Enrolling in an online Master’s in sustainability is a great idea for people who have an interest in preserving natural resources and developing communities that are able to thrive without having a large carbon footprint. Having a degree in sustainability will give you insight into ways we can improve our environment and function more efficiently. Every year, we use more and more natural, non-renewable resources. An online Master’s in sustainability program gives students the skills they need to develop more sustainable methods of energy, manage sustainability initiatives, develop policy, and more.
Sustainability also includes finding ways to preserve our environment as well. Methods of sustainability include managing environmentally protected areas, implementing more fuel-efficient practices, and establishing public programs that promote recycling and other practices that keep us from damaging our environment. Sustainability helps to manage efforts on both sides. This includes eliminating wasteful practices and developing practices that encourage sustainability and preservation.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Sustainability Master’s Programs
The editors at Value Colleges focus on overall value, including graduate salary potential, return on investment, and job market reputation. Programs are ranked according to data from IPEDS and Niche, and only accredited, reputable institutions are featured.
1. Harvard University
Harvard University Extension Studies offers an MLA in Sustainability that is ranked among the best masters in sustainability degrees in the nation. Harvard’s best online masters in sustainability programs are also available on the school’s Cambridge campus. This 48-credit graduate degree in sustainability requires degree candidates to complete 12 classes, including a thesis and a choice of an independent research project or a consulting project. Students must complete two classes to earn admission, sustainability and environment management, and critical analysis of environmental systems.
Harvard University is an Ivy League school that was founded in the 1630s, which makes it the oldest school in the nation. More than 19,000 students attend classes offered by this space-grant school.
Highlight: Harvard University is ranked among the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world, with the most alumni and faculty who are Nobel Laureates.
Degree: MLA in Sustainability
Format: Online/On Campus
2. Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology offers an MS in Sustainability Energy and Environmental Management (MSEEM) that prepares students for rewarding careers across industries and sectors, including government agencies, consulting firms, nonprofits, and media corporations, among others. Georgia Institute of Technology’s hybrid program is also ranked among the best masters in sustainability degrees in the Peach Tree State and beyond. This best online masters in sustainability program can be completed in one year for full-time students or two years for part-timers.
Georgia Institute of Technology, a member of the state’s university system, is a multiple-campus institution of higher ed that was developed in the 1880s. In addition to the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, Georgia Tech maintains satellite facilities internationally in France, China, Singapore, and Ireland.
Highlight: Nearly 37,000 postgraduate and undergraduate students attend classes at GA Tech.
Degree: MS in Sustainability Energy and Environmental Management
3. Duke University
Duke University offers the DEL-MEM – the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management degree program that is recognized to be among the most innovative and best masters in sustainability degrees, available online or on the Durham campus. The best online masters in sustainability program requires degree candidates to participate in five place-based learning intensives to complete the degree. A total of 30-semester credits must be completed across core, electives, and a master’s project in sustainability. Most applicants to Duke’s sustainability program have at least six years of professional experience.
Duke University was established in the 1830s as the Brown School by Quakers and Methodists in nearby Trinity. Duke is ranked among the nation’s most elite institutions of higher education, with campuses in Singapore and China that serve more than 15,450 students each year.
Highlight: The university ranks as one of the top private employers in the state of North Carolina.
Degree: Master of Environmental Management
Format: Online/On Campus
4. University of Washington
The University of Washington offers an MS in Construction, Energy, and Sustainable Infrastructure (CESI) degree program is considered among the most innovative and best masters in sustainability degree programs in the Pacific Northwest. The University of Washington’s best online masters in sustainability program is also available as a campus-based degree with an academic focus on construction engineering or energy infrastructure. Degree candidates enrolled in this graduate degree in sustainability can opt for a thesis, coursework, or a research-based paper.
The University of Washington is a public university that was founded in the 1860s – making it one of the oldest schools situated along the west coast. UDub is also recognized as the state’s flagship school that serves more than 47,350 students each year.
Highlight: The University of Washington spends nearly $1.5 billion on R&D each year as a space- and sea-grant school.
Degree: MS in Construction, Energy, and Sustainable Infrastructure
5. Columbia University
Columbia University offers an MS in Earth and Environmental Engineering (EEE) program that can be completed entirely online. Applicants to Columbia University’s best online masters in sustainability program requires 30 academic units to be finished with a Grade Point Average that does not dip below 3.0. Graduates of Columbia University’s best masters in sustainability degree program has been designed for working professionals, offering several completion paths to meet student time constraints. Featured classes include catalysis for emissions control and aquatic chemistry, among others.
Columbia University, established as King’s College in the 1750s, is one of the oldest, most prestigious schools and a recognized Colonial College with ivy league status. The school maintains multiple campuses, with the main campus in New York City.
Highlight: Of the alumni and staff at Columbia, four were presidents, and seven were founding fathers of the United States.
Degree: MS in Earth and Environmental Engineering
6. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan offers a Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in Energy Systems Engineering that includes an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the benefits of the appropriate use of energy technologies. The University of Michigan’s best masters in sustainability degree program can be completed entirely online and requires the completion of ten classes or thirty-semester units to meet program requirements. Depending on the student’s time availability, this best online masters in sustainability program from UM can be completed in only one year for full-time students and two years for part-time students.
The University of Michigan was founded before Michigan reached statehood in 1817. The main campus in Ann Arbor is comprised of three sections that cover more than 3,000 acres, plus a school-maintained arboretum.
Highlight: The University of Michigan established the first medical school in the west in 1850, followed by an engineering program and law school.
Degree: MEng in Energy Systems Engineering
7. Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University’s Energy Institute offers an MS in Energy that can be completed entirely online (requiring 36.5 credits) or on-campus (requiring 32 credits and a thesis). Texas A&M University’s best master’s in sustainability degree program is customizable to meet a student’s academic interests and career objectives. A&M’s best online masters in sustainability program has been developed as an accelerated degree that can be completed in ten months. Interdisciplinary classes are pulled from the School of Government, architectures, Agriculture, Geosciences, Business, Law, and Liberal Arts.
Established in the early 1870s under the Morrill Act, Texas A&M University now operates as the flagship campus in the A&M system and a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution of higher education. More than 72,150 students attend classes offered by A&M.
Highlight: Texas A&M University is proud to hold the distinction of being the Lone Star State’s oldest higher learning institution.
Degree: MS in Energy
8. University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin offers an MS in Sustainable Management that is available 100% online. UW’s best online master’s in sustainability program requires 12 classes to be completed for a total of 34 academic graduate units. The University of Wisconsin’s best masters in sustainability degree program include eight classes, two electives, and two capstone courses to meet program criteria. Featured coursework for US’s graduate degree in sustainable management includes the economics of sustainability, geopolitical systems and policy, law, and the ethics of sustainability, among others.
The University of Wisconsin was established under the Morrill Act’s provisions in the 1840s, the same year Wisconsin was adopted as a state. The school is organized into twenty colleges/schools that serve more than 44,900 students each year.
Highlight: UW is the oldest and the largest institution of higher education in Wisconsin. The university maintains a 1,200-acre arboretum near the school’s campus.
Degree: MS in Sustainable Management
9. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University offers a MS in Environmental Planning and Management or MA in Sustainable Energy – both of which are ranked among the best online master’s in sustainability program available in the marketplace. The MS degree offers academic tracks in energy sciences & policy, energy policy & climate, or environmental and occupational health. The best master’s in sustainability degree program (MA degree) includes these featured classes – energy and environmental policy, sustainable energy governance, systems analysis of sustainable energy, and advance & challenges in sustainable energy, among others.
Johns Hopkins University was chartered in the 1870s and recognized to be the first research institution established in the nation. JHU maintains multiple campuses in the country and internationally that serve more than 26,150 students each year.
Highlight: Hopkins men’s lacrosse team has won an impressive 44 national titles.
Degree: MS in Environmental Planning and Management or MA in Sustainable Energy
10. Arizona State University
Arizona State University offers an MS in Environmental And Resource Management (ERM) that is among Arizona’s best online masters in sustainability programs. Degree candidates enrolled in Arizona State University’s best masters in sustainability degree programs can select from three completion tracks – a thesis, additional coursework, or an applied sustainability project. ASU’s sustainability master’s degree offers students an academic emphasis in – water management. Featured classes include industrial hygiene, air pollution, and environmental leadership, to name a few.
Arizona State University was founded as a school for teacher’s training before Arizona became a state in 1885. This space grant institution of higher education serves more than 125,000 students, making it one of the largest in the nation.
Highlight: ASU has been recognized as one of the top schools for the production of solar energy, with six wind turbines added about a decade ago.
Degree: MS in Environmental and Resource Management
11. University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut offers a cutting-edge Master of Energy and Environmental Management (MEEM) that ranks among New England’s best masters in sustainability degree programs. These best online masters in sustainability programs from the University of Connecticut offer students concentrations in GIS systems, environmental law, or planning & management. Students enrolled in UConn’s graduate degree in environmental management must complete 30 credits, of which 3 are earned by participating in a practicum or internship. Students have the option of adding a concurrent certificate in sustainable environment planning or GIS.
The University of Connecticut was founded in the 1880s as an agricultural school but is now considered a public ivy and the leading public institution of higher education in New England. More than 32,260 students attend classes offered by the University of Connecticut each year.
Highlight: The University of Connecticut is also recognized to be a ‘best value’ school as ranked by Money Magazine and the Princeton Review.
Degree: Master of Energy and Environmental Management
12. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California offers an MS in Green Technologies that can be completed entirely online. USC’s best master’s in sustainability degree program prepares students for careers in industrial engineering, clean energy, environmental engineering, and geosciences, among others. USC’s best online master’s in sustainability program can be completed in only 1.5 years if studying full-time or up to 3 years for part-time students. It is noted that USC’s graduate degree in sustainability and green technologies has no internship or practicum requirement.
Established in 1880, USC or the University of Southern California, operates as a private higher learning institution, historically Methodist, but now nonsectarian. Approximately 50,000 students attend classes online and on-campus each year.
Highlight: The University of Southern California holds the distinction of being the oldest private university in the Golden State.
Degree: MS in Green Technologies
13. Northeastern University
Northeastern University offers an MS in Energy Systems (MSEneS) that is available for part-time and full-time students – entirely online. Full-time students enrolled in Northeastern University’s best masters in sustainability degree program can complete the degree program in only 18 months, with part-timers typically done in 2 years. NEU’s multidisciplinary best online masters in sustainability program requires 32-semester credits with three completion tracks available – a thesis, a project, or coursework option. Featured classes for this program include fundamentals of energy system integration and foundations of accounting for engineers, to name a few.
Northeastern University is a Boston-based private institution of higher education, with campuses located throughout the nation and Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Highlight: Northeastern University was founded as a YMCA program in the late 1800s but is now home to more than 27,550 students, each studying online
Degree: MS in Energy Systems
14. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University offers a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resource Management that is among the most innovative and multidisciplinary best online masters in sustainability programs in Texas and beyond. Texas Tech University’s best masters in sustainability degree program is offered with two academic tracks – natural resources management and ecology and environmental sustainability. Each student must complete an internship or a culminating capstone project to meet TTU requirements.
Texas Tech University was established in the 1920s as the Texas Technological College. TTU is recognized as a designated Hispanic service institution (HSI) that serves approximately 40,150 students each year.
Highlight: Texas Tech University is the alumni to five astronauts and the final commanders of the Columbia Space Shuttle.
Degree: PSM in Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resource Management
15. Penn State World Campus
Penn State World Campus offers a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS) that is available to be completed entirely online without any required residencies at Penn State. This best online master’s in sustainability program from PSWC requires the completion of 33 graduate semester units, covering in-depth issues related to renewable energy. Available careers for graduates of PSWC’s best master’s in sustainability degree program include energy project manager, renewable energy consultancy, or sustainability project manager, among others.
Penn State World Campus is a recognized leader in distance education, founded in 1998. As an extension of the prestigious Penn State University, PSWC now serves nearly 15,000 postgraduate and undergraduate students each year.
Highlight: Penn State University is recognized to have been one of the first schools to introduce distance education more than 100 years ago in 1892.
Degree: MPS in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems
16. University of Massachusetts – Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston offers a Professional Master’s Program in Environmental Sciences degree program that is recognized to be one of Boston’s best online masters in sustainability programs. Students enrolled in the University of Massachusetts’ best masters in sustainability degree program complete 30 graduate semester credits, with 3 attributed to a related internship – which doubles as the student’s capstone. Featured classes for this degree program include quantitative Analysis Core, Business Management, environmental policy, law and management, and professional science communication, to name a few.
The University of Massachusetts (UMASS Boston) is a public institution of higher education that was founded as a state college in the 1850s. The Boston campus, with more than 16,100 students, is ranked the third most diverse in the nation.
Highlight: The University of Massachusetts was chartered under the Morrill Land Act as a land-grant higher learning institution.
Degree: Master of Environmental Management
17. University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky offers an MA in Applied Environmental and Sustainability Studies (AESS) that is one of Kentucky’s most affordable and best online masters in sustainability programs – that is available entirely online. Students are offered two start dates – Spring and Fall, with no GMAT or GRE scores required for admission to the University of Kentucky’s graduate degree. A minimum of 30 graduate semester units for this best master’s in sustainability degree program is required to meet UK’s graduation criteria, which includes both core and electives.
The University of Kentucky is a land-grant school – one of two in the state that was founded in the 1860s as a mechanical/agricultural college. More than 30,250 students attend classes online and on-campus, making the University of Kentucky the state’s largest student enrollment.
Highlight: The Lexington Campus is home to a number of noteworthy landmarks.
Degree: Master’s in Applied Environmental and Sustainability Studies
18. Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University offers an MS in Power Systems and Sustainable Energy (PS&SE) that is designed for students pursuing careers in national research, academia, poser, and energy or government, among others. This best masters in sustainability degree program from SCU is designed for students with an engineering or science background. Coursework for Santa Clara University’s best online masters in sustainability program includes the economics of energy, public policy, storage systems, and the different types of renewable energies, to name a few.
Santa Clara University, located in the California Bay area, was founded by the Jesuits as a college in the 1850s. This Roman Catholic school also operates as a space-grant institution of higher education with more than 8,950 postgraduate and undergraduate students each year.
Highlight: The campus architecture is styled similarly to the Mission Santa Clara de Asis it surrounds.
Degree: MS in Power Systems and Sustainable Energy
19. University of Maryland Global Campus
The University of Maryland Global Campus offers a Master’s In Environmental Management that is recognized to be among the most innovative & best online masters in sustainability programs in Maryland and beyond. Students enrolled in the University of Maryland’s Global Campus’s best masters in sustainability degree program are required to complete 36 credit units to earn the degree. The featured core classes for UM’s graduate sustainability include fundamentals of environmental systems, energy law and policy development, and principles and practices of waste management.
The University of Maryland Global Campus was founded as the University College within UM system in 1947. With more than 90,000 students, the Global Campus is UM’s largest school.
Highlight: UM maintains multiple campuses in the US as well internally in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.
Degree: Master’s in Environmental Management
20. Portland State University
Portland State University offers a Master’s In Environmental Management that is available on-campus or entirely online and ranked, by Best Value Schools,as the fifth-best in the nation. Degree candidates enrolled in PSU’s best online masters in sustainability program must complete 45-semester units to meet Portland State University’s graduation criteria. The featured classes for PSU’s best masters in sustainability degree program includes urban ecology, coastal and marine ecology, and water quality policy and management, plus a practicum or project, to name a few.
Portland State University was developed to serve the needs of veterans of World War II in 1946. The nine colleges/schools at PSU serve a student enrollment of more than 25,450 postgraduate and undergraduate students each year.
Highlight: Portland State University is world-renowned for its green initiatives and has a Gol STARS rating.
Degree: Master’s in Environmental Management
21. University of Denver
The University of Denver offers one of Colorado’s best online master’s in sustainability degree programs with its Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management with a choice of academic emphases in Environmental Management or Energy & Sustainability. Both of UD’s best masters in sustainability degree program requires degree candidates to complete 48 graduate semester units – over twelve classes. Sample core classes include environmental finance & economics, environmental foundations & principles, and environmental protection law, plus a capstone project, to name a few.
The University of Denver was founded in the 1880s as the Colorado Seminary but is now a space-grant school with a student enrollment nearing 13,000 undergraduate & postgraduate students.
Highlight: The University of Dayton holds the distinction of being one of the oldest higher learning institutions in and around the Rocky Mountains.
Degree: Master in Environmental Management or Master’s in Energy and Sustainability
22. University of Dayton
The University of Dayton offers an MS in Renewable and Clean Energy Engineering (RCEE) that is ranked among the best masters in sustainability degree programs in Ohio. The University of Dayton’s best online masters in sustainability degree program offers a thesis and non-thesis track for its 30-credit program. Graduates of this degree program find rewarding careers in renewable energy, energy reductions, and renewable energy development, to name a few.
The University of Dayton is a Catholic higher learning institution dedicated to research that was founded in the 1850s and now is a space-grant university. The school, with more than 11,200 students, is the 2nd largest private university in the state of Ohio.
Highlight: Notable alumni of the University of Dayton include Chuck Noll, Jon Husted, and Erma Bombeck.
Degree: MS in Renewable and Clean Energy Engineering
23. Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University offers a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Environmental Science Management that is considered one of the best online masters in sustainability degree programs in Illinois and surrounding areas. This 36-credit unit best master’s in sustainability degree program from SIU include an optional thesis or final research paper – the student’s choice. In addition to required core classes, students enrolled in Southern Illinois University’s graduate degree program must also complete an internship worth 6 credit units.
Southern Illinois University is a multiple campus institution of higher education that was founded in the late-1860s to serve the southern Illinois area.
Highlight: The campuses and satellite facilities maintained by Southern Illinois University serve more than 15,000 postgraduate and undergraduate students each year.
Degree: PSM in Environmental Science Management
24. Samford University
Samford University offers an MS in Environmental Management (MSEM) that is ranked among the most affordable of Alabama’s best online masters in sustainability degree programs. Students enrolled in Samford University’s best masters in sustainability degree program take 36 credit hours in classes that include environmental law, policy & regulations, energy & the environment, and water management, sustainability, and Environmental Justice, to name a few. Degree candidates must also participate in an internship to graduate.
Samford University was chartered in the 1840s as Howard College, a private Christian institution of higher education. The school’s Homewood suburban campus and online platform serve more than 5,550 students each year.
Highlight: Samford University is organized into nine schools offering programs in divinity, business, arts, law, nursing, health, and pharmacy, to name a few.
Degree: MS in Environmental Management
25. University of Findlay
The University of Findlay offers an MS in Environmental, Safety and Health Management (ESHM) that can be completed entirely online, on-campus, or as a hybrid delivered program. The University of Findlay’s best online master’s in sustainability degree program has received accreditation from the EHAC – the National Environmental Health, Science, and Protection Accreditation Council. Students enrolled in the University of Findlay’s University’s best masters in sustainability degree program can select from an integrated capstone project or integrated capstone report.
The University of Findlay was founded in the 1880s and operates as a private Christian school that serves approximately 4,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students each year.
Highlight: The University of Findlay operates a 75-acre main campus plus a variety of academic and educational facilities as well.
Degree: MS in Environmental Safety and Health Management
Format: Online/ On-Campus
What Can I Do with a Master’s in Sustainability?
With an online Master’s in sustainability, graduates are able to make a difference in the world around them. The changes they help to make are long-ranging and will impact others both locally and across the world. What may seem like a minimal change, may prove to be much larger over the course of time.
Master’s in sustainability jobs can take many forms. People who specialize in urban planning and preservation are able to identify the needs of a community and then put into action a plan that helps to support and preserve the environment while still making sure all of the needs are meant. Urban planning projects often include establishing green areas within urban areas to balance modern construction with natural elements. These areas may include walking paths, picnic areas, city parks, or other green areas that are used for public recreation.
A sustainability manager works to use resources more efficiently. This often means finding a way to incorporate more sustainable resources into a company’s energy portfolio. This eliminates the need for non-renewable resources and may actually save the company money. Using wind turbines, solar panels, and other forms of sustainable energy sources will make a business less dependent on forms of energy that may be harmful to the environment.
A sustainability and environmental manager works to better manage the natural resources within a certain area. This may mean planting trees as others are being removed or installing a hydraulic energy system that converts the flowing water of a river into an energy source. As an environmental manager, it is up to you to find ways to sustain what is available and prevent ongoing damage to the area. Sustainability is essential when it comes to preserving our natural resources. The more resources we can maintain, the more resilient our environment will become.
How Much Can I Make with a Master’s in Sustainability?
Graduating with a Master’s in sustainability can provide you with a decent income if you find the right job. Your education is the key in making the most of your earning potential. When you first start out in an entry-level position you can make approximately $18m500 per year. Add a few years of experience and you can increase your yearly earnings to around $60,000 per year. If you are lucky enough to live in the right area, you may be able to boost your income to well over $125,000 per year.
Another factor that impacts your earning potential is your level of experience. The more experience you have the more hands-on knowledge you have gained. You will be more likely to think outside of the textbook and rely on things that you have learned in the field. Experience is also an excellent guide for what may not work within specific situations. This will allow you to adapt your plans to the current situation.
Location will also play a large role in your earning potential. Different areas of the country may be able to pay more than others. While this may limit you in your earnings, it may prove beneficial in other ways. There are many forms of sustainability. If you choose a specialization that involves working with forestry services, you may find yourself living a quiet life far away from the big city. If you prefer urban areas, you can specialize in a form of sustainability that will allow you to keep your area more naturally balanced.
Your earning potential is up to you. You have many options to choose from, each one with unique opportunities for advancement. Building your career is in your hands!