare for a new career.

There are two degree options offered. Applicants elect to enroll in either a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree in the Biological Sciences or a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Biology. MA and MAT candidates go through the Advanced Inquiry Program together and take all of the same required courses. The MAT option is intended for applicants who either are already certified to teach, have an academic degree in education and/or teach in a K-12 school. The MA option is for educators and other professionals who do not meet those criteria.

Through a variety of course projects, AIP students can hone their own focus within the program, based on their personal and professional goals. For classroom teachers, AIP course projects can be structured to support classroom and district goals. AIP graduates in classroom settings will be well prepared to gain leadership positions in formal education settings. AIP graduates have found that the AIP degree qualifies them for salary advancement with their school district; however, educators are advised to contact their individual school districts as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.

Informal educators and professionals in other settings can focus their course projects to support their own and/or their organization’s professional educational goals. AIP graduates interested in education outside of the formal classroom setting will be well prepared for informal education positions in any organization whose mission includes science education, conservation, environmental stewardship and/or sustainability. Professionals in non-education settings can develop skills for engaging their community through inquiry and collaborative design of community programs or projects.

Will this program prepare me to be a zookeeper?

For zookeeping positions at Woodland Park Zoo, a bachelor's degree in a life sciences field from a four-year college or university; and two years related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience is required. Nationally, a college degree in a life science field (zoology, biology, animal behavior, marine biology, exotic animal management/ zoo keeping) is advantageous in the competitive field of zookeeping. You will find it difficult to impossible to get hired as a zookeeper without experience. Some ways to gain zookeeper experience include: volunteering, internships, or seasonal or intermittent/temporary zoo keeper positions. At Woodland Park Zoo, in order to be eligible for a zookeeper position, you must have two years (approximately 4,000 hours) of paid experience in an AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) accredited facility or the equivalent. This paid experience may include hours earned as an intermittent/temporary zoo keeper.

Zookeepers must be excellent observers, learning the habits and behaviors of the species and the individuals for which they care. Professional keepers must be able to detect subtle changes in an animal’s physical or psychological condition and then work with curators, veterinary staff, and nutritionists to react accordingly. Observation skills are an important focus in your AIP coursework. In addition, many zookeeping positions are increasingly emphasizing public presentation and education skills as part of the job responsibilities. AIP courses and projects are designed to help people build effective science and conservation education skills. Learn more about zoo careers.

What about a career as a conservation scientist?

Being able to communicate conservation issues, plans and solutions to the public requires being versed in strategies to engage people in conservation. So, AIP will certainly enhance your background as a conservation communicator and scientist, but you would likely need more conservation research (such as you would gain through a Master’s of Science degree) experience before securing a position as a conservation scientist.

What impact will this have on my teaching? Will the AIP support me in helping students meet state science and environmental learning standards?

Advanced Inquiry Program courses are designed to support both ecological literacy and environmental stewardship, which are core to the zoo’s mission, as well as scientific literacy, as embodied in the Washington State Science Learning Standards (WSSLS; Next Generation Science Standards). Many AIP courses include the opportunity for educators to engage in a research process of their own design, which improves their capacity and confidence in guiding their students in engaging in scientific practices. Other AIP courses deepen understanding of disciplinary core ideas such as structure and function in organisms, ecosystem dynamics, interdependent relationships in ecosystems, human impacts on earth systems, natural selection and adaptation. Classroom teachers can structure course projects to support their classroom and district goals, while educators in other settings can focus their course projects to support their own and/or their organization’s goals.

Does the AIP confer a teaching certificate or endorsement? Does the AIP qualify me for salary advancement?

This program is not intended to lead to educator certification. AIP graduates have found that the AIP degree qualifies them for salary advancement with their school district; however, educators are advised to contact their individual school districts as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement. AIP graduates have also been successful in earning endorsements based on their AIP completion. Prospective Washington State students are also advised to contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at 360-725-6275 or to determine whether this education program is approved for endorsements in Washington State.

Will this program prepare me for a job at Woodland Park Zoo?

See above for more on the AIP and professional careers. A position with the Woodland Park 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. Find job openings at Woodland Park Zoo. 

Can I volunteer with animals at the zoo as part of the AIP?

While zoo-based AIP courses will include many up close experiences with animals and exhibits at Woodland Park Zoo, coursework does not include handling or working directly with animals. If you are interested in volunteering at Woodland Park Zoo (which you can engage in concurrently with your AIP experience), please see the information here. 

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!

Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

Land Acknowledgment

Woodland Park Zoo recognizes that these are the lands of the Tribal signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliott. We acknowledge their stewardship of this place continues to this day and that it is our responsibility to join them to restore the relationship with the living world around us.

5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103   |  206.548.2500  |

Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Seattle Parks & Recreation
Humane Certification