Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Climate Science & Solutions Professional Science Master’s Program

 Questions about:

About the program of study:


  • How long will it take me to complete the program?
    • The program is intended to take 18 months to complete: 3 academic semesters (fall/spring/fall) and a summer internship. Students enter the program in the August/September (fall semester) and typically graduate in December of the following year.
  • How many students are in the program? 
    • Each new cohort typically contains about 8-12 new students. When you enter the program in the fall, you will share some classes with the exiting cohort. Therefore, we have our largest student numbers in the fall (about 20-25 students).
  • How many credits do I need to graduate?
    • To complete the program, you need 36 total credit hours (download Program of Study).
    • 18 credit hours of core courses;
    • 12 credit hours from elective courses; and
    • 6 credit hours of professional development (including a summer internship).
  • How many core courses are required as part of the degree and what do they cover?
    • As part of your 36-credit hours, you will be required to complete the program core (18-credit hours). The core consists of four, 3-credit courses ranging from the fundamental science of climate change and greenhouse gases to economics and systems thinking. The core also includes a 3-semester, 6-credit series focused on improving environmental discourse around climate change issues, including energy, ethical considerations of climate change, and climate change mitigation and adaptation choices.
  • What kind of electives can I take?
    • You will need to take up to 12 credit hours of electives. You will choose these elective courses in consultation with the CSS graduate coordinator. The electives you chose allow you to personalize your degree.
  • Is a thesis required to complete this degree?
    • No, this is a course-work based masters program. A thesis is not a component of this program. If you are interested in completing a thesis-based master’s degree, we suggest you look into our other graduate programs within the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability.
  • If I have more questions about the program of study and degree requirements for the CSS program, whom can I talk to?

For more information about the CSS program of study contact Robert Sanford, CSS Graduate Faculty Advisor, or Heather Aaron, Professional Development Coordinator.



Admission requirements and potential success in the program:

  • When are applications due?
    • The graduate committee typically reviews applications to the program annually at the end of January and makes decisions on admission by early March. Therefore, to be considered for fall admission into the CSS program, we highly recommend that you submit your complete (on-line application, letters of reference) application by January 15th. We encourage students who are interested in applying after January 15th to contact us ( for information about potential options and space availability in the program.
  • Is completion of the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) required for admission into the program?
    • No, the GRE is not required for admission. If you have taken the GRE and would like to share you scores with us on your application, we encourage you to do so.
  • How many letters of recommendation do I need to include with my application?
    • In order to have a complete application, you should include 3 letters of recommendation. Please seek out referees that can speak to the quality of your work (e.g., past employers, professors, and/or mentors), as well as your potential success in graduate school (e.g., past/current professors). Avoid personal references from friends and relatives. Direct your referees to submit their letters directly to the CSS program (
  • Is a specific undergraduate degree required for admission into the program?
    • No, we do not require that you hold an undergraduate degree in a particular field for admission into the program. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds (e.g., environmental science, geology, engineering, biology, psychology, environmental studies, political science, environmental policy, business, education and many more) have excelled in this program. While a science-based undergraduate degree is not required for admission into the program, we do recommend that students have some basic coursework in math (e.g., college-level algebra, quantitative reasoning) and the sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology) before entering the program.  There are also resources available on campus to provide tutoring assistance in areas that they feel deficient.
  • After I apply, when will I hear back if I am accepted to the program? 
    • You should hear back on whether you are admitted to the program by the end of March. For more information please contact Amy Wolkowinsky, SESES Graduate Coordinator.
  • Do I need Arizona or in-state residency to be admitted into the program?
    • No. All applicants are classified at the time of admission as either a residents or non-residents based on the information provided in the application. In addition, the CSS program is part of the Western Regional Graduate Program  (WRGP), which allows some out-of-state students (non-residents) to qualify for in-state tuition rates. For more information, see the link above and the information below under the FAQs for “financing your degree” [link words in quotes to financing degree section]
  • Do I need to be U.S. citizen to be admitted into the program?
    • No. International students applying for admissions into NAU graduate programs, however, have additional admission requirements, including financial guarantee statements, submission of official transcripts, and submission of TOEFL test scores or the equivalent. Visit the Graduate College or contact the Graduate College (; 928-523-4348) for more information.
  • English is not my first language; will I be able to do well in this program? 
    • Non-native English learners have succeeded in this program.  The small class size of many of NAU’s graduate classes offered, along with the opportunity for many group and team learning activities can assist international students in their learning. The University requires a minimum TOEFL score of 80 on the Internet-based test, or 550 on the paper-based test. The minimum IELTS score is 7.0. Refer to the Graduate College webpage for more information.
  • I haven’t had much work experience; will this impact my ability to do well in this program? 
    • Many students go on to get their master’s degree directly out of their undergraduate studies.  The program itself will give you some professional experience (e.g., preforming a greenhouse gas inventory for a real-world client). As part of the program, you will also complete a professional internship that will provide additional professional experience.
  • If I have more questions about my application/admission into the program, whom may I talk to?
    • For issues the on-line application or have additional questions about general admission requirements for NAU, please contact the Graduate College.
    • For information on how to submit letters of reference or whether we have received your application materials, please contact Amy Wolkowinsky.
    • If you have additional questions about the specific admission requirements for the CSS program, please contact Robert Sanford, PhD., CSS Graduate Advisor.

Financing your degree:

  • How much will my degree cost me?
    • The cost of attending graduate school includes tuition and fees, as well as books, room and board, transportation expenses, etc. Refer to this link for an estimate of annual cost of graduate school at NAU. In addition to tuition and fees, students enrolled in the CSS program must pay a $4,500 program fee ($1,500 a semester). This program fee pays for the professional development aspects of the program.
  • Do I qualify for in-state tuition rates?
    • To qualify for in-state tuition rates, students must be resident of Arizona. Proof of residency is required. In addition, the CSS program is part of the Western Regional Graduate Program  (WRGP), which allows some out-of-state students to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Students classified as non-residents by the Admission Office may petition to change their residency status. However, it generally takes at least 12 months of physical presence in Arizona to establish residency.
  • What does the CSS program fee pay for?
    • The CSS program has a program fee of $4,500. Payment of the program fee is spread over three semesters (i.e., $1,500 a semester) and goes to support the professional development and career services provided to you during and after the completion of your degree. 
  • Is there financial support available?
    • Limited tuition assistance (e.g., tuition waivers) may be available to CSS students. The availability of tuition waivers varies and will be awarded on an as-needed basis. In addition, we encourage our students to apply for competitive scholarships within and outside of the School. Refer to Financing Your Education for more information. Additional scholarship and assistantship opportunities may be available through NAU, please refer to the Graduate College website for more information.
  • Am I eligible for student loans?
    • The CSS program is one of the most cost-effective professional science masters programs available.  However, if you are concerned about financing your degree, we encourage you to contact the financial aide office to learn more about current loan rates and scholarship opportunities.
  • May I work while I am enrolled in the program? 
    • The CSS program is an 18-month intensive program and is not conducive to part-time study. Therefore, full time employment while enrolled in the program is not advised.  However, some students choose to seek part-time employment to help cover tuition and living expenses.
  • What if I need to take time off from the program? 
    • Life happens. Students may apply for a leave of absence from the program. The conditions of leave of absence petitions are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
  • If I have more questions about financing my education, whom may I talk to?
    • For general questions about financial aid, on campus financial resources, and on-campus employment see go to the financial aid website.
    • If you have additional questions about the availability of tuition waivers, please contact Heather Aaron, Professional Development Coordinator.
    • For scholarship opportunities, please see visit the Financing Your Education page.

Living and finding housing in Flagstaff:

  • What is Flagstaff like? 
    • Flagstaff is located in Northern Arizona at 7,000 feet and is situated within the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest.  Only 80 miles from the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff is a four season, mountain community of 68,000 people. There is plenty to do outdoors including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and camping. Flagstaff has consistently been rated one of the best places to live in the West
  • What is the cost of living in Flagstaff? 
  • If I have more questions about living in flagstaff, whom can I talk to?
    • Contact the Graduate College (928-523-4348) and/or visit the NAU Graduate College student resources webpage.

What does this degree prepare me for?

  • I’m not sure what I want to do for my career other than that I want to work on climate issues.  Will this program help me decide what to do with my degree?  
    • The career coordinator works with every student in the CSS program to help you secure both a summer internship (required) and a job upon graduation. Our Professional Development Coordinator also continues to serve as a resource for you after you graduate. While enrolled in the program, we encourage each student to meet with the Professional Development Coordinator for one-on-one coaching at least once a month.  This coaching, along with the professional development courses help you to identify career options and determine a career path that plays to your strengths and interests.  The professional development courses also provide you with the chance for individual reflection on what you bring to a professional environment to ensure you have the best fit with a potential employer.
  • What are my job prospects if I get my degree in Climate Science and Solutions? 
    • Many organizations are looking for people that can understand, explain, and implement programs to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  CSS graduates hold positions in the private sector in the areas of greenhouse gas accounting and verification, sustainability planning, renewable energy, and energy policy. In addition, we have many graduates that work with local governments (e.g., sustainability directors, climate scientists and analysts, energy policy analysts, land managers) and non-profits helping organizations and communities mitigate the impacts of climate change and implement adaptation strategies for their region. Some of our graduates even go on to earn their Ph.D. in climate-related fields.  In general, the climate-related industry is growing, and there are many job opportunities for individuals graduating from programs like ours. Refer to our alumni page for more information about where our graduates are working now.
  • What if I decide I want to go on to pursue my Ph.D.?  Does this program work like other master’s programs to prepare me for Ph.D.-level work?  
    • Yes, several graduates have gone on to pursue a Ph.D.
  • If I have more questions about what this degree prepares me for, whom may I speak with?
    • For more information about the CSS program curriculum and coursework, contact: Robert Sanford, CSS Graduate Coordinator.
    • For more information about the professional development aspects of the program, contact: Heather Aaron, Professional Development Coordinator.

What is different about the CSS program compared to other degrees?

  • What makes the Climate Science & Solutions (CSS) program different from other masters’ of science programs? 
    • The CSS Program is an 18-month Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program. PSMs are graduate degrees designed to provide students with advanced training in the sciences, while also helping them develop the workplace skills desired by employers. In the area of climate science, employers are looking for science-trained professional that have business, project management, and communication skills. In order to provide students with the skills to complete in today’s competitive job market, our CSS PSM degree is more professionally oriented than other more traditional master’s of science degrees. Therefore, we require students to complete a professional internship rather than a master’s thesis.  Our program is also unique in that all students and graduates have access to a career coordinator that works with each student to help them apply their scientific knowledge, experience and unique skills in a professional setting.
  • Does the CSS program have any guidance from industry? 
    • Yes. An advisory board of industry leaders helps to guide and advise our program. CSS students have a chance to interact annually with our advisory board members.
  • If I have more questions about the unique aspects of our program, whom may I speak with?
    • For more information about the CSS program curriculum and coursework, contact: Robert Sanford, CSS Graduate Coordinator.
    • For more information about the professional development aspects of the program, contact: Heather Aaron, Professional Development Coordinator.

For more information about the benefits of a PSM degree from NAU, please visit the Professional Science Master's page.