Graduate and Professional Courses FAQ
- Who may apply to graduate/professional training courses in the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC)?
- How do I apply for admission to a course?
- How can I earn graduate credit as a student at Mason?
- How can I earn graduate credit as a non-Mason student?
- Are there course prerequisites?
- What are the course costs?
- Are scholarships or travel funds available to assist potential participants in attending the courses?
- Should I apply for a course even if I haven’t yet secured the funds to attend?
- What are the course application deadlines?
- How do I learn more about the content of a particular course?
- Are graduate/professional training courses also offered internationally?
Who may apply to graduate/professional training courses in the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC)?
Anyone interested in a course may apply for admission. Our courses provide graduate and professional training in the skills, analytical tools, and techniques of conservation research and practice, and in the principles and philosophies underlying effective conservation. Collectively, they address both conservation science and human dimensions topics.
To see if a particular course might suit your training needs, please see individual course pages for more on that course’s content and training goals. Here you will also find specifics about application requirements for that course, including any prerequisites.
How do I apply for admission to a course?
The initial stage of our application process requires you to fill out our online course application form . During this application you’ll be asked to select whether you are taking this course for graduate credit, which will involve additional required paperwork and fees, or as a professional training course. You’ll also be required to attach .pdf or .doc versions of your CV, a Personal Statement of Interest and Qualifications, and a Professional Letter of Reference.
Your application will be reviewed to confirm that you meet admissions requirements, including any necessary prerequisites or background experience. If you are approved for admission, you will receive a conditional letter of acceptance; this letter may be of use when you apply to outside sources for course funding support. A final acceptance letter and course-specific orientation materials are sent only when proof of funding for all course costs has been received by the George Mason University Office of Continuing Professional Education (OCPE). Once you are conditionally accepted to a course, we will guide you through the next steps of the payment and registration process.
How can I earn graduate credit as a student at Mason?
Some additional steps are required for Mason students seeking to apply to our courses for graduate credit, when that option is available. The first step is the same for all course applicants; you’ll need to fill out the online course application form. Be sure to note in the application, when prompted, that you are taking the course for-credit, and whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition at Mason. As a Mason student, you will not be required to attach a letter of recommendation to the application.
Either before or after filling out the application, you’ll need to complete an Advisor Approval Form. This form can be found on the website of the Environmental Science and Policy Department. The form requires a series of signatures and will then need to be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator for final approval.
As with any graduate course, to earn credit you must complete all course-specific for-credit assignments, and earn a passing grade in the course. Mason students can refer to the University Catalog for graduate policies including those related to grading.
How can I earn graduate credit as a non-Mason student?
The first step is the same for all course applicants; you’ll need to fill out the online course application form, including submission of a letter of recommendation. Be sure to note in the application, when prompted, that you are taking the course for credit, and whether or not you qualify for Virginia in-state tuition rates. The instructor may also request unofficial transcripts to determine your eligibility for the course.
Once accepted by SMSC into the course, you will need to complete the George Mason non-degree seeking graduate admissions process. Non-Mason students are considered non-degree seeking graduate students for the purposes of the course. Instructions for completing this online application, including required materials, are found here: Non-Degree Seeking Graduate Application Instructions
As with any graduate course, to earn credit you must complete all course-specific for-credit assignments, and earn a passing grade in the course. Please note that it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to ensure the Mason credits will transfer to their home university.
Are there course prerequisites?
Some courses do have prerequisites, such as prior coursework or experience (e.g. statistics). Any prerequisites are listed on the individual course’s webpage.
What are the course costs?
The total course cost is based on a combination of the course fee and your selected dining and housing options. Those taking the course for graduate credit will be charged higher course fees based on in-state vs. out-of-state tuition status. Course fees do NOT include any relevant travel costs to the site, with the exception of free shuttle transportation between SCBI and Dulles International Airport (IAD). Course costs ultimately depend on various factors including the length of the course (some courses are one week long), the number of credits offered, and whether the course includes laboratory work, so check each course’s webpage to confirm specific course costs.
Are scholarships or travel funds available to assist potential participants in attending the courses?
We realize securing course funding and monies to cover course and travel costs is a challenge. Local and regional funding sources you identify through your own conservation/academic networks may provide your best funding opportunities. We recommend you start as early as possible to identify and apply to potential funders. We are currently aware of a few funding opportunities for this kind of program:
- WWF – Russel E. Train Education for Nature Program, Professional Development Grants: Must apply at least 90 days in advance of course date. Check to see if your country is eligible. Grants awarded for up to $6,500. Quarterly deadlines of August 1, November 1, February 1, and May 1.
- WWF – Prince Bernhard Scholarship Fund for Nature Conservation: Supports studies of environmentalists and conservationists from developing countries for postgraduate courses including short courses. Applicants seeking in-country training are prioritized. Scholarships up to $9,000 are awarded.
- Wisconsin Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship Award: Awards for travel expenses of British citizens or UK residents who want to study topics for the benefit of their professional or the UK community. Awards up to $9,000. Travel must be for at least 4 weeks. Similar opportunity available for those from Australia/New Zealand.
In addition, SMSC offers limited scholarships to applicants from any country through the Conservation Training Scholarship program. These are offered on a highly competitive basis, and typically do not cover all costs, so applicants should not rely on this as a primary source of funding.
Should I apply for a course even if I haven’t yet secured the funds to attend?
Yes, many applicants secure course funding after receiving their conditional course acceptance. Your conditional acceptance letter may prove useful when you apply to outside sources for course funding support.
What are the course application deadlines?
Course application deadlines are posted on each course’s webpage. Generally, application deadlines are about ten weeks before the course start date, with registration/payment deadlines about eight weeks before the course start date. Applications are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. Please apply as early as possible to ensure that you secure a seat in the course, and that you have plenty of time to make travel arrangements.
How do I learn more about a particular course?
First, visit each individual course webpage for specific course information. You can find a list of the courses currently open for enrollment on our Upcoming Courses page. For additional details, please email SCBITraining@si.edu.
Are graduate/professional training courses also offered internationally?
Sometimes. Whenever we offer international courses, they will be listed on our website.
If you would like to make a formal request to arrange for one of our existing courses (or a new course on a separate training topic) to be implemented in your country or region, please send an email detailing your request to SCBITraining@si.edu.