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Sustainability is an increasingly popular Master's in Business Administartion (MBA) specialization. Earning an online MBA in sustainability qualifies graduates for executive management careers in emerging fields, such as renewable energy and social responsibility.
Like general MBA programs, online sustainability MBAs require a significant financial investment. According to Poets & Quants, it costs nearly $200,000 to earn a traditional full-time MBA; however, available online programs yield the same return on investment (ROI), with additional perks. Online MBAs in sustainability tend to offer shorter paths to graduation and more affordable tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts.
What Are the Best Online MBA in Sustainability Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 5:
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|Rank||School||Cost per Credit|
|1||Pennsylvania State University||$1,236|
|2||Oklahoma State University||
|3||Southern New Hampshire University||$627|
|4||Concordia University - Wisconsin||$760|
|5||University of Maine|
Still unsure about your MBA college choice? Check out our overall Best Online MBA Programs.
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What Is an MBA in Sustainability?
Most MBA in sustainability programs include core business and management skills and specialization coursework. Foundational courses cover competencies like accounting, marketing, and business strategy. Students also explore corporate social responsibility, environmental compliance, and sustainable investing.
MBAs in sustainability prepare graduates to promote eco-friendliness in executive leadership positions. Advisors recommend that students pursue internships through organizations, such as environmental protection agencies, conservation centers, and green energy companies.
Many programs culminate in a capstone experience. Schools may offer a variety of MBA format options, including full- or part-time and online or hybrid study.
What Can I Expect From an Online MBA in Sustainability Program?
Sustainability as a major is gaining momentum in all types of graduate programs. As businesses increasingly strive to become "green," they need leaders with business and sustainability expertise. Though students can pursue MAs and MSs in majors like sustainability leadership and environmental conservation, only an MBA in sustainability instills management skills in this discipline.
Online MBAs in sustainability also provide significant career preparation and ROI. Online learners often enjoy accelerated completion options and set or in-state tuition rates.
Example MBA in Sustainability Courses
- Managing Sustainable Operations
- Sustainability Systems
- Corporate Environmental Management
- Sustainable Investing Theory and Practice
- Climate Change Law and Policy
What are Admission Requirements for an MBA in Sustainability Program?
- Test Scores
MBAs in sustainability may accept Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, although the GMAT is more common among graduate business programs. Schools typically require a score of at least 500 on the GMAT or 305 on the GRE. Some MBAs in sustainability may waive this requirement for students with a GPA over 3.25 or significant work experience.
- Letters of Recommendation
Prospective students should pursue letters of recommendation from mentors, professors, employers, or student advisors who can speak to their commitment to sustainability. Examples include recommendations from a former supervisor in the Peace Corps or undergraduate professor of environmental studies.
Students applying to an MBA in sustainability can speak volumes with an impressive resume . Learners can highlight their management experience along with their passion for community service, volunteering, and advocacy projects involving environmental responsibility.
essays give voice to an applicant's experience and aspirations. MBA program admissions expect to gain a broader understanding of a student's particular interest in sustainability through a well-developed personal essay. Unlike undergraduate essay prompts around the general college experience, graduate application essays explore the trajectory of the student's career.
- Official Transcripts
Applicants to an MBA in sustainability program must submit official transcripts to verify the authenticity of their completed coursework and academic records. Schools typically require official transcripts to be mailed directly from the student's undergraduate college. Though rare, some MBAs enable students to transfer up to nine credits toward the degree.
What Can I Do With an MBA in Sustainability Degree?
Graduates with an MBA in sustainability qualify for high-level executive management roles in emerging fields, such as clean energy and environmental responsibility and compliance. Like a general MBA, a focused sustainability degree can serve both entry-level students and professionals who want to change careers.
As a relatively new field of business, sustainability careers are not as competitive as general management positions that may require an MBA. Job-seekers can set themselves apart from other MBA graduates by highlighting their expertise in social entrepreneurship, sustainable investing, and managing sustainability operations. Graduates can advance as high as chief executive or sustainability officer within a nonprofit organization or global energy company.
- Sustainability Manager
Companies employ sustainability managers to improve the company's impact on the environment. Sustainability managers may oversee other departments and help train staff regarding issues in conservation and reducing greenhouse gases. These professionals typically work full time, while sustainability consultants perform similar job duties but in a freelance setting. Learn more about management careers in our business managemnt careers guide
Median Annual Salary: $75,330
- Sustainability Specialist
Sustainability specialists can apply their skills in a variety of roles, including as project managers on environmental protection initiatives and in environmental consulting. For senior project management roles, employers typically prefer students with 4-5 years of management-level work experience, ideally in sustainability or a related field.
Median Annual Salary: $59,470
- Sustainability Consultant
Sustainability consultants help companies to become more eco-friendly. These professionals often work with high-profile clients in the energy and manufacturing industries to reduce waste and overconsumption and minimize the company's carbon footprint. While education requirements vary, most employers prefer candidates with a background in business-related environmentalism.
Median Annual Salary: $68,040
Chief executive officers (CEOs) are often the highest level of management within a company. CEOs with sustainability expertise can become chief sustainability officers (CSOs), presidents, or managing directors of businesses aspiring to adopt eco-friendly practices.
Median Annual Salary: $185,950
- Sustainable Operations Manager
Sustainable operations managers may oversee environmental sustainability projects within an organization or ensure that a facility and its employees comply with sustainability regulations. These professionals need a unique combination of leadership skills and environmental awareness. Graduates with an MBA in sustainability often develop these traits.
Median Annual Salary: $103,650
Sustainability Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Is an MBA in Sustainability Worth It?
Professionals with an MBA in sustainability enjoy enduring benefits, such as an extraordinary ROI. PayScale calculated the average annual salary of sustainability directors, for example, at over $100,000. In addition, MBA programs in sustainability prepare students for careers in expanding new sectors of business, including green energy, environmental protection, and eco-friendly manufacturing.
An MBA in sustainability can also provide fresh job opportunities to experienced businesspeople. Professionals may pursue a "green" MBA after many years in a business field like finance, marketing, or HR management. The BLS counts "green" occupations among the fastest-growing from 2016 to 2026. According to PayScale, sustainability professionals rated their job satisfaction four out of five stars.
In some cases, senior executives with years of experience may benefit from a specialized certificate more than they would with an MBA. For example, a simple certificate can enhance management skills for professionals in the beginning stages of incorporating sustainability programs within their organization.
Why Get an MBA in Sustainability Instead of a Master's in Sustainability?
While there are some similarities, MBA and master's degrees in sustainability mostly differ in their curricular approach and career outcomes. Online MBAs in sustainability prepare students to become high-level managers in business, with specialized skills in sustainability. Graduates are well-versed in sustainability management, investing, and corporate operations.
Non-business master's degrees in sustainability include interdisciplinary coursework in areas of natural and social science, environmental planning, and conservation. Earning a master's in sustainability suits aspiring researchers, academics, and advocates. A sustainability degree can also lead to further study in a technical field, such as environmental engineering or renewable energy manufacturing.
Students looking to keep their options open to multiple sustainability careers may choose a dual MBA/master's degree. Some schools enable students to concurrently earn an MBA and a master's degree in a field like sustainable development or sustainable systems, ideal for aspiring entrepreneurs in the "green" sector.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
How Do I Choose an MBA in Sustainability Program?
While earning an MBA is generally expensive, online MBAs in sustainability can offer the same career benefits as a traditional program, many with set or in-state tuition rates for all U.S. applicants. Location, reputation, and public or private status affect a school's tuition rates. As of 2016-2017, the average graduate tuition cost approximately $11,620 at public institutions and $24,710 at private institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
- Program Format
MBA programs often offer a variety of enrollment options, especially for students looking to earn an online MBA in sustainability. Many schools are known for their entirely online, "flex," or part-time MBA programs.
While many online MBA programs require students to complete coursework at the same pace as the rest of their cohort group, some offer accelerated schedules and/or a choice of synchronous or asynchronous delivery.
Location should factor into a student's choice of schools, even when considering an online MBA. Many online MBAs in sustainability include campus residency requirements, however minimal. Graduate business programs also tend to incorporate an abundance of networking opportunities, which online students may prefer to attend in person. Additionally, local employers may tap recent MBA graduates for top positions.
- Career Opportunities
Many schools boast a successful online MBA as the pinnacle of their academic offerings, measured by a high post-MBA employment rate. Students should consider the variety and quality of each school's career resources, including whether the school works directly with corporate recruiters for graduate placement.
- Programmatic Accreditation
While all legitimate schools that offer MBA degrees are regionally accredited, only some hold optional programmatic accreditation specifically for business or management programs. Online MBAs in sustainability may receive programmatic accreditation from an agency like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
2021 Best Accredited Online MBA in Sustainability Programs
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Pennsylvania State University
|University Park, PA||
Penn State World Campus provides an online MBA program that allows students to choose from 24 different concentrations. Learners who opt to pursue a business sustainability strategy concentration complete a 39-credit MBA core and nine credits in their concentration, taking classes like sustainable supply chain management and sustainability strategy management.
Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MBA program holds specialized accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Pennsylvania State University is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University's online MBA program is a part-time program that students can complete in a year. Learners who complete the business sustainability option complete a 27-credit MBA core and 12 credits dedicated to their specialization. Students take classes like management of sustainable enterprises and corporate and social responsibility.
The curriculum features multimedia content and virtual activities that promote student collaboration. Applicants must submit GMAT or GRE test scores, three professional letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.
Oklahoma State University is accredited by Higher Learning Commission.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University's MBA program provides over 15 career-focused concentrations, including an online MBA in sustainability and environmental compliance. Full-time students can graduate in about a year. Concentration classes focus on various ecological and energy-related challenges and opportunities.
SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Its MBA program holds specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by New England Commission on Higher Education.
Concordia University - Wisconsin
Concordia University-Wisconsin offers an online MBA in sustainability management and analytics that students can earn in less than two years. The curriculum features core business classes like corporate finance, issues in human resources management, and ethics and organizational leadership.
Participants also take 15 credits of specialized courses, choosing from options such as ecological economics and environmental law. The program features hands-on experiences and learners can also prepare to sit for the LEED Green Associate exam.
Concordia University - Wisconsin is accredited by Higher Learning Commission.
University of Maine
Students without an undergraduate business degree can pursue an online MBA at the University of Maine if they complete foundational business courses. Learners who opt to pursue an online MBA with a sustainability concentration complete an eight-course business core as well as three classes focused on sustainability. Students take classes like socially responsible business and marketing, transportation planning and policy, and/or environmental law and policy.
UMaine is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Its MBA program holds specialized accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
University of Maine is accredited by New England Commission on Higher Education.
Frequently Asked Questions About MBA in Sustainability Programs
- Is an MBA in sustainability program hard to get into?
MBA in sustainability programs can be competitive; however, sustainability programs are no harder to get into than an MBA in another concentration.
- What can I do with an MBA in sustainability?
MBA programs in sustainability can lead to careers, such as sustainability manager or consultant or top executive at companies that promote eco-friendliness and sustainability resources.
- Is sustainability a good career?
Sustainability is an emerging specialization of business administration. Sustainability majors learn to reimagine best business practices for environmental protection. Sustainability is also crucial in making the planet livable in the future.
- How much money can I make with an MBA in sustainability?
Salaries vary for sustainability MBA graduates. On the low end, students may earn $60,000 per year as a sustainability specialist, while a top executive, such as the CEO of a sustainability company, can earn an annual salary of $186,000.
- What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with an MBA in sustainability?
Chief executive positions draw the highest salaries, especially in corporate business. Graduates can earn the highest salaries as CEO, president, or executive director of a company with a focus on sustainability.