Best Online Master’s in Sustainability Degrees

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The words “green” and “sustainable” are often used interchangeably to mean a more environmentally-friendly society.

A master’s in sustainability prepares you to make that impact - to create more environmentally, socially, and morally responsible business practices and lifestyles. The goal of sustainability is to find a balance between risk minimization and life optimization. Students will not just take traditional science courses about the environment but will also be exposed to social theories as well as business management practices.

At the master’s level, students will be able to take more in-depth courses and complete optional internships in a field they are interested in. Because Sustainability is so broad and useful in any industry, graduates can be found working in the fields of business, agriculture, engineering, environmental sciences, and even law. Due to the growing need and trend of sustainable practices, this career is certain to increase in demand.

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What kind of sustainability degree should you get?

A typical master of arts or master of science degree in sustainability will teach you the fundamentals of sustainability problem solving. Courses may include mathematics, biology, and international development. A master of business administration with a focus on Sustainability mashes business-solving tools with sustainability practices. For those seeking management positions, an MBA may be a good option.

An online degree is a good choice for already working professionals or for people who wish to complete their degree at a quicker pace. Online courses typically do not have set meeting times and students can watch lectures and complete coursework before a set deadline. Online classes are also cheaper than on-campus ones.

Cross-reference this list with College Choice’s Best Online Colleges and Universities to find the best program for you.

How much money do people make with a degree in sustainability?

According to PayScale, the median salary for a sustainability manager is $71,243, with the range being anywhere from $46,579 to $105,517. Some jobs and salaries for those with an MS in sustainability include director of operations ($117,315), facilities manager ($73,104), and energy consultant ($53,995).

The top three highest paying careers within sustainability include chief sustainability executives ($166,910), natural sciences managers ($140,770), and general and operations managers ($95,150). While the majority of people may not reach high-level management within their company, this field has a steady pay rate.

What can you do with a degree in sustainability?

Careers in sustainability are available in everyday companies, nonprofits, education, or governmental agencies. Because Sustainability is quite a broad field that comprises of interdisciplinary studies, graduates are not limited to just one field. An example of potential career titles includes program managers, sustainability analysts, or teachers.

Sustainability workers combine scientific and technological knowledge with everyday practice to create more environmentally and socially responsible business practices. They also engage in advocacy and education. Depending on the person’s passion, a career could be more hands-on such as working directly in the field doing research, or more business-related in management.

What are the requirements for a degree in sustainability?

A master’s in sustainability requires a bachelor’s from an accredited university from any major. A GPA of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale is highly preferred. Most schools will also require submission of the Graduate Record Examination or Graduate Management Admission Test.

As a degree sustainability is interdisciplinary, students will be expected to complete core courses in math, social science, and natural science. Those who are concentrating in sustainability will have to take additional elective courses. Generally these programs can be completed within two years.

What are the best online master’s in sustainability?

Best Online Master's in Sustainability Badge

This ranking by College Choice was determined by two overarching factors: institutional excellence and student success. These metrics were compiled using a variety of data points from various sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, PayScale, individual college websites, and the U.S. News & World Report.

Institutional excellence is defined by factors such as endowment size, graduation rate, and institutional reputation. Student success is defined by things such as average financial aid given, average indebtedness after graduation, and tuition costs.


See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Chapel Hill, NC



    OverviewThe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first public institution of higher education in the state, opening in 1789. It offers 14 colleges, with the Kenan-Flagler Business School offering its Sustainability program. UNC’s business school was founded in 1919 when two successful families came together and gifted the university. Today UNC’s online MBA program is nationally ranked and recognized by rankings such as Forbes and the Princeton Review.Program FeaturesUNC’s online MBA with a specialization in Sustainable Enterprise degree teaches students how to implement responsible business practices.

    • Ability to enroll in classes from partner schools
    • Opportunity to participate in sustainability-focused case competitions
    • Sample Courses: Operations, Global Marketing, Sustainable Enterprise
    NotablesAlthough an online program, UNC students have access to extensive career fairs and specialized MBA conferences for future networking and job prospects.

  2. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

    University Park, PA



    OverviewPennsylvania State University – World Campus is an entirely online school that is part of the Penn State University system. Operating since 1998, students have access to more than 150 online degree and certificate programs. All programs are designed to prepare and excel students in their future careers. Classes are taught using an accessible system with trained professors who are keen at integrating technology. Penn State is ranked as #1 for producing the most prepared and well-rounded graduates according to the The Wall Street Journal.Program FeaturesPenn State’s online Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems degree prepares students for the dynamic marketplace of sustainable energy.

    • 32 credit-hours
    • Financial aid available for part-time students
    • Certificates available in Solar Energy or Sustainability Management and Policy in conjunction with the degree
    NotablesThis program is an ideal one for future managers. Some possible career roles include project manager, vice president of business development, or research analyst.

  3. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    Blacksburg, VA



    OverviewVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State University offers an interdisciplinary approach to education where students are exposed to technology in the classroom every day. Established in 1872, the campus sits atop a 2,600-acre campus with over 32,000 enrolled students. Its impressive Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability aims to develop solutions to the environmental challenges ahead.Program FeaturesVirginia Tech’s online Master’s of Natural Resources degree is a professional program in the field of environmental sustainability.

    • 30 credit-hours
    • Hybrid program that requires participation in an international field experience
    • Sample Courses: International Environmental Law & Policy, Conservation Ecology, Global Issues in Natural Resources
    NotablesDuring the international field experience, students are placed in a rapidly developing region of the world for 10 days. Future countries include Croatia, China, and Morocco. Virginia Tech’s graduate programs were ranked among the U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2017” list.

  4. University of Denver

    Denver, CO



    OverviewThe University of Denver is a private institution that offers a rigorous academic curriculum to prepare students for the challenges that lie ahead. All students are encouraged to engage with the community, learn from a variety of perspectives, and get hands-on experiences through internships and job placements.Program FeaturesDU’s online MS in Environmental Policy and Management degree with a concentration in Energy and Sustainability allows students to customize their own degree plan.

    • 48 credit-hours
    • No GRE or GMAT required
    • Sample Courses: Sustainable Transportation, Environmental Protection Law, Introduction to Ecology
    NotablesDU students are very active and love to give back to the community, having completed over 500,000 hours of volunteer work in the 2015-2016 academic year.

  5. Arizona State University

    Phoenix, AZ



    OverviewArizona State University is a nationally and globally recognized public research institution what offers 150 online programs. In addition to being one of the largest public universities in the nation, ASU has been ranked as the #1 most innovative university for the past three years by the U.S. News & World Report. This innovation carries into its School of Sustainability, which was the first comprehensive degree-granting school of its kind in the US.Program FeaturesASU’s online Master of Sustainability Leadership degree creates students who wish to start the initiative in environmental responsibility.

    • 35 credit-hours
    • Estimated Completion Time: two years or less
    • Sample Courses: Global Context, Communications and Sustainability, Social Entrepreneurship
    NotablesEighty percent of Master’s degree alumni are currently employed, while 20 percent are pursuing additional graduate degrees.

  6. University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne

    Fort Wayne, IN



    OverviewThe University of Saint Francis – Fort Wayne is a religious liberal arts university that promotes Catholic and Franciscan values. Founded in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, students are encouraged to pursue academic excellence while maintain a strong and active faith life. SF is known for its 100 percent online degrees that are nationally recognized. All online courses are flexible, affordable, and taught by the same professors as traditional degrees.Program FeaturesSF’s online MBA in Sustainability program is made for students who are passionate about issues relating to the environment.

    • 36 credit-hours: 21 hours in business and 15 hours in environmental health
    • Ability to earn the degree in as little as 12 months
    • Sample Courses: International Business, Nonprofit Financial Management, Leading Change
    NotablesUSF’s MBA students test in the top 5 percent in the Peregrine Test nationally.

  7. University of Wisconsin at Madison

    Madison, WI



    OverviewThe University of Wisconsin – Madison was founded in 1848, around the same time the state was established. Everything that is produced by the university, from its teaching to its community involvement, follows the “Wisconsin Idea,” which states that the university should fully be state-focused with its research being driven to solve everyday problems. Today UW – Madison is the sixth university in the nation for its amount of research, spending nearly $1 billion annually.Program FeaturesUW – Madison’s online MS in Sustainable Management prepares graduates for high-level leadership positions within the field of sustainability and environmental issues.

    • 34 credit-hours
    • Learn from faculty from a diverse set of disciplines
    • Sample Courses: Economics of Sustainability, The Built Environment, Supply Chain Management
    NotablesThe average salary according to PayScale for a sustainability manager is $72,706 as of 2015. Those with more experience can eventually make over $100,000. The school’s students are also nothing short of excellent, being one of the top 10 schools that produced the most 500 Fortune CEOs according to Money.

  8. Green Mountain College

    Poultney, VT



    OverviewGreen Mountain College is a national leader in sustainable development. All coursework is built on the principle of reducing waste and creating a better living environment. Located in Vermont, the college was founded in 1834 as an initially small women’s college. It later became coeducational and in the late 90s began to push for an environmental curriculum. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, GMC is the #1 college for sustainability.Program FeaturesGMC’s online Sustainable MBA program has been teaching students the foundation of sustainable business for over 20 years.

    • First 100 percent online Sustainable MBA in the nation
    • Only one residency per year
    • Sample Courses: Accounting for Sustainable Organization Management, Ethical Issues & Legal Environment
    NotablesGMC has been on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll in the past three years due to its commitment to sustainability practices.

  9. Franklin Pierce University

    Rindge, NH



    OverviewFranklin Pierce University is named after the fourteenth President of the United States. In 1962, about a century after he served, the institution was established. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive education that infuses liberal arts and professional, career preparatory classes. Franklin Pierce’s online MBA programs were ranked among the top in 2015-2016 by Go Grad.Program FeaturesFranklin Pierce’s online MBA in Energy and Sustainability degree fuses ideas of business management, finance, and resource management to create world leaders.

    • Full or part-time options
    • Energy & Sustainability Studies Certificate available instead of full degree
    • Sample Courses: Energy Economics, Marketing Management, Organizational Behavior
    NotablesThis program can be taught combining online with on-campus traditional classes.

  10. Wilmington University

    New Castle, DE



    OverviewWilmington University is a private institution located in Delaware that was originally founded outside the historic New Castle. Over 100 degrees are offered across its seven colleges. Classes are offered in either 15-week, 7-week, or weekend modular formats so students may complete their degree in no time. The College of Online and Experiential Learning offers flexible, career-focused programs for adult professionals.Program FeaturesWilmington’s online MBA with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability is designed to fit every student’s schedule and educational needs.

    • Use of the online Blackboard system
    • 7-week block courses on weeknights and Saturdays
    • Sample Courses: Managerial Accounting, Business Strategy, Economic and Financial Environment of Business
    NotablesStudents can replace some courses for certain professional certifications if applicable to the mandatory courses.

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