If you have a burning desire to tackle growing environmental concerns, a master’s degree in sustainability might be for you.
“Sustainability” is far from a temporary buzzword. This field addresses the complex concerns related to the impact of environmental and social concerns on long-term business management.
Graduates of sustainability programs will have the business skills necessary to be successful in any setting, private or public, as well as the know-how to successfully manage factors like environmental and social responsibility.
What kind of sustainability degree should you get?
When looking for a degree in sustainability, consider your potential career goals and find a program that aligns itself well with those goals. These programs are highly varied, with many offering unique concentrations and formats to help any student meet his or her goals.
Explore our featured online programs and find the right match for you today.
How much money do people make with a master’s degree in sustainability?
Average starting salaries for recipients of sustainability degrees tend to vary drastically, mainly because these programs include a vast array of courses and concentrations. Because this industry is so new, there is little information available on starting salaries.
But those working in sustainability management or energy consulting tend to make the highest starting salaries, earning upwards of $71,000 per year. Top executives and managers can earn up to $166,000, providing graduates with high and steady pay rates across sectors.
What can you do with a master’s degree in sustainability?
While sustainability is a relatively new field, there are hundreds of job opportunities for candidates with strong business abilities and comprehensive knowledge of how environmental and social issues affect business function. Individuals with sustainability degrees can work in any sector, public or private, as well as at both governmental and not-for-profit organizations.
Most candidates with sustainability degrees also pursue MBA or business-related degrees, allowing them to work in middle- to upper- management at large companies (including Fortune 500 organizations), not-for-profit organizations, and smaller start-ups.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in sustainability?
Depending on the program to which you apply, most requirements for a degree in sustainability will vary. Some schools require candidates to have prior experience in Environmental Science, Business, Ecology, or a related field, while others will accept individuals with any form of an undergraduate degree.
While enrolled in a sustainability program, you will likely take a range of core and elective courses that hone your leadership, management, communication, and collaboration skills. Many programs incorporate required internship or practicum experiences, requiring students to conduct sustainability projects with both large and small companies.
What are the best master’s in sustainability degrees?
Many schools offer courses or training in sustainability as an ingrained part of their MBA programs, but you should look for programs with explicit concentrations or specializations in that topic as well. Programs that address sustainability specifically will give you greater real-world training in this area.
Find a program with hands-on experiences in real-world sustainability issues and offer internships, study abroad options, and flexible course formats so that you can earn a degree in this topic without spending every waking moment inside a classroom.
The 20-year-old program in Sustainability at the University of Pennsylvania was founded with professionalism and variation in mind. This program is taught by world-class faculty who guide students in developing strong connections to industry partners, as well as individualized professional development opportunities. Open to candidates seeking careers in the public and private sector, this program is the absolute best of its kind.
This program provides a rich diversity of course offerings, allowing students to experience this program both on campus in Philadelphia as well as around the world. Students can tailor their degrees towards a specific area of sustainability, allowing them to pursue top leadership positions. Required classes include:
The Role of Water in Urban Sustainability and Resiliency Introduction to Sustainability Corporate Sustainability Strategies Life Cycle Analysis Corporate Sustainability Management Communication
The program in Sustainability at the University of Pennsylvania is top-ranked because it creates opportunities for students that far outreach the confines of a typical classroom. Students will address the complex issues facing the planet, and work with faculty and other students to develop cutting-edge research and practices to tackle those concerns.
Cornell University is unique in that it offers a variety of sustainability initiatives, courses, and minors, with most students pursuing Masters degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor or concentration in Conservation and Sustainable Development. This program, located on Cornells Ithaca, NY campus, is ranked second in the country for its emphasis on sustainable global enterprise.
This program emphasizes clean-technology innovation and provides students with individual mentorship and tutoring. Students will take classes such as:
Environmental and Resource Economics Corporate Sustainability: Business in a Resource-Constrained World Excursions in Computational Sustainability Environmental Finance and Markets Toward a Sustainable Global Food System: Food Policy for Developing Countries
Cornell programs are incredibly flexible, allowing students to design their own degree programs in collaboration with faculty members. Students can focus on sustainability while also studying within an entirely different discipline or department. Each candidate also benefits from the Atkinson Center or a Sustainable Future, which guides the university toward a more sustainable future and also provides current students with career-building opportunities in this area.
The Sustainability program at the University of Michigan is one of many academic programs at what has been considered the best institution for leadership development for well over the last five years. The program emphasizes the importance of green business education and provides students with access to the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. This partnership allows students to earn an MBA from Ross and a Master of Science from the School for Environment and Sustainability.
This program emphasizes field-based learning and applied professional training as two core hallmarks of its design. Students gain scientific knowledge and learn how to use that knowledge to inform current and future management decisions. Required courses include:
Environmental Systems Analysis Systems Thinking for Sustainable Development Urban Sustainability Industrial Ecology Behavior and the Environment
The University of Michigan is a top-ranked, tier-1 public research institution. It is ranked as the top public research university in the country by The National Science Foundation, and has also received major accolades for graduate programs in and student access to services, activities, and resources. The small department of SEAS, in which the Sustainability concentration is housed, allows students to benefit from tiny class sizes yet also receive access to large institutional research projects and facilities.
Appalachian State University, located in idyllic Boone, NC, provides students with extensive professional development in technical aspects of sustainability. The Master of Sustainable Technology allows students to develop unique programs of study that cross disciplines and include field-based internships and international experiences. This program is exemplary in regards to the extensive hands-on experiences provided to students.
The sustainability program at Appalachian is highly competitive, and although it is designed for students with a background in engineering, architecture, business, or another relevant field of sustainability, it can be completed by any student. Four program concentrations are available, allowing students to choose to specialize in topics such as:
Appropriate Technology Building Science Renewable Energy Engineering Sustainable Design and Construction
Graduate students have previously served as investigators in renewable energy research, as well as research assistants and project managers in major competitions such as the USDOE Race to Zero. Because students have the opportunity to explore other areas of interest, regardless of department, and to complete practical, field-based experiences, they graduate with the interdisciplinary skills and professional connections necessary to be successful in any environment.
Located in the forward-thinking city of San Francisco, the Presidio Graduate School offers a comprehensive MBA in Sustainable Management. This program features an integrated curriculum that connects management theory and practice to both ecological and social leadership. All MBA programs include elements of sustainability, making Presidio an expert at providing focused education in this area.
This program focuses on the three core concepts of sustainable systems and proper business functioning. The degree emphasizes the importance of applied learning, with each student required to complete at least four sustainability projects with real-life companies. In the past, these projects have been carried out at local and global organizations, including in companies as large as Google. Sample classes include:
Sustainable Products and Services Sustainable Energy Management Research Methods and Policy Evaluation Civic Leadership
Presidio is exemplary in that students may take courses either full or part-time. It includes full- or part-time residency periods. This is ideal for busy professionals who may not be able to dedicate a large block of time every single week to their studies. Instead, students only visit campus once a month, making this a much more flexible option for many candidates.
Clark Universitys program in Sustainability recognizes the high demand for skilled professionals in the field. The program is continuously adapting its business models and curriculum according to industry needs, preparing students to work at both for-profit and non-profit industries. Located in Worcester, MA, this school features affordable tuition at just $4,100 per 14-week course.
This flexible degree program prepares students to effect change within any community. It features community collaborations to allow students to develop local and global ties, as well as to exercise their newly acquired skills and knowledge in sustainability practices. Students will take classes such as:
Sustainability Marketing Corporate Social Responsibility Social Entrepreneurship Sustainability Consulting Projects
Clark is an excellent choice for any student and is repeatedly recognized byThe Princeton Reviewfor its hands-on projects, dedicated career staff, and relevant curriculum. The Sustainability program is taught by talented faculty who teach class sizes no larger than 25 students each. Furthermore, this program is just one out of 5 percent of all business schools who have AACSB accreditation, which is widely sought after by employers.
Located in the heart of New York City, Bard offers an MBA in Sustainability that prepares students to work in a variety of business environments. It is offered both full- and part-time in a hybrid format, allowing students to take courses both online and on campus. This school, founded in 1860, is an independent school with a small population and a student-to-faculty ratio of just 10:1.
Bards curriculum in Sustainability provides students with training in key sustainability principles within a core business curriculum. Students will receive competencies in all major business practices, as well as training in how society and environment can make an impact. Students work collaboratively with their peers and can choose from specialization options. Required courses include:
Globalization and Emerging Markets Operations and Supply Chains Finance for Sustainability Customers and Marketing Data, Analytics, and Decisions
Bard is unique in that it not only offers an MBA in Sustainability, but also provides experiences in Sustainability for the public as well. Each month, Bard hosts the Bard Sustainable Business Series. These series are held at various New York City locations and allow students and the public to interact with some of the most distinguished experts in the field. The school hosts workshops, lunchtime seminars, and podcasts centered around sustainability as well.
Maharishi is a unique and progressive university, offering an unconventional program in Sustainability that emphasizes the importance of healthy-living, supportive community, and self-discovery. Located in Fairfield, IA, this university requires students to immerse themselves in just one course per month, emphasizing the importance of consciousness-based education. Natural health programs and organic vegetarian meals are offered for all students.
This program incorporates daily Transcendental Meditation practices to help students reduce stress and promote clear thinking. Students will take classes such as:
Socially and Environmentally Responsible Management Sustainable Technologies Sustainable Community Development Metrics for Sustainable Business Leading Organizational Change for Sustainability
Maharishi offers one of the most student-centered programs in Sustainability. It has received top rankings for education in sustainable business, as well as being recognized as the top MBA program in Iowa, according to OnlineMBAToday. Course sizes are small, usually under 20 students, allowing each graduate student to benefit from close-knit, student-centered instruction and networking opportunities.
At the University of Colorado Anschultz Medical Campus, students may pursue Masters of Science degrees in Environmental and Sustainability Engineering as well as one in Sustainable Infrastructure. These unique options support candidates who already have backgrounds in engineering. This college is located just six miles from downtown Denver and offers programs that combine interdisciplinary teaching with clinical facilities and expert research opportunities.
Courses at the University of Colorado are highly interactive, allowing students to conduct original cross-disciplinary research and to work with faculty from multiple departments. Sample classes include:
Environmental and Water Quality Modeling Systems Analysis for Environment and Sustainability Engineering and Science Informatics Introduction to Sustainable Infrastructure Fundamentals of Sustainability and Climate Change
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is one of the best places to study Sustainability because it receives over $490 million in research funding each year. Over 500 students are actively involved in research. The school is top-ranked for its graduate programs, collaboration, innovation, and overall economic impact byU.S. News World Report, with over 90 percent of all graduates recruited and then placed in careers related to their majors each year.
Western Kentucky University is located in Bowling Green, KY, and offers 104 graduate degree and certificate programs. Among them is the award-winning MA in Social Responsibility Sustainable Communities, which is renowned for its collaborative and flexible nature. This program is located in one of the top ten college towns in the United States and offers class sizes of less than 24 students each, making it an ideal place to both live and learn.
In this interdisciplinary program, students create their own programs of studies, choosing from a range of elective courses. Electives fall into the category of environmental sustainability, social justice, gender studies, or community studies. To tailor their degrees towards professional goals, each student may choose from a range of course options, including:
Survey of Business Sustainability Issues Sustainable Business Operations Sustainability, Innovation, Entrepreneurship Communication in Nonprofit Economics of Poverty Discrimination
This program is exemplary in that it provides students access to community-based research. The degree culminates in a one-week residency in which students closely explore a Kentucky community and devise an activist-centered approach. This project-based curriculum allows students to apply their learning to real-world problems, giving them both a resume boost to market to employers as well as new professional networking opportunities.
The program in Sustainability at Duquesne is relatively fledgling, having only been chartered in 2007, in the city of Pittsburgh, PA. Despite its young age, the degree has been wildly popular, earning top rankings by the Aspen Institute and the Corporate Knights. Duquesne is one of the few schools that offers an AACSB-accredited MBA, providing graduates with the potential to earn higher starting salaries.
This program is ranked as one of the worlds top 10 MBAs for improving the global business climate. The program is designed around an action-learning model established by the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education. A range of classes are available, including:
Strategic Sustainability and Models Sustainable Business Practices Project Business Ethics and Global Responsibility Leading Change in Sustainable Enterprises
This program is located in a city ranked as one of Americas most livable. Pittsburgh is the host to six Fortune 500 companies and is a hub for technological advancements. Duquesnes ideal location provides students with close access to corporate partners, allowing them to collaborate with companies like Alcoa and FedEx on real-world consulting projects. Students research and guide regional initiatives and solve local and global problems.
Edgewood College, located in Madison, WI, offers a collaborative and project-based program in Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership. This program partners with dozens of different organizations, such as the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative, to give all graduate students a hands-on education in sustainability best practices. With a low student-to-faculty ratio of just 9:1 and extensive internship, study abroad, and cooperative learning experiences, this university is a smart choice for studies in Sustainability.
Edgewoods program in Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership is self-guided. Students are placed in cohorts no larger than 18 students, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds. Students individualize their degrees based on their own professional interests, completing classes either full- or part-time. Students will take courses such as:
Foundations: Leadership for Social Innovation and Sustainability Ecological Sustainability and Social Innovation Social Innovation for Social and Economic Sustainability Urban Community-based Sustainable Development Innovative Leadership in Community Well-being
This program in Sustainability is one of the most community-focused on the list, requiring students to actively engage in a local and global setting. Multiple field trips, group projects, and other hands-on activities are at the core of this programs curriculum, requiring students to thoroughly engage with sustainable practices. For students seeking to complete a degree more quickly, an accelerated program is also available.
Wilmington University offers an online MBA with a concentration in Sustainability that is designed to provide students with the knowledge and professional skills necessary to execute advanced managerial tasks in a sustainable fashion. This university, located in historic New Castle, Delaware, offers over one hundred degrees throughout seven different colleges.
This program requires students to complete field experiences and coursework to bolster their skills in working in a wide variety of business and nonprofit organizations. Each class is uniquely structured to provide students with necessary feedback and skills development. Core concentration classes include:
Economic and Financial Environment of Business Project Management with Sustainable Green Technologies Environmental Regulations and Ethical Issues Strategic Planning for Sustainable Organizations Principles of Environmental Sustainability
This program in Sustainability is one of the most flexible on the list, providing students with personally-tailored, career-focused programs. All courses are offered via the online Blackboard system, with classes available during the evening and weekend hours. Some courses requirements can even be waived if students have relevant professional certifications or experience. Courses are offered in fifteen- week, seven-week, and weekend formats so that every course can be completed at a comfortable pace.
Located in Rindge, NH, Franklin Pierce is a historic institution with a dedication to providing liberal arts-infused programs. Each degree program is highly comprehensive, providing students with professional coursework that will prepare them for top careers. The MBA in Energy and Sustainability provides an approach to the discipline that combines business intelligence with sustainable resource management, a must for any future leader.
Students in this program benefit from the courses focus on exposing students to worldwide energy markets. Students will engage in all aspects of corporate responsibility and ethical operations. The program is offered both full and part-time, with an alternative certificate program also available. Core courses include:
Quantitative and Research Techniques for Leaders The Future of Energy, Business, and Society Operations Management for Leaders Building a Sustainable Enterprise Energy Economics
This unique program is one of the top-ranked in the country, according to Go Grad. It is offered entirely online, and accessible to busy professionals. As a small, private regionally accredited university with a strong emphasis on liberal arts, Franklin Pierce prides itself on personal attention and high-caliber instruction. With a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university churns out an impressive 93 percent job placement rate impressive statistics that are hard to beat.
Founded in 1869, Chatham offers over 60 undergraduate and graduate programs to roughly 2,200 students. Ranked as one of the Top 50 Green Colleges byThe PrincetonReview, this school is one of the top campuses to study sustainability because it lives and breathes those practices as its founding guidelines. Offered with an MBA program, this dual degree prepares students for positions related to all aspects of sustainability and in all potential sectors.
This program can be completed in as little in two years and requires students to complete classroom and field-based coursework. Students will also engage in consultation with sustainable businesses and complete summer professional placements. With 57 credits required for the dual degree, students will take classes such as:
Foundations of Sustainability Project Design, Methods, and Evaluations Sustainable Supply Chain Management Global Business
Chatham is one of the few schools that practices what it preaches. The campus recently constructed Eden Hall Campus, which utilizes the latest practices in environmentally sustainable technology and innovation. The building produces zero carbon emissions and produces more energy than it uses. Students at Chatham benefit from high-quality, hands-on initiatives like these. The school leads by example.
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