Sustainability Program and Green Degree Options

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, November 14, 2013

A sustainability degree is a type of environmental degree that focuses on renewable energy, business practices, and other specific policies and procedures related to sustainability in businesses and communities.

Sustainability refers to "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It encompasses business, industry, individuals, governments, and communities. A student pursuing an environmental degree in this field will be educated in sustainable methods that can be practiced by these entities and also research new sustainable ideas for the future.

This is a relatively new field of study, but the need for this industry is growing exponentially, and it is likely that sustainability programs or "green degrees" will be offered at many more schools within the coming years.

Green Degree Options

Sustainability Certification

Some universities are offering a 15 hour or 18 hour certification course in sustainability. These courses teach students how to assess and solve sustainability problems in businesses and communities. They also focus on conserving natural resources and designing workable solutions for governments at the local, state, and national level. This certification can be a good supplement for current professionals or can be used as a gateway to the industry for new students. It can lead to low-level jobs and serve as a springboard to a more complete sustainability education.

Associate's Degree

An associate's degree in sustainability requires approximately 60 hours of course work and is available from a handful of colleges and universities. This type of environmental degree includes a basic introduction to sustainability practices for business, manufacturing, government, and individuals. The associate's degree in sustainability is used as a springboard for a bachelor's degree or as supplemental education for professionals already in the field.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in sustainability is offered from a growing number of colleges and universities.  Most often, it is referred to as a Bachelor of Science in sustainability. Pursuing this type of degree allows you to specialize in sustainable energy and materials, economics of sustainability, and sustainable ecosystems. The curriculum will explore policies; procedures; and research regarding sustainability on a local, regional, national, and global scale.

Advanced Degrees

There are few advanced sustainability degrees currently available, but the amount of offerings is growing each year. However, the variety of these degrees is quite diverse and includes everything from a Master of Science in Sustainable Design to a Master of Business Administration in Sustainability. Pursuing the master's degree programs requires 2 years of full-time education, but will qualify you for high-profile, lucrative positions upon graduation.

There are also a handful of doctorates available in this field, including a Doctorate of Sustainable Agriculture, a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Sustainability Science and Engineering.

Sustainability Program Options

Here are a handful of the current high-profile sustainability programs offered in the nation, though many more are offered from online universities and other colleges.

  • The Arizona State University School of Sustainability is one of the first schools dedicated to sustainability and was also named one of the "Greenest" by the Princeton Review.
  • The Portland State University Sustainability Program focuses on community food systems, integrated water resource management, intelligent transportation systems, social sustainability, economic sustainability, environmental science and green technology development, environmental sustainability, sustainable business processes and practices, and sustainable urban development.
  • At the University of California at Berkley, students and faculty have a chance to work with the Transportation Sustainability research center at its Institute of Transportation Studies.
  • Engineering students at Iowa State University can take part in the college's sustainability research initiative. Topics include supply chain management, renewable energy, and recycling of materials.
Sustainability Programs
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