The Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is the most popular educational pathway among graduate students in the United States. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 190,000 master's degrees in business were awarded during the 2013-14 academic year alone, outnumbering the second-ranked master's field (computer science) by more than 30,000 recipients. MBA pathways are popular because they prepare students for executive-level roles in both the public and private sectors; MBA-holders also earn some of the highest annual salaries of all master's graduates. A large number of colleges and universities allow students to focus their MBA studies on a specific area of business administration. These concentrated pathways are known as 'specializations', and the field of 'sustainability' is becoming a popular specialization choice among today's MBA students.
The term 'sustainable business' refers to any profit-generating organization that successfully minimizes its negative effect on the surrounding environment and resources, while also enriching the local community through social programs and opportunities. This is known as meeting the triple bottom line. Sustainability is emphasized and encouraged in today's corporate world, and those who pursue MBAs in this field are well-positioned to compete for jobs at companies and organizations striving to make a positive difference. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their MBA in sustainability online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, often leading to the same number of post-degree job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format and flexible, study-from-home schedule are ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other important commitments.
What are the best sustainability MBA programs of 2020? Here are our top 4:
|1||Concordia University Wisconsin||Mequon, WI|
|2||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|3||Wilmington University||New Castle, DE|
|4||University of Saint Francis||Fort Wayne, IN|
Learn more about what you can do with an online MBA in sustainability and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE MBA IN SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
An MBA in sustainability will equip students with the knowledge, skills and real-world experience needed to launch a successful career in sustainable business. The curriculum will approach foundational areas of business administration — including finance and accounting, sales and marketing, human resources and project management — from the perspective of a sustainable business manager or leader. Students will ultimately learn methods and strategies for reaching the triple bottom line: increasing profits, minimizing environmental damage and supporting local communities. Additionally, many online MBA in sustainability programs culminate in capstone course, which requires students to draw on everything they have learned in order to create and present a sustainable business model. Internships may also be available, as well, allowing students to receive supervised training from different industry experts.
WILL AN ONLINE MBA IN SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
MBA online programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional higher learning. Students are able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. Current technology also enables them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online supply chain management MBA students can usually coordinate internship opportunities at offices and manufacturing centers that are within a reasonable distance from their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MBA IN SUSTAINABILITY?
Students who leave school with an MBA in sustainability often go on to work for companies, firms, organizations and agencies that adhere to the key principles of this field. Many find their niche in fields like finance and accounting, sales and marketing, human resources or project management. Others work as outside sustainability consultants, offering advice to business leaders who wish to improve the financial, environmental and social effects of their organizations. Additionally, some graduates thrive as entrepreneurs, establishing and growing startup companies into fully-fledged sustainable businesses.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MBA IN SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online MBA in sustainability programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online MBA in sustainability, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
2020 Best Accredited Online MBA in Sustainability Programs
Concordia University Wisconsin
|Mequon, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Established in 1881, CUW is a private university affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. CUW's department of business hosts an online MBA in sustainability management and analytics that teaches students how to innovate productions and operations in an environmentally sustainable way.The 36-credit curriculum includes areas of studies in decision science, environmental chemistry and toxicology, and environmental law. Full-time online students can earn their degree within two years. Students in this MBA program often secure careers as sustainability specialists, sustainability officers, and industrial ecologists.Prospective students must submit a one-page essay, letters of recommendations, and a resume. CUW holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
SNHU — located in Manchester — offers an online MBA degree with a concentration in sustainability and environmental compliance. Students in this 36-credit program explore green business practices and ways to apply them to current environmental problems.
Learners can complete coursework in 15 months by taking two classes per 10-week term. Potential core topics include business law, marketing and strategy, and leading in an organization. To fulfill concentration requirements, students take three sustainability-focused courses: environment issues, energy and society, and environment compliance.This program prepares students for careers with renewable energy associations, ecological advocacy organizations, and municipal regulatory agencies. This program accepts up to 12 transfer credits.
|New Castle, DE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 24%||
Located in New Castle, Delaware, WilmU currently enrolls over 20,000 students across its six campus locations. The private university also offers more than 125 online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including an MBA program with a concentration in sustainability.Comprising 12 courses and 36 credits, this curriculum teaches participants essential communication, critical thinking, and ethical decision-making skills. Classes are organized through a seven-week format, allowing students to continue working full time while pursuing their degree. The sustainability concentration includes topics such as strategic planning for sustainability, principles of business sustainability, and project management.The university delivers coursework synchronously through the Canvas learning management system. Online students enjoy access to the same advising and tutoring services as on-campus learners.
University of Saint Francis
|Fort Wayne, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
Founded in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, USF moved to its current location in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1944. This Catholic university oversees an online MBA in sustainability program that full-time students can complete in one year.The program emphasizes ethics and the environment and encourages an eco-friendly approach to business decisions. Courses occur in eight-week sessions, with most students taking 1-2 classes at a time. In addition to the core curriculum, students take three concentration courses: foundations of sustainability, integrated remote sensing, and renewable energy innovations.Learners are paired with a dedicated success coach who helps connect them with instructors and career services. Online students at USF receive access to live tutoring sessions every Sunday through Thursday.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online MBA in Sustainability Program?
|How Long is an Online MBA Program?||18 months to 2 years|
|Program costs (when available)||$25,000 to $50,000|
|Concentrations||Management, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Supply Chain Logistics, Sales and Marketing, Project Management, International Business|
|Additional Considerations||Many MBA programs require candidates to sit for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and some require a minimum score. However, not all MBA programs require a GMAT score for admission.|
WHAT TO EXPECT AS A STUDENT IN AN ONLINE MBA IN SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM
Most online sustainability MBA programs consist of three different types of courses: core; specialization; and MBA electives. Core courses are found in the majority of MBA programs, regardless of the institution or degree specialization. These include studies in information analysis, international business, strategy, entrepreneurship, marketing, and business law and ethics.
Specialization courses typically consist of five to 10 modules specifically dedicated to the fields of sustainability and sustainable business. Students should expect specialization coursework to cover areas like triple bottom line strategy, resource management, sustainable modeling, organizational behavior, sustainable operations and supply chain, and marketing and advertising sustainable products and services. The remaining elective often involve a blend of general MBA and sustainability-oriented business courses.
It's crucial to research the accreditation status of an MBA program before fully committing to it. In the U.S., online MBA in sustainability programs usually receive accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). In addition to programmatic accreditation, make sure that the college or university has received regional or national accreditation.
JOB PLACEMENT: MBA IN SUSTAINABILITY
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the the business management sector are expected to increase by 6% — or roughly 505,000 jobs — between 2014 and 2024. This growth rate is slightly lower than the projected growth rate for all industries, which is currently 7%. Employees with an MBA in sustainability are often considered top candidates for executive and supervisory roles at sustainable companies.
Unemployment rates in the sustainable business sector vary by job title. Using current data from U.S. News & World Report, the following table compares unemployment rates among the most popular job titles in sustainable business administration and operations.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2017)|
|Operations Research Analyst||2.6%|
|Human Resources Specialist||2.7%|
|Market Research Analyst||3.1%|
|Business Operations Manager||3.9%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
The unemployment average for all nine occupations is 2.79%; by comparison, the average unemployment rate for all occupations nationwide is currently set at 4.7%.
EARNING A LIVING
Like unemployment rates, the earning potential of an employee with an MBA in sustainability will largely depend on their specific professional title. Other factors to consider include experience level, employer size and city/state of employment. The next table looks at career salary growth expectations for five of the most common job titles for sustainability MBA recipients.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Small Business Owner/ Operator||$47,955||$50,285||$59,830||$67,586|
|Human Resources (HR) Director||$59,876||$76,923||$91,016||$97,798|
All five occupations experience salary growth of at least 40% after 20 years on the job. Marketing directors reported the highest growth rate: a 93.4% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. HR directors ranked second with 63.3% salary growth, followed closely by sustainability directors with 63.2% growth.
Those who earn an MBA in sustainability will be qualified for dozens of positions throughout the sustainable business sector. Four of the most popular career pathways for these graduates are outlined below.
Logisticians: Logisticians are responsible for the various resources that make up an organization's supply chain, including materials, tools, manpower, transportation and finances. In sustainable businesses, logisticians are particularly concerned with streamlining the supply chain to make it more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally-friendly.
Management Analysts: Also known as management consultants, management analysts meet with executives and business leaders to discuss ways to improve daily operations, supply chain management and other facets of the organization. Sustainable business consultants emphasize the importance of minimizing environmental impact, generating high profits and creating opportunities that benefit local communities.
Operations Research Analysts: Much like management consultants, these analysts are sought to help optimize the day-to-day operations of companies, organizations and government agencies. They use complex algorithms and statistical analyses to pinpoint areas where improvement is needed and identify solutions that address these problems in a sustainable, efficient way.
Top Executives: Executives create policies, strategies and long-term objectives for companies and organizations; in the startup sector, business founders often fill executive roles. Executive titles include chief executive officers (CEOs), chief operating officers (COOs), chief financial officers (CFOs) and general/divisional managers (also known as middle managers).
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Logisticians||$74,260||2% (+2,500 jobs)|
|Management Analysts||$81,320||14% (+103,200 jobs)|
|Operations Research Analysts||$78,630||30% (+27,600 jobs)|
|Top Executives||$102,690||6% (+147,000 jobs)|
Source: Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to sustainability is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for sustainable business personnel. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- American Sustainable Business Council: This 501(c)(4) organization represents more than 200,000 organizations and 325,000 individual employees working in the business sector. As a leading advocate for sustainable operations, the ASCB's online action center features the latest news on initiatives related to climate and energy, food labeling, healthcare and other hot topics in the business world.
- Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals: Considered the world's leading professional organization for the supply chain field, CSCMP offers six different membership options in order to accommodate a large pool of candidates. The organization also offers a three-tier certification program known as SCPro.
- Association of MBAs: Based in London, AMBA is the only international organization specifically dedicated to educating, supporting and connecting MBA graduates across different industries. Members are given a platform to network with fellow MBA-holders from more than 200 accredited business schools. Other benefits include continuing ed opportunities through the AMBA career center and access to online webinars.
Financing Your Online MBA in Sustainability
Despite the relative affordability of online MBA programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
Students who pursue online degrees will be eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid that is unavailable to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Learn more about these financial opportunities for web-based learners.
Finance — the study of money and asset management — is one of the most popular degree concentrations for MBA students. Learn about the best schools for this area of study with our comprehensive degree guide.
Another popular specialization field for MBA students, human resources (or HR) focuses on hiring, new employee orientation and other administrative needs. Visit our guide to master's degrees in HR for more information.
Our page dedicated to resources for business students includes links to professional organizations, open courseware, industry publications, books and business-minded users to follow on Twitter.
Our career page for business degree graduates includes a state-by-state breakdown of business careers and academic options for business students, as well as popular job sites, professional organizations and continuing education opportunities for established professionals.