Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of some of the most common questions we get from people interested in our Master of Education degree program. We recommend that you read our informational brochure first. The very best way to learn about our unique program and find out if it is a good fit for you is to request a Welcome Packet and schedule a site visit to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, meet with our Graduate Program Coordinator, staff and current students and see for yourself!

Our Graduate M.Ed. program

What is unique about North Cascades Institute's Graduate M.Ed. program?

North Cascades Institute offers a unique professional residency program designed to give students practical, hands-on experience in the field of environmental education. Through our partnerships with Western Washington University and North Cascades National Park, graduate students explore a range of career paths in education and conservation. Over the course of the yearlong residency, students focus on field science, natural and cultural history studies, curriculum development and instructional strategies, leadership and nonprofit administration and learning center operations while living among the towering peaks of the North Cascade mountains.

The professional residency at the Institute is the only one of its kind that is fully integrated into a degree program. Students are accepted into Western Washington University and the North Cascades Institute residency simultaneously, and hands-on teaching experience combined with academic courses taught by Huxley College faculty complement each other throughout the program.

For the first year of the program, you'll be based around the Institute's North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, an award-winning, green-built residential education facility that opened in 2005. Surrounded by over 700,000 acres of wilderness, the Environmental Learning Center features graduate student housing, classrooms and laboratories, a library, computer lounge and dining hall nestled on the forested shores of Diablo Lake. While Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver B.C. are but a few hours away, you'll enjoy the focus and inspiration that your mountain getaway inspires. And how many people get to live inside a national park for a year?

What do I get at the end of the program?

After completion of the seven-quarter program, students receive a Master of Education in Environmental Education degree from Western Washington University and Certificates in Leadership and Nonprofit Administration and Northwest Natural History from North Cascades Institute.

What do your alumni do after graduation?

Our M.Ed. alumni are employed by a wide variety of businesses, school and nonprofits throughout the country, infusing an environmental ethic into their careers and lives. Positions include Education Director at the Montana Natural History Center - Missoula; Education Coordinator at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle; Field Education Faculty at Teton Science Schools - Jackson, WY; Program Coordinator for Multicultural Affairs Center at Truman State University, Kirksville, MO; Education Specialist at Mount Rainier National Park; Education Coordinator at Anza-Borrego Foundation, Borrego Springs, CA; Curriculum Coordinator at Great Smoky Mountains Institute; Program Coordinator at Waskowitz Environmental Leadership School, Seattle.

You can find out more about our alumni from our alumni newsletter, The Picket Post, and on our Alumni Careers page.


How do I arrange a visit to North Cascades Institute?

We strongly encourage prospective students to visit our Environmental Learning Center, meet the staff and graduate students and observe Institute programs. Please contact to arrange a visit.

How do I arrange a visit to Western Washington University?

We suggest you contact the program advisor, Nick Stanger, Assistant Professor of Environmental Education at Huxley College, to set up a visit to the campus. Contact Nick at

What overnight lodging is available in Bellingham?

Western has a helpful website with accommodations in the area.


How do I apply?

Applications for this program are submitted to Western Washington University’s Graduate School at See our Admissions page for more details.

Can I apply to the Residency portion only?

No, the residency is not considered a separate program. The graduate program is a partnership between WWU and North Cascades Institute that results in a Master of Education degree.

Will I receive a state teaching credential?

No, this program does not provide a state teaching credential. Information about obtaining a Washington State teaching certificate can be found on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website.

What is the application fee?

The current fee for applying to WWU is $100. There is no fee for North Cascades Institute.

What is your admissions deadline?

The priority application deadline is January 15. If you are applying after January 15, please contact North Cascades Institute.

What tests are required to apply for admissions?

The graduate school at Western Washington University requires test scores from either the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).

When are acceptance notices sent out?

North Cascades Institute will begin reviewing applications in mid-January and will notify successful applicants as soon as possible. Formal admission is offered to an applicant by WWU via letter upon receipt of the departmental recommendation, typically in March.

What do I do next once I’m admitted?

If you are admitted into the graduate program, North Cascade Institute and Western Washington University will send you important information about the summer schedule and important tasks that you need to do. The Institute's Graduate Coordinator will stay in touch and will inform you of important dates, deadlines and program information.

When is the first day of class?

In 2017, the first day of class will be mid-July.


How much does this program cost?

Please see our Tuition and Fees page for the latest information.

What type of financial aid is available?

Financial aid for graduate students is offered in the form of student loans, scholarships and work-study.

You apply for financial aid through Western Washington University. The priority deadline for financial aid is February 15. For more information on the financial aid application process and what you need to submit, please see Western's Financial Aid Department webpage . Many students also earn education awards through AmeriCorps Students in Service.

North Cascades Institute offers scholarships up to $2000. Please see our Financial Aid and Scholarships page for details.

Who do I contact if I have more questions about financial aid?

For federal financial aid questions, visit Western Washington University's financial aid office. Feel free to direct your questions to too!


Where do I live?

The first summer course is based in and around North Cascades National Park, most often in the field, and the Institute provides housing and transportation. The next four quarters (fall, winter, spring and summer #2) students are in residency at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Housing for these four quarters may be on campus or in off-site housing close to campus. The final two quarters of the program (fall #2 and winter #2) are at WWU in Bellingham and students are responsible for their own housing.

Can I have pets while living at the Learning Center?

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the Learning Center campus. However, there are pet-friendly options available in off-campus housing in the nearby town of Diablo. There is an additional fee of a $250 pet deposit.


Students are strongly encouraged to have their own transportation. The Learning Center is remotely located along State Route 20 in North Cascades National Park, and the nearest services are 20 miles to the west. Bellingham is approximately two hours from the Learning Center, Seattle is three hours.

Who do I contact if I have more questions?

 For questions relating to the residency program at North Cascades Institute, contact us at or (206) 526-2568. For questions about Western Washington University Graduate School, visit

Email to request an informational packet or schedule your campus visit!


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Joshua Porter: Graduate Program Director

big_quotation_mark.pngIf you want to be a leader in Environmental Education, we designed this program with you in mind. I invite you to come visit the North Cascades Environmental Study-JoshuaLearning Center and see for yourself!

For questions, please contact us at