Throughout recorded history, human beings have gathered to live near bodies of water, and this continues to the present day. The beauty of coastal areas, the recreation they provide, and the resources they offer for individuals and industry draw people to live and work in regions where land meets water. While most major cities in the world are located near rivers, approximately 1 in 10 people live in a low-elevation coastal zone.

This includes countries with massive populations such as China, India, and the United States. Because of this, sustainable use practices are imperative to avoid depletion of resources, including land erosion. Coastal zone management experts work to better understand the delicate ecosystem of coastal regions. They also must have an understanding of coastal zone policies as well as the socioeconomic issues that affect how people use particular coastal zones.

Coastal zones are particularly vulnerable areas. Rising sea levels are slowly encroaching on coastal areas and causing numerous issues such as flooding and soil saturation. This heightens the risk of sudden catastrophic events that affect not only humans but all of the species that live in the area. Improper construction of homes or other buildings can destroy the integrity of land and render the structure dangerous. Moreover, unrestricted use of resources can lead to an unbalanced ecosystem or even destroy the ecosystem entirely. Therefore, professionals in coastal zone management might work in a variety of specialties such as Coastal Law, Coastal and Urban Planning, Wetlands Restoration, Sustainable Tourism, and Geographic Information Systems Management.

Unsurprisingly, top schools with programs focused on coastal zones are located within coastal regions. These schools give opportunities to gain hands on experience as well as unique insight into the specific needs of populations that live and work near the ocean. What may surprise you is the number of great programs located on the east coast. Duke, the University of Miami, and Nova Southeastern University all offer degrees in this field. Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Coastal Zone Management. Moreover, FIT collaborates with government agencies, corporations, and NGOs to provide their students with a diverse range of internship opportunities.

Sustainability is a growth industry for the 21st century, and people continue to be attracted to live and work in coastal areas for the quality of life it provides. Therefore, multiple government agencies, non-profits and industries will look to experts in Coastal Zone Management to help them preserve these regions. Most programs have similar curricula, so find the school that has the right atmosphere and field opportunities that meet your individual needs.