With ongoing crises in global warming and environmental degradation, the need for people with advanced training in sustainability is on the rise.
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What kind of online Master’s in Sustainability degree should you get?
Most Affordable Online Colleges and Universities for a Master's Degree
Master's degrees in sustainability can be arts, business, or science degrees, depending on the elements of the field the program emphasizes.
In a master of arts program in sustainability, students look at the ways in which policy, research, and social systems can be used to support sustainability goals. If you want to go into fields like public policy or social science research, this degree can support that.
In a master of science in sustainability, students focus more on the design choices that make goods and services sustainable. You should choose a master of science degree if you want to go into environmental science, product engineering, or other STEM-heavy fields.
Business sustainability degrees focus on implementing sustainability in an organizational setting. A degree like this will prepare you for strategic and executive roles in a business, such as chief sustainability officer.
How much money do people make with an online Master’s in Sustainability?
Different sustainability jobs come with different salaries. Sustainability officers, who work to ensure businesses use sustainable practices, make about $80,000 per year on average. Environmental engineers, who use engineering principles to address environmental problems, make just under $88,000. Those who use their sustainability knowledge for public advocacy make more than $60,000 per year.
Job growth prospects for sustainability careers are stable. Job openings in this field, like environmental engineer and environmental scientist, are expected to grow at rates close to the national average for all professions.
What can you do with an online Master’s in Sustainability?
Sustainability graduates can work in engineering offices, high-level business positions, or hazardous materials sites, among other environments.
- Engineering Office - Sustainability engineers work with urban planners, business leaders, and other professionals to identify design and engineering solutions to environmental problems.
- Executive Work - Sustainability officers and business strategists work with other high executives to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and lower the energy requirements of business tools and activities.
- Hazardous Materials Sites - Graduates who work directly with environmental scientists and hazardous materials disposal personnel often head to outdoor sites. They may help with issues at polluted rivers, oil spill sites, and other damaged natural sites.
What are the requirements for an online Master’s in Sustainability degree?
- Undergraduate Study - Students need not have a background in environmental science, STEM, engineering, or business, but generally need to have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Some schools expect higher.
- Letters of recommendation - Most schools will expect at least two letters of recommendation, and some will expect more.
- Experience - Some sustainability master's degree programs target mid-career professionals and require business experience.
- GRE Scores - Expect to take the GRE before applying. While schools don't usually set a minimum for the GRE, high scores will improve your chances. Business-centered sustainability programs may require the GMAT instead.
What are the most affordable online master’s in sustainability degrees?
The rankings below highlight the best master's degree sustainability programs online. These rankings use data from U.S. News & World Report and Payscale.com to find the value of online degree programs. Schools that rank highly here provide paths to careers in sustainability without putting a strain on the wallet.
These rankings account for academic quality, student happiness, and affordability. A school's accreditation status and the educational attainment of its faculty can push it higher, as can reasonable tuition rates. These schools also typically have solid retention and graduation rates, indicating that students are happy with the educational experience available.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Wisconsin at Madison
The University of Wisconsin in Madison is the flagship university within the broader UW System. It is a Public Ivy, meaning it offers a level of academic excellence on par with its private Ivy League counterparts. UW Madison is comprised of 20 schools and colleges and is home to nearly 30,000 students.
The University of Wisconsin’s ecampus offers an MS in Sustainable Management degree online. This is the perfect program for those who want to become leaders in environmental conservation. You will learn the ins and outs of sustainability issues and graduate prepared for entry into high-level leadership positions. In addition to the common core, you can specialize in one of four areas:
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Supply Chain Management
- Sustainable Water Management
- Waste Management and Resource Recovery
The Carnegie Foundation classifies UW Madison as being among the most active research universities in the nation. The university is also nationally and globally ranked by an array of sources and in a range of categories. In addition to its academic accolades, UW Madison is also known for its commitments to sustainability.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is not only an affordable way to earn a graduate degree, it’s a prestigious choice too! UNC Chapel Hill is a public school, a Public Ivy, and a flagship university. It has nearly 30,000 students enrolled in one of its nearly 250 academic programs.
For those who want a green business degree, UNC Chapel Hill has the program for you. It offers an online MBA specializing in Sustainable Enterprise. You will take classes in global issues and developing economies as well as innovation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. Graduates have gone on to become:
- Environmental Engineers
- Green Architects
- Corporate Social Responsibility Managers
- Sustainability Consultants
A known leader in sustainability, UNC Chapel Hill is a markedly green campus. It requires all of its new construction to meet LEED standards. And it is one of only a few campuses that can boast an “A” grade on the Sustainable Endowment Institute College Sustainability Report Card.
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, KY
Western Kentucky University is a public school. It is located in Bowling Green and serves more than 20,000 students. WKU is organized into more than a half dozen schools and colleges. And though it was first founded as a teacher’s school, today it offers nearly 100 degree academic and professional degree programs.
WKU offers an MA in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities degree. This program is ideal for those who want to study and practice social justice and environmental policy. Less business-oriented than the other programs, this degree is interdisciplinary and focused on the systemic problems in environmental degradation. You’ll take classes such as:
- Community-Building for Sustainability
- Perspectives on Social Justice
- Social Policy and Social Justice
- Sustainability Symposium
WKU is well ranked among its region and is known for its commitments to social mobility, community service, and sustainability. Forbes includes the university on its list of “America’s Best Colleges,” and its online degrees are frequently ranked among the best.
Arizona State University is a massive research institution located in and around Phoenix. It is one of the country’s largest universities and is home to one of the biggest and best virtual universities. More than 72,000 attend ASU.
ASU has a number of graduate sustainability programs, but only its Master of Sustainability Leadership degree can be earned fully online. This program will fully equip you to promote environmental responsibility. You will gain not just insight into strategic sustainability practices, but you’ll also develop leadership skills. Classes include:
Consistently called one of America’s “Most Innovative Universities,” ASU is no stranger to accolades, recognitions, and awards. It is nationally and globally ranked, and it is the first school in the nation to introduce a School of Sustainability.
Wilmington University is a private school located in New Castle, DE. Around 20,000 students attend Wilmington and are enrolled in one of the university’s 100 academic programs. Wilmington is organized into more than half a dozen schools and colleges through which it offers a range of academic and professional opportunities.
Wilmington’s College of Business offers an MBA degree in which you can specialize in Environmental Sustainability. For those seeking a broad-based program that introduces business and finance fundamentals, Wilmington’s program may be the best fit for you. For example, in addition to classes on sustainability you will also take:
- Managerial Accounting
- Quantitative Business Analysis
- Organizational Behavior and Ethical Leadership
- Economic and Financial Environment of Business
Though a large university, Wilmington is known for its liberal arts focus and tradition. For that reason, among others, Wilmington’s programs in the arts, social sciences, and humanities are some of its strongest and most popular. The environmental science department, for example, is one of Wilmington’s most renowned.