Best Master’s in Sustainability Degrees

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Are you ready to find your fit?

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.

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Top 10 Best Master’s in Sustainability Degrees

Rank School Location
1 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
2 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
3 University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI
4 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
5 Presidio Graduate School San Francisco, CA
6 Clark University Worcester, MA
7 Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
8 Maharishi University of Management Fairfield, IA
9 University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Aurora, CO
10 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY

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.

If you are already working and are interested in a program with added flexibility, consider an online programs. College Choice has ranked the Best Online Master’s in Sustainability.

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.

Best Master's in Sustainability Degrees Badge

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.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  2. Cornell University
    Location

    Ithaca, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  3. University of Michigan
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  4. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  5. Presidio Graduate School
    Location

    San Francisco, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  6. Clark University
    Location

    Worcester, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  7. Bard College
    Location

    Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  8. Maharishi University of Management
    Location

    Fairfield, IA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  9. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
    Location

    Aurora, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  10. Western Kentucky University
    Location

    Bowling Green, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

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