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.
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.
Oklahoma State University
|Stillwater, OK||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Founded in 1890, Oklahoma State University started as the Oklahoma Territorial A&M College. Six students made up the school's initial graduating class. It achieved university status in 1957 and changed its name to Oklahoma State University of Agricultural and Applied Sciences, which was officially shortened to Oklahoma State University in 1980. The university currently enrolls close to 25,000 students from all 50 states and over 100 countries.
Six colleges make up the university to offer more than 200 undergraduate majors, 79 master's, and 45 doctoral programs. Oklahoma State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ranks among the country's best public schools.
The Spears School of Business at the university offers an online MBA in business sustainability through the Michael and Anne Greenwood Center for Online Excellence. The online MBA program consists of 33 credits, which students can typically complete after just 12 months of continuous enrollment. Its business sustainability concentration includes coursework in business and social responsibility, sustainable enterprises, ethical leadership, and social entrepreneurship. The Spears School of Business holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
The program does not have a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement and accepts GMAT and GRE scores. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Spears MBA as one of the top online MBA programs in the country.
Concordia University - Wisconsin
|Mequon, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Established as Concordia College in 1881, Concordia University Wisconsin began with 13 students meeting in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Until the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod authorized the school to offer four-year college programs in 1978, Concordia College only featured a high school curriculum and the first two years of college instruction.
It achieved university status in 1989 and adopted its current name. Over 8,000 students enroll at the university today, which offers six associate, 75 bachelor's, 32 master's, and five doctoral programs. Concordia University Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ranks among the top universities in the Midwest.
The university offers an online MBA in sustainability management and analytics through the Batterman School of Business. The program consists of 39 credits, which enrollees can typically complete within two years, even while working full time. Learners can explore social entrepreneurship and industrial ecology, environmental law, micro and macroeconomics, and environmental chemistry and toxicology. The Batterman School of Business holds accreditation from the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
Courses for the MBA in sustainability management and analytics follow an asynchronous delivery format. Each applicant needs a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0., and the program does not require them to submit GMAT or GRE scores. The school considers graduate-level transfer credits from accredited schools as long as they have not been applied toward the completion of another degree.
University of Colorado Denver
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
The University of Colorado Denver began in 1912 as an extension campus of the University of Colorado. The school adopted its current name in 2011 when it became an independent institution. Today, the eight colleges and schools that comprise the university offer more than 100 programs of study to 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students. CU holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
The university's Business School offers an online MBA in sustainability program that consists of 48 credits. Most learners typically earn the degree after 16 months of continuous enrollment, taking 30 credits of core MBA coursework, 12 credits of concentration courses, a three-credit international business elective, and a three-credit free elective. An enrollee pursuing the sustainability management concentration can learn to reduce operating costs, improve overall financial performance, open new markets, and enhance customer loyalty.
Each applicant needs a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, but the program does not have a minimum GPA or work experience requirement. Additionally, candidates must submit GMAT (preferred) or GRE scores. The program follows a rolling admission process, and students can begin the program at any of the three academic terms. The Business School holds is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Maharishi University of Management
|Fairfield, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
In 1973, the Maharishi University of Management began conducting classes in an apartment complex in Goleta, California with an initial enrollment of 700 students. It was then called the Maharishi International University. The school moved to Iowa two years later and took on its current name in 1995 upon achieving university status. Today, the university enrolls close to 1,800 students and offers undergraduates and graduates in various fields, including business, computer science, applied arts and sciences, and media and communications.
Its College of Business Administration offers an online MBA in sustainable business that comprises 58 credits. The college offers the program in conjunction with the on-campus, evening-weekend MBA program. Courses follow either a four-week (two credits) or eight-week (four credits) delivery schedule. Its online MBA program, which students can typically complete after six semesters of continuous enrollment, follows a cohort model of education and delivers classes synchronously. The College of Business Administration is accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Each applicant needs a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Although candidates do not need to submit GMAT or GRE scores, MUM strongly advises applicants who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement to do so. The program allows for a transfer of up to 18 credits (with a grade of B or higher) earned from an undergraduate degree in business in any of the foundation areas. MUM is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
|Winona, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota started as an all-male junior college in 1912. The school began accepting women in 1969 and achieved university status in 1995. Close to 5,900 students are currently enrolled at Saint Mary's, which offers more than 120 academic programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
The university offers an online MBA in sustainability and environmental management. Enrollees can generally complete its accelerated program in just 16-18 months, which consists of 30 credits. A student pursuing the sustainability and environmental management track may enroll in classes in corporate social responsibility, building eco-friendly businesses, law and ethics in environmental management, and sustainable marketing. Each learner needs to complete a capstone project where they apply the knowledge they gained from the program in a domestic or international business setting.
Each applicant needs a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, a minimum GPA of 2.75, and at least five years of work experience. Those who do not meet the work experience requirement must submit GMAT scores. Students can transfer a maximum of six graduate-level credits toward the program's 30-credit degree requirement.
Saint Mary's is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and U.S. News & World Report ranks it among the best universities in the Midwest. The business program holds accreditation from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Launching in 1932 as a small training school for bookkeepers called the New Hampshire Accounting and Secretarial School, Southern New Hampshire University enrolled a total of just over 40 students during its first year. It became a college in 1961 and finally achieved university status in 2001 when it changed its name to Southern New Hampshire University.
Today, more than 3,000 students attend the university, which offers over 200 fields of study at the certificate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. The university holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education and ranks among the top schools in the North, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The online MBA in sustainability and environmental compliance at Southern New Hampshire University consists of 36 credits: 27 credits of core MBA coursework and nine credits of concentration courses. Students who lack the business background required by the program need to enroll in foundational coursework, but these credits will not be applied toward the degree requirement of the MBA program.
A student pursuing the sustainability and environmental compliance concentration must take classes in energy and society, environmental issues, and environmental compliance and sustainability. The program culminates in a capstone course on critical issues in management.
Each applicant needs a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75. The program does not require GMAT or GRE scores. The MBA program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
|New Castle, DE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Founded as Wilmington College in 1968, Wilmington University enrolled a total of 194 students during its initial year. It achieved university status in 2007 and now boasts a population of over 20,000 on-campus and online students. The seven colleges comprising WilmU offer almost 100 areas of study at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
The College of Business at Wilmington University offers an online MBA in environmental sustainability consisting of 36 credits. Students may enroll in seven MBA common core courses (21 credits) and five concentration courses (15 credits). The following courses comprise the environmental sustainability curriculum: economic and financial analysis of environmental issues, environmental regulations and ethical issues, principles of environmental sustainability, project management with sustainable green technologies, and strategic planning for sustainable organizations.
Courses follow accelerated, seven-week schedules with asynchronous delivery available. All students start the program by enrolling in the organizational behavior and ethical leadership course.
The College of Business follows an open admission policy. The MBA program does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores, and there is no minimum GPA requirement. Students can complete the program in just one year, depending on their academic background and the number of transferable credits they bring into the program. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, while its College of Business holds accreditation from the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
University of Saint Francis
|Fort Wayne, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Founded in 1890 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the University of Saint Francis started as a training school for teachers known as Saint Francis College. By 1998, it had diversified and increased its academic offerings to achieve university status and adopt its current name. The university enrolls approximately 2,300 students and offers more than 70 undergraduate, master's, and doctoral programs. It holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and ranks among the top universities in the Midwest.
The University of Saint Francis offers an online MBA in sustainability program accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs. Thirty-six credits make up the MBA degree, which students can typically complete in 12 months on a full-time basis or 24 months part time. Courses follow an eight-week delivery schedule with six available start dates throughout the year. The sustainability concentration requires students to enroll in classes in renewable energy innovations, integrated remote sensing, and foundations of sustainability.
Each applicant needs a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 and a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Those who do not meet these requirements must submit GMAT scores. Applicants with more than five years of related professional experience can also submit their resumes to improve their chances for admission. The program allows a maximum of 15 transfer credits, or 18 credits if an applicant holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Saint Francis.
Franklin Pierce University
|Rindge, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Chartered in 1962 with an inaugural class of 97 students, Franklin Pierce University began as a private liberal arts college in a four-building campus. The school achieved university status in 2007 and currently enrolls approximately 2,100 students from 40 states and 14 countries. The university features over 70 programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
Its College of Graduate and Professional Studies offers an online MBA in energy and sustainability. The program comprises 39 credits: 27 credits of core MBA coursework and 12 credits of concentration courses, including one elective course. A student pursuing the energy and sustainability concentration may enroll in classes examining building a sustainable enterprise, energy economics, and the future of energy, business, and society. Each student must complete a capstone course on strategic management before graduation.
Applicants need undergraduate GPAs of at least 2.8 and bachelor's degrees from accredited colleges or universities. The program does not require GMAT or GRE scores, but candidates must demonstrate competency in accounting, statistics, and computer skills. Franklin Pierce University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, while its MBA program holds accreditation from the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
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.