Businesses care about the environment now more than ever, and they need help from trained professionals.
Universities have started offering degrees specifically focused on sustainability. These degrees can focus on policy management, science, engineering, and other concentrations. A degree in sustainability is valuable in the modern, environmentally conscious world.
You can get paid while changing the world for the better!
What kind of sustainability degree should you get?
A sustainability degree is a gateway to many different professions. Sustainability professionals work in business, construction, government, or health and safety sectors.
One of the benefits of getting a sustainability degree online is the the flexibility of choosing classes. Many colleges listed here offer interdisciplinary online courses, or give credit toward a sustainability-related degree if a student takes classes outside of that major.
If you want to expand beyond sustainability, College Choice has a list of the Best Online Colleges and Universities regardless of major.
How much money do people make with a sustainability degree?
Because of how flexible a sustainability degree can be, direct salaries are hard to measure. Payscale.com shows median salaries for sustainability management positions ranging from $47,115 for Sustainability Coordinators to $104,995 for Sustainability Directors.
Sustainability science professions make similar amounts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for conservation scientists in 2012 was $61,100. Operations Research Analysts made $72,100. Environmental Engineers made $80,890.
You can make a six figure salary while saving the planet!
What can you do with a degree in sustainability?
Every year companies hire more sustainability professionals. In 2016, Greenbiz reported that 46 percent of businesses had an increase in sustainability related positions at their company.
Most highly successful companies have sustainability departments. In 2015, 72 percent of companies with over $1 billion in revenue had sustainability budgets.
Sustainability careers come in a wide variety. They can focus on policy, science, agriculture or management. Here are some related professions:
- Sustainable Forestry Managers
- Water Conservationists
- Health and Safety Engineers
- Sustainability Policy Managers
What are the requirements for a degree in sustainability?
There aren’t any general license requirements for a degree in sustainability. Some programs require previous college credits in order to enroll, but that is at the discretion of the school.
Combining degrees can strengthen your degree in sustainability. For instance, Sustainability Directors may have a degree in business, and Water Conservationists may have a Master’s degree as well as their sustainability Bachelor’s.
What are the best sustainability degrees?
All of the online programs below are regionally accredited, and for most, you get the same degree online that you would if you attended classes on campus! Our researchers took into account student satisfaction with the university, the affordability of the program, and the quality and reputation of the school.
Data on expected earnings come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale.com. Researchers looked at industry publications such as U.S. News and World Report, Greenbiz, and Sustainabilitydegrees.com to find you the most worthwhile programs.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $16,683
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public research university focused on innovation. The college boasts a partnership with Research Park, a campus connected to the University that specifically strives for research and development. The University’s sustainability program is very customizable, allowing you to choose a more concentrated focus.
The Online Earth Science, Environment and Sustainability Bachelor’s of Science degree at the University of Illinois is the same degree offered to on-campus students but offered remotely. Here are some concentrations offered under the major:
- Science and the Environment
- Science of the Earth System
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has a rich history of innovation and development. For instance, alumni have earned 28 Pulitzer Prizes, and the first graphical web browser was development by a student in 1993. With the first Earth Sciences and Environment class graduating in 2011, the university continues their mission of promoting scientific advancement.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
College Choice Score: 99.74
Average Net Price: $20,093
The University of Massachusetts Online is one of the oldest online degree programs, starting in 2001. Over 150 of the University’s degrees are available online, and they’re all identical to their on-campus equivalents. There are over 50 online sustainability classes.
The Bachelor of Arts, Sustainability Studies degree is very customizable. The University offers a wide range of courses, with the ability to design your own program of study. Here are some of the class options:
- Soil Science and Management
- Agricultural Chemistry
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Holistic Fruit Production
- Sustainable Site Design and Planning
The University of Massachusetts offers over 1,500 online courses. The concentration system the University uses allows students to get credit for classes taken in all departments at the school.
Oregon State University
College Choice Score: 99.35
Average Net Price: $19,484
Oregon State University has long been a forerunner in sustainability. Their degree program is unique in that it is only offered online as a double major, meaning you have to be an OSU student also enrolled in another degree program.
OSU offers a variety of minors that can be combined with the Sustainability major to make your degree even more valuable. Some options for minors that fit into sustainability are:
- Agricultural Business Management
- Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences
- Natural Resources and Environmental Law and Policy
OSU students are passionate about keeping their campus environmentally friendly. Through the Student Sustainability Initiative, the University educates the student body on how to be a sustainable college student. This program is available for sustainability majors.
Florida International University
College Choice Score: 98.29
Average Net Price: $12,966
An entire branch of Florida International University is devoted to online programs. They have been offering online programs since 1998. The sustainability program is multidisciplinary, meaning they encourage students to take classes in many different departments and explore their connections to the environment.
The Online BA in Sustainability and the Environment degree offers some unique courses. Examples are:
- Earth Ethics
- Media and Sustainability
- Energy and the Natural Environment
FIU encourages online students to also apply to their Honors College program. This program offers study abroad, research, and thesis opportunities. For sustainability students this could mean courses like geological surveys overseas or research in lab settings.
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
College Choice Score: 96.87
Average Net Price: $23,129
Penn State’s Energy and Sustainability Policy degree specifically focuses on policy and management, one of the few like it in the country. The degree can be earned as either a BA or a BS. They share general education requirements, but BA students take courses in humanities and foreign languages, while BS students focus solely on the major.
Since Penn State’s degree focuses on policy and management, the courses offered focus more on the human element of controlling the environment. Here are some course examples:
- Oil: International Evolution
- Human Dimensions of Global Warming
- Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems
The program has a study abroad component. Students have studied all around the world in both short, week-long trips and extended stays. The University says the study abroad component helps online students connect with their field of study.
College Choice Score: 95.96
Average Net Price: $6,349
Bellevue offers a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Management that is specifically focused on giving students a practical degree. This program is only available online.
Bellevue’s degree combines the science and policy sides of the profession. Here are some areas it focuses on:
- Water Resources
- Solar Technologies
- Urban Development
Bellevue specifically designed their degree program to prepare students for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) exam, a certification for green building. This gives students a defined curriculum and a clear goal for their education.
College Choice Score: 95.20
Average Net Price: $24,794
Liberty University was an early pioneer in distance education. Their online sustainability degree is actually a Business Administration degree with a more intense focus on sustainable practices.
Liberty University’s Bachelor of Science in Business Administration–Green and Sustainable Management takes a holistic approach to sustainability management. Courses look at the different aspects of the changing environment and the human effect on it. Some sample courses are:
- Environment and Sustainability
- Energy Resources and Efficiency
- Environmental Science and Policy
Classes for this degree take the student forum approach, letting students examine multiple angles of a policy through in-class debates. The program includes 120 credit hours in total.
University of Wisconsin-Stout
College Choice Score: 94.93
Average Net Price: $14,038
University of Wisconsin-Stout’s online sustainability program uses resources from six different University of Wisconsin campuses, giving you the best of all programs. The University’s Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Management is a 21-course degree that promises to work around your schedule.
The courses in Stout’s program are very specific, promising in-depth knowledge and practical experience. Here are some of their courses:
- Triple Bottom Line Accounting for Managers
- Technical Writing for Sustainable Management
- Marketing for a Sustainable World
Stout’s program has some prerequisites, including 60 college credits and several course requirements. The University encourages people who don’t yet have college credits to check out their Associate’s Degree programs.
College Choice Score: 94.75
Average Net Price: $27,418
Roosevelt University was the first school in Chicago to offer an undergraduate program in sustainability. The university tries to engage the community in sustainability initiatives, giving you valuable experience while completing your degree.
The Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies at Roosevelt offers a lot of field trip opportunities, even for online students. If you’re in the Chicago area, you can take advantage of this hands-on learning. Some trips include:
- Urban Farms
- Local Sustainability Projects
Roosevelt’s campus buildings are certified LEED-Gold for sustainability, so you know the university is serious about the coursework they teach. The University has an energy partnership designed to offset the campus’ resource consumption by using solar, wind, and geothermal power.
Arizona State University
College Choice Score: 94.66
Average Net Price: $13,007
Arizona State University’s degree is actually a Bachelor of Arts in Business with a focus on Sustainability. The school focuses their program on global business, taking into account science, policy, and management. You’ll get a well-rounded degree with plenty of interdisciplinary courses.
Taking a global look at the environment, ASU approaches sustainability from a business stance. Some courses in the major are:
- Sustainable Cities
- Sustainable World
- The Economics of Sustainability
ASU routinely ranks highly for innovation. The W. P. Carey School of Business often ranks highly for business programs, including ones offered online.