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Frequently Asked Questions

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My undergraduate degree is in an area other than science. Will APU consider me?


The only requirements for admission to the Master of Science degree in Environmental Science are a strong application and a sincere motivation to be immersed in your coursework and research.

Most applicants have a bachelor of science degree in one of the natural sciences, but we welcome students from a variety of education backgrounds. If you don’t have a four-year degree in the sciences, you may be enrolled in prerequisites to prepare you to do your best in the MSES program.

The answer is, if environmental science is your passion, apply.


Great news! My employer will help finance my MSES degree, so I’ll be working part-time while attending Alaska Pacific University. That’s manageable, right?

Yes. You’ll find that many of your MSES peers are employed part-time. In fact, many MSES students come to Alaska Pacific University from employers who are helping support an advanced degree.

The MSES is designed as a two-year, full-time program that includes time to research and write your thesis. If work outside of school is much more than part-time, it’s best to plan for longer than two years to complete your degree.


I heard the program changed from 3-unit to 4-unit courses. Why? And does that raise the cost of the program?

After a comprehensive review of our curriculum, Environmental Science faculty decided to make a few changes to the program. The new curriculum applies to all students beginning in Fall 2013. The major changes include a change to 4-unit (instead of 3-unit) courses, a decrease in the number of required courses, an increase in the number of thesis research credits required, and the addition of research seminars. Rather than a major change in how the program operates, the changes are mainly meant to bring the curriculum more into line with what we actually already do. We are confident that students will like the new structure, but we recognize that increasing the unit-load could have made the program less affordable. To alleviate that concern, a part of the curriculum change is a new, guaranteed 8-unit Masters Scholarship that will waive the tuition for 8 credits of thesis research, bringing the cost back into line with pre-curriculum change levels.


Eklutna Glacier, Chugach Mountains, southcentral Alaska

Eklutna Glacier, Chugach Mountains, Southcentral Alaska

What ideas work best for an MSES thesis?

Almost anything!

While Alaska Pacific University takes full advantage of our northern-region setting and the distinct political and scientific questions that arise here, we encourage MSES candidates to pursue research that serves their personal and professional interests.

Your thesis could tackle a challenge or opportunity unique to Alaska or our region. Or your topic may take you far and wide. Either way, you’ll find Environmental Science faculty eager to advise you on research ranging from policy to science. The common thread: A commitment to challenging science grounded in data and critical thinking.

If your interest doesn’t fit precisely within our expertise, Environmental Science faculty will leverage experience of mentors and organizations beyond APU to advance your studies. In fact, your thesis committee must include one member from outside the ranks of APU faculty.


Is fieldwork the only way to satisfy the thesis requirement for data collection?

Your MSES degree demonstrates applied knowledge of the scientific method. For most MSES students, that means some form of fieldwork during the data-collection phase of the thesis. And while most of that work is done in Alaska, there’s no requirement to do so.

Use the flexibility in your MSES program to pursue your interests while also meeting degree requirements to collect environmental data and analyze it critically. Sometimes, data come from the lab or library. Either is fine.

I’m thinking of a teaching career in environmental science. Does the MSES program include chances for teaching assistantships?

Yes. Alaska Pacific University permits you to earn a tuition waiver when you work as a TA in one of our Environmental Science courses. Assistantships are competitive and open to all MSES students.


APU’s small classes and chances to work closely with Environmental Science faculty are appealing. But I wonder: What if I need a class that’s not offered at APU?

We recognize the value of studying at a private liberal arts college, where the setting fosters a family atmosphere. But we’re just as committed to helping you achieve your goals, and sometimes that means going elsewhere for a specialized course.

With your adviser’s OK in advance, a graduate or upper-division undergraduate course completed at another university can be transferred for credit toward your MSES degree.


May I start my MSES in the spring semester?

Your MSES program incorporates the cohort model that encourages all new students to start together in the fall. It’s a team-building strategy that you’ll value from Day One as you and your peers adjust to full-time academics and rigorous coursework.

Starting in the fall ensures you a place in the graduate-level Research Methods class, offered once a year. The course guides you through your thesis proposal – an important first step to developing as a working scientist.

Occasionally students will take a few courses in the spring before being formally admitted to get a jump on their studies. We welcome that!