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Earning a graduate certificate in sustainability online allows you to maintain your employment while earning a certificate that can enhance your current degree and experience. Students can also get their graduate certificate in environmental management and sustainability online while engaging in a traditional or online degree program. The graduate certificate in sustainability is usually offered by colleges as a stand-alone program that complements majors such as environmental studies, social sustainability, and ecological economics. Earning an online graduate certificate in sustainability can also open up new avenues of employment that may not otherwise have been an option.
Getting your certificate in sustainability online also has practical considerations in the form of time savings, the elimination of a commute to a campus, and flexibility. You get to earn your certificate from home and get the same education you would receive in a traditional college setting. This helps you save wear and tear on your car since you don’t have to drive the extra miles to the campus, lets you work from the comfort of your own home and computer, and the ability to do your schoolwork at a pace that suits you. In return, you get a graduate certificate that is every bit as valid as if you had attended school in person.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Sustainability Certificate Programs
For the Value Colleges ranking of the best online graduate certificates in sustainability, editors feature accredited, trusted colleges and universities offering an online program. Programs are ranked by tuition cost, graduate salary, and job market reputation, using data from IPEDS and Niche.
The University of California at Los Angeles offers a Sustainability Certificate that is available entirely online or on-campus in Los Angeles. UCLA sustainability certificate program is considered among California’s best online sustainability certificate programs. This certificate in sustainability is suitable for professionals in the areas of environmental affairs, renewable energy, political strategists, or waste facility managers, to name a few. While most students complete the certificate program in about a year, although it can be completed in as few as six months.
UCLA was established in 1919 and operates as a space and land-grant higher learning institution. The LA campus of the. The University of California is the 2nd oldest member of the UC system with a student enrollment that exceeds 45,550 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Highlight: The University of California at Los Angeles received more than 166,000 applications for 2021, making it the school with the most applications in the nation.
Degree: Sustainability Certificate
2. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers a graduate-level Certificate of Professional Development in Urban Agriculture that is recognized among Illinois’ best online sustainability certificate programs. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s urban agricultural graduate certificate program is offered as a part-time study of three courses designed for working learners and professionals. These include horticulture and crop sciences, to name a few.
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the state’s flagship school, having been established in the 1860s as an industrial university. In addition to being a land-grant higher learning institution, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign operates as a space and sea-grant institution of higher education with a yearly student enrollment of nearly 57,000 each year.
Highlight: The school maintains a Research Park which is home to innovation divisions for many start-ups and international corporations.
Degree: Certificate of Professional Development in Urban Agriculture
3. Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) Energy Institute offers a Certificate in Energy that can be completed online or in College Station at TAMU. These best online sustainability certificate programs from Texas A&M University provide an interdisciplinary approach, pulling from various industry, government, and relevant academic topics. This sustainability certificate can be completed in ten months and offers a variety of topics to meet most students’ issues. Featured classes include energy accounting, the global energy future, economics of energy, and international energy law, to name a few.
Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) was established in the mid-1870s under the Morrill Act. At present, Texas A&M University operates as a senior military college as well as a space and sea-grant, a flagship higher learning institution. Nearly 73,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students attend classes online and on-campus each year.
Highlight: The university’s main campus is home to the Bush Presidential Library and covers more than 5,400 acres making it one of the largest in the nation.
Degree: Certificate in Energy
4. North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Assessment that prepares students to stay current with current regulations and emerging technologies. NCSU’s environmental Assessment certificate is recognized among the best online sustainability certificate programs in North Carolina and beyond. Students must complete 12 graduate semester units in classes that include global environmental law and policy, environmental stressors, and environmental monitoring and analysis, to name a few.
Established in the 1880s as a land-grant school, North Carolina State University now operates as a research space and sea-grant institution of higher education. North Carolina State University maintains multiple campuses in North Carolina that serve approximately 36,100 undergraduate & postgraduate students.
Highlight: North Carolina State University operates special programs in global management, writers’ workshops, and entrepreneurship.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Environmental Assessment
5. University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin offers a Sustainability and Well-Being Graduate Certificate program that working professionals can be completed entirely online. Classes for one of Wisconsin’s best online sustainability certificate programs include corporate social responsibility, behavior and development of organizations, contemporary health & wellness perspectives, and the built environment. Completion of these four classes, for a total of 12-semester units, meets the University of Wisconsin’s mandated course requirements.
The University of Wisconsin was chartered in the late 1840s as a land-grant school the same year Wisconsin entered the union. The university’s campus covers nearly 1,000 acres and serves approximately 45,450 students each year.
Highlight: The University of Wisconsin is considered a public ivy. The school maintains a 1,200-acre historical landmark/arboretum a few miles from its Madison campus.
Degree: Sustainability and Well-Being Graduate Certificate
6. Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability offers a Sustainability Graduate Certificate that is among the best online sustainability certificate programs available in the marketplace. This certificate in sustainability from Arizona State University requires the completion of five courses – delivered in 7.5-week modules. This certificate program from Arizona State University prepares students for careers as a program consultant, a water resource specialist, a community engagement manager, a sustainability/environmental specialist, and an energy innovation specialist, to name a few.
Founded as a teacher’s training school in the 1880s, Arizona State University now operates as a space-grant institution of higher learning with an on-campus and online student enrollment nearing 150,000 students. The university offers more than 800 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs.
Highlight: Arizona State University operates four primary campuses in the greater Phoenix metro area, plus a robust virtual campus.
Degree: Sustainability Graduate Certificate
7. Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University offers a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability that requires certificate candidates to complete a minimum of 12 certificate hours to earn the sustainability certificate. In addition, Wake Forest University’s sustainability certificate is recognized among Winston-Salem’s best online sustainability certificate programs. Wake Forest University’s graduate certificate in sustainability includes four classes in sustainability law, sustainable organizational management, global human systems, and natural science for sustainability.
Wake Forest University is a research school that was founded by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in 1834. Currently, Wake Forest University has no religious affiliation and operates several campuses across North Carolina, and owns properties in Venice, London, and Vienna.
Highlight: Notable alumni include Maya Angelou, Brian Piccolo, Muggsy Bogues, and Arnold Palmer, to name a few.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Sustainability
8. University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado Denver offers a Managing for Sustainability Certificate at the graduate level that ranks among Denver’s best online sustainability certificate programs. The University of Colorado’sgraduate degree in sustainability has been developed to meet the needs of working learners and professionals. This certificate from the University of Denver requires candidates to complete four classes that may include entrepreneurship and emerging markets, sustainable change leadership, supply chain management and managing for sustainability, to name a few. Note, the program concludes with the submission of a related project.
The Denver campus of the University of Colorado is a research institution of higher learning that was established in 1912 as an educational learning center. The university’s urban campus in Mile High City serves more than 13,100 postgraduate and undergraduate students each year.
Highlight: The University of Colorado Denver became an independent school in 1964.
Degree: Managing for Sustainability Certificate
9. University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut offers a Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management Graduate Certificate that ranks among New England’s most innovative and best online sustainability certificate programs. This 12-certificate credit program from the University of Connecticut can be completed in as few as 12 months, with an average completion time of 16 months. Credits earned in the certificate program may be applied towards the school’s graduate degree in energy and environmental management.
The University of Connecticut was chartered in the 1880s as an agricultural institution of higher education. It operates as a land, sea, and space-grant university and is considered a public ivy. The University of Connecticut’s student enrollment exceeds 32,550 students, studying online and on its multiple campuses in Connecticut.
Highlight: The University of Connecticut’s main campus and initial funding were provided by two brothers – Augustus & Charles Storrs.
Degree: Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management Graduate Certificate
10. Clemson University
Clemson University offers a Renewable Energy Certificate that is among South Carolina’s most innovative and best online sustainability certificate programs. This certificate requires candidates to complete 3 classes that cover the areas of wind power, grid penetration, and solar power. Those wishing to apply to Clemson University’s certificate in sustainability must hold a baccalaureate degree in engineering or physics, plus meet prerequisite classes requirements and a working knowledge of DC and AC circuit theory for admission.
Clemson University was established in the late 1880s as a land grant, agricultural school under the Morrill Act. The school’s campus at the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills serves nearly 26,000 students and covers more than 1,250 acres.
Highlight: Clemson University also. Maintains an educational and research forest near the school’s campus that covers more than 17,000 acres.
Degree: Renewable Energy Certificate
11. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University and the National Wind Institute offers a Wind Energy Graduate Certificate with two tracks for working professionals – a technical energy track or a managerial track. TTU’s best online sustainability certificate programs require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree for admission to the program and to complete a minimum of 15 credit units to graduate. Featured required classes for this certificate include advanced managerial wind energy I & II, plus three electives.
Texas Tech University was established as a technological college in the 1920s. This research university is home to more than 40,100 students vying for the more than 140 programs offered by the university’s 13 schools/colleges. Texas Tech University is recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution of higher education.
Highlight: The Spanish-themed campus in Lubbock has been described as one of the most beautiful by well-known author James Michener.
Degree: Wind Energy Graduate Certificate
12. University of Houston
The University of Houston offers a Power Electronics and Renewable Energy Technologies Graduate Certificate through its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) that has been developed for the global industrial marketplace and industry. Students enrolled in these best online sustainability certificate programs complete coursework that relates to the oil/gas, utility, renewable energy, and power industries, to name a few. Graduates of the University of Houston’s sustainability certificate programs are prepared for leadership roles in the business and technical realms of the electrical industry. The University of Houston’s renewable energy certificate program can be completed in as few as 12 months.
The University of Houston is a research school that was established as a junior college in the late 1920s. The university’s student enrollment exceeds 45,000, which makes it the 3rd largest in the Lone Star State.
Highlight: The University of Houston offers more than 275 programs through its 16 schools/colleges.
Degree: Power Electronics and Renewable Energy Technologies Graduate Certificate
13. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation offers a Certificate in Energy & Environmental Policy that is among the most innovative and best online sustainability certificate programs in Illinois and beyond. This program requires coursework and a final culminating research project. The urban track covers relevant topics on how human interaction impacts the urban environment. Coursework includes urban planning, emerging urban science, and capitalizing on urban design interests and growth, to name a few.
The University of Chicago (Chicago) was chartered in 1890. This private institution of higher learning maintains multiple campuses in and around the Chicago area (and online) that serve more than 18,250 students each year.
Highlight: The University of Chicago has been consistently recognized among the top universities in the world, with US News & World Report ranking the business school best in the country and the Economist ranking it best across the globe.
Degree: Certificate in Energy & Environmental Policy
14. Penn State World Campus
Penn State World Campus offers a Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy that offers multiple start dates each year for working professionals. Students enrolled in one of the best online sustainability certificate programs in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. PS World Campus’s sustainability certificate requires the completion of 12-semester credits. Featured classes for this solar energy certificate include solar resource economics, commercial solar electric systems, and solar project development and finance, to name a few.
Penn State World Campus operates as the state university’s distance learning platform. Penn State World Campus was developed in 1998 and now offers more than 125 online degree and certificate programs available at the graduate & undergraduate levels. Nearly 15,000 students attend classes offered by Penn State World Campus each year.
Highlight: US New ranks many of PSWC’s online programs as top ten options in the nation – including the MBA and graduate engineering programs, among others.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Solar Energy
15. Colorado State University
Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability offers a graduate certificate in Applied Global Stability, which is one of the best online sustainability certificate programs offered in the Colorado education marketplace. This certificate offers three academic specialties that include natural resources, water resources, and agriculture. Students enrolled in Colorado State University’s online global environment certificate can complete the program in about twelve months. All three tracks must complete the class covering issues in global environmental stability, plus electives like urban horticulture and sustainable agriculture, among others.
Established as a land-grant school under the Morrill Act in the 1870s, Colorado State University now operates as a space-grant research school with a student enrollment of approximately 35,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Highlight: The Fort Collins campus is located at the base of the Southern Rocky Mountain’s Front Range.
Degree: Applied Global Stability Certificate
16. Oregon State University
Oregon State University offers a Sustainable Natural Resources Graduate Certificate that is among the Pacific Northwest’s best online sustainability certificate programs. This certificate in sustainability requires candidates to complete at least 18 credits to meet program requirements. Coursework is organized into these relevant areas, management of sustainable natural resources, integration, and human dimensions. Oregon State University offers this graduate certificate with three start dates in the Fall, Winter, and Spring.
Oregon State University was founded in the 1860s and is one of only four schools that are four-designated schools – land, sea, space, and sun-grant. The university maintains a campus in Corvallis, Bend, and online.
Highlight: Oregon State University, through partnership agreements, offers educational opportunities in Bulgaria, New Zealand, India, and Australia.
Degree: Sustainable Natural Resources Graduate Certificate
17. University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky offers an Applied Environmental & Sustainability Studies Graduate Certificate that prepares students for leadership roles across sectors in the field of environmental studies and sustainability. The University of Kentucky’s best online sustainability certificate programs requires 12 credits to complete and three start dates each year. This interdisciplinary program from the University of Kentucky prepares candidates to assess and evaluate environmental problems from a multitude of perspectives.
The University of Kentucky was founded as a mechanical & agricultural college in the mid-1860s. Its roots can be traced back to Transylvania University – which existed before Kentucky became a state. Further, the University of Kentucky is a space and land-grant institution of higher education that maintains fifteen libraries across in Lexington campus.
Highlight: More than 30,000 postgraduate and undergraduate students attend classes online and on-campus.
Degree: Applied Environmental & Sustainability Studies Graduate Certificate
18. University of Nevada Las Vegas
The University of Nevada Las Vegas offers a Graduate Certificate in Solar and Renewable Energy (SRE) that is recognized among Nevada’s best online sustainability certificate programs. Applicants to the University of Nevada must hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education to be eligible for admission. This 18-credit certificate program from UNLV requires the completion of solar and renewable energy utilization, plus four other electives from various relevant fields.
The University of Nevada’s Las Vegas campus was founded as a divisional campus in 1957. UNLV operates as a member of the state’s university system and a space and land-grant school. The university’s 300+ acre campus and online platform serve more than 30,600 students each year.
Highlight: The first classes offered by UNLV were held in a local high school classroom until the first school building was funded by a state legislative action.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Solar and Renewable Energy
19. American Public University
American Public University offers a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Sustainability that can be completed entirely online. Students enrolled in American Public University’s best online sustainability certificate programs study sustainability from the perspective of the environment, science, society, economy, government, and technology. Students must complete at least 18-semester units but may transfer up to 9 credits if they meet the school’s eligibility requirements. Students are offered rolling admissions, available each month.
American Public University is a for-profit school that was founded in 1991 as the American Military University by a retired Marine Corp. major. American Public University offers online classes with a student enrollment of about 46,000 and more than 100,000 alumni living across the globe.
Highlight: American Public University is recognized to operate as an open enrollment higher learning institution.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Environmental Sustainability
20. University of Nevada Reno
The University of Nevada Reno offers a Graduate Renewable Energy Certificate (GREC) that is one of the most innovative and best online sustainability certificate programs available in the Nevada marketplace and beyond. Enrolled students are required to complete a minimum of 12 credits. This includes a choice of 4 classes from an approved list of ten options. In addition, this UN Reno program is available for VA Education Benefits and may qualify for professional education hours for professional engineers or teachers in the state of Nevada.
The University of Nevada @ Reno (UN Reno) was established as a land grant school in 1874. The school is home to a large-scale structure lab that allows students to participate in the modeling of earthquake-resistant and large-scale structures.
Highlight: More than 20,650 students attend classes offered by this space-grant school in Reno, Nevada.
Degree: Graduate Renewable Energy Certificate
21. University of Massachusetts Lowell
The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers a Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Engineering that prepares students to understand clean energy and the ways to implement solutions to energy challenges. The University of Massachusetts’ best online sustainability certificate programs can be completed in as few as nine months and offers some of the most affordable tuition rates in New England and beyond. These four courses, 12 credit-hour graduate certificate from UMass Lowell, allow engineering professionals to explore practical solutions in design, development, and research.
UMass Lowell was founded as a teacher’s training school in the mid- 1890s. The Lowell campus now operates as a space-grant school and the second-largest public institution of higher education in Massachusetts. The Lowell and satellite campuses in Haverhill of the University of Massachusetts serve more than 18,250 students each year, with an online student enrollment that exceeds 30,000.
Highlight: UMass maintains real-world labs in nuclear engineering, particle physics, and radiation.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Engineering
22. Ball State University
Ball State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability that is ranked among the best online sustainability certificate programs designed for working professionals who wish to further their careers and education. This program from Ball State University is offered entirely online, in one-credit modules delivered in only five weeks. In addition, Ball State University’s sustainability certificate offers three focus areas – economic focus, environmental focus, or social focus. Other featured classes include business ethics and the environment, waste and human health, and environmental law, to name a few.
Ball State University is a multiple-campus university that was founded in 1918 as a state-run normal school with 235 students. The campuses that serve more than 15,000 students are located in Muncie, Indianapolis, and Fishers, Indiana.
Highlight: Ball State’s strategic plan includes significant environmentally sustainability vision and standards.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Sustainability
23. Ohio University
Ohio University offers an Environmental Sustainability Graduate Certificate (ESGC) that is considered one of Ohio’s best online sustainability certificate programs. This graduate sustainability degree from Ohio University requires 15 credits to complete, with two core classes and the remainder chosen by the student as electives. Featured classes include concepts in environmental sustainability and environmental sustainability assessment, plus electives to finish the requirements. This program is available as a stand-alone or part of the MS in Environmental Studies as an add-on.
Ohio University was founded as an Act of Congress in 1804 and the first higher learning institution in the state of Ohio. Ohio University operates as a space-grant school with multiple campuses that serve more than 28,140 students each year.
Highlight: Ohio University maintains regional campuses in Chillicothe, St Clairsville, Ironton, Lancaster, and Zanesville.
Degree: Environmental Sustainability Graduate Certificate
24. University of Denver
The University of Denver’s University College offers two Energy and Sustainability Certificate that prepares students to become future leaders of environmental solutions for emerging issues. Students enrolling led the University of Denver’s best online sustainability certificate programs can complete the four classes in as few as six months, with most students completing the program in one year. The University of Denver also offers a 24-credit energy and sustainability certificate that requires 24 credits to meet program mandates.
The University of Denver is recognized as the oldest private institution of higher learning located in the Rocky Mountain region. Established in the mid-1860s as the Colorado Seminary, the University of Denver now operates as a nonsectarian space-grant school, which was originally established by the Methodist Church.
Highlight: The University of Denver maintains twelve colleges and schools, plus a variety of institutes and centers in the area of law, conflict resolution public policy, international security/diplomacy, and comparative regional studies, to name a few.
Degree: Energy and Sustainability Certificate
25. Drexel University
Drexel University offers a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable and Green Construction that ranks among the most affordable and best online sustainability certificate programs in the greater Philadelphia area. This 15-credit program in sustainability from Drexel includes coursework in LEED concepts, sustainable technologies, principles, and practice of sustainability and community impact analysis, to name a few. Applicants to this sustainability program must hold a bachelor’s degree (in engineering, construction management, or a business-related subject) from a regionally accredited higher learning institution if required to be admitted to the program.
Drexel University was founded by the renowned financier Anthony Drexel as an art and science institute in 1891. Drexel offers cooperative education in which students have the opportunity to earn 1.5 years of full-time work experience.
Highlight: More than 15,300 students attend online and on-campus programs offered by Drexel University.
Degree: Graduate Certificate in Sustainable and Green Construction
What Kinds of Jobs are there in Sustainability?
Sustainability is a relatively new field, and it’s one that stands on its own as well as attached to related disciplines. Jobs in sustainability tend to be focused in the environmental fields as more corporations and organizations seek to return to the earth what was taken from it. Some jobs in sustainability are found in ecology, urban planning, landscape architecture, geology, and more. The field of sustainability is poised for growth as major businesses start looking at becoming responsible stewards of the planet in order to protect their own existence as well as that of the ecology and geography they rely upon to supply their raw materials. Jobs in sustainability include:
Jobs in environmental sustainability seek to maintain ecosystems and help them resist radical changes from outside forces. This type of work focuses on ways to extract resources from the ecosystem with minor disruption so the resources can recover and flourish. The kinds of jobs available in environmental sustainability vary and depend on the field that uses natural resources.
Working in sustainability consulting gives you the option to work for yourself, or for a consulting firm, and devise sustainability solutions for organizations. Jobs in sustainability consulting typically involve looking at a site of interest, investigating its biodiversity, and devising ways to make the intended use for the land fit with the existing ecology.
Jobs in corporate sustainability focus on creating business strategies that help a corporation become more sensitive to intangible concerns such as social, environmental, cultural, economic, and ethical. These concerns may not have a physical component, but they affect a corporation’s ability to perform and succeed. Jobs in corporate sustainability seek to help a corporation become more in tune with current sentiments.
Growing crops has a negative effect on the land and sea when proper land stewardship and management principles aren’t observed. Jobs in food sustainability for crops seek to help farmers earn money while protecting the land as well as creating biodiversity. Other jobs in food sustainability work towards reducing waste, finding ways to grow food with minimal use of pesticides and fertilizers, and protecting fisheries from overfishing.
How Much Can I Make with a Certificate in Sustainability?
The average salary for someone with a certificate in sustainability depends on the underlying degree and career focus. For example, the average sustainability consultant salary is $67,220 and can easily reach higher amounts. Someone who has earned a business degree or MBA and adds a graduate sustainability certificate to their credentials can easily earn a higher sustainability consulting salary due to their knowledge of business practices, accounting, and an understanding of sustainability principles.
The sustainability consultant salary is just one example of the average compensation for an individual role in the field of sustainability. The field of sustainability is poised for strong growth as many companies and industries are seeing the end results of their impact on the environment, and realizing they have to make efforts to change. People who have professional degrees that want to make a difference in the environment, see social change and business ethics improve, can do so by earning a professional certificate in sustainability. There are multiple pathways in the area of sustainability which makes it easy to find a program that’s complimentary to an existing degree.