The field of sustainability spans many industries, including business, engineering, science, and government policy. Whatever your career interest, they are likely considering how to make their field more sustainable. A sustainability degree online prepares you to improve processes that help the environment and society, while also teaching you economics, analysis, problem-solving, and how to apply classroom knowledge to real-world scenarios. Accordingly, careers in sustainability are projected to grow at above-average rates over the next decade.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of environmental scientists and specialists to grow 11%, and employment of environmental engineers to grow 12%. If you're interested in careers that improve environmental quality, check out our guide to bachelor's degrees in this dynamic field.
What are the best sustainability programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|2||Oregon State University||Corvallis, OR|
|3||Bellevue University||Bellevue, NE|
|4||University of Wisconsin-River Falls||River Falls, WI|
|5||University of Wisconsin-Superior||Superior, WI|
|6||University of Massachusetts Amherst||Amherst, MA|
|7||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|8||Roosevelt University||Chicago, IL|
|9||University of Wisconsin-Parkside||Kenosha, WI|
|10||St. Petersburg College||Clearwater, FL|
2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Sustainability Programs
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
FIU's online bachelor's in sustainability and the environment program teaches students an in-depth understanding of the proper management and conservation of natural resources. Participants explore the political, societal, and business aspects of sustainability.
All learning takes place online using an asynchronous format. The curriculum covers topics like sustainable resource development, natural resource economics, and the ecology of south Florida. Students may earn a combined BA/MA in environmental studies, allowing them to work toward both degrees at an accelerated rate.
Applicants must provide their high school transcripts or GED scores, along with their ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students must submit their official college transcripts. The average undergraduate leaves FIU with less than $20,000 in student loan debt.
Oregon State University
|Corvallis, OR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
OSU's online bachelor's degree in sustainability prepares the next generation of leaders to address issues related to climate change, natural resource management, renewable energy, and environmentally friendly product development.
The program serves as an add-on pathway, allowing students to pair it with their primary degree. Business administration and political science majors, for example, frequently enroll in the sustainability program to build their knowledge in multiple disciplines. The curriculum features courses on building sustainable communities, state and federal environmental policy, social impacts of sustainability, and how humans affect ecosystems.
Eligible applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. All online students pay the same tuition, even if they reside out of state. OSU is located in Corvallis.
|Bellevue, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: N/A||
Located just outside Omaha, Nebraska, BU delivers an online bachelor's degree in sustainability management focused on managing energy, land, water, solar, and wind resources.
The 127-credit program includes three Kirkpatrick Signature Series classes that examine the concepts of American values, tradition and change, and freedom and responsibility. Students also explore the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system and how construction and renovation projects qualify for certification.
Eligible applicants must possess at least one year of experience in a science or engineering field or have completed two or more college-level natural science classes. Prospective students also need to submit their official high school and/or college transcripts.
In-state and out-of-state residents pay the same tuition. The university offers a discounted rate to active-duty military members.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls
|River Falls, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Featuring an industry-driven curriculum, UWRF's online BS in sustainable management teaches students broad knowledge about natural science, social systems, and the business world. Graduates leave prepared to take on leadership roles in sustainability-focused businesses and organizations.
Students engage in subjects like systems thinking, triple bottom line accounting, and sustainable agriculture. One noteworthy course explores how logistics and supply chain organizations can develop a sustainable competitive advantage through technology, sound processes, and flexibility.
Incoming students to this bachelor's in sustainability program must hold an associate degree or ample college-level credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants should also have completed prerequisite college classes in biology, communication, math, and statistics.
All coursework takes place online using an asynchronous format. In-state and out-of-state distance learners pay the same tuition.
University of Wisconsin-Superior
|Superior, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Students in UW-Superior's online bachelor's in sustainability program learn how to incorporate conservation and resource management into businesses, nonprofits, and the public sector.
All learning takes place online using an asynchronous format, although students maintain strong virtual connections with faculty, advisors, and their fellow learners. The program features 63 total credits with courses focused on the natural environment, business, and people.
The school's membership in the University of Wisconsin System means students benefit from the expertise of instructors at the system's Green Bay, Oshkosh, Parkside, River Falls, and Stout campuses. Graduates can move into UW-Superior's master's in sustainability program. Applicants to this bachelor's track must possess at least 60 college credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
|Amherst, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
UMass Amherst offers an online bachelor's degree in sustainable food and farming that prepares students for careers related to environmentally responsible agriculture. The program features courses on food systems, whole-farm production, agricultural marketing, sustainable community development, and policy.
All learning takes place online, and students can choose from a variety of electives based on their interests. Distance learners pay the same tuition, even if they live outside Massachusetts.
To enter this bachelor's in sustainability program, students must possess a minimum 2.7 college GPA. Program staff also consider factors like students' work experience, military service, and personal and professional goals when making admissions decisions. In a 2016 survey, more than 96% of UMass Amherst graduates said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience at the school.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Liberty offers an online bachelor's in business administration with a concentration in green and sustainable management. Accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, this program includes classes on geographic information systems, renewable energy resources, and environmental science and policy.
Faculty deliver eight-week courses in an asynchronous format. The program comprises 120 credits, and most full-time students graduate within 3.5 years. The school also allows students to transfer in up to 75% of their total credits. Many graduates of this bachelor's in sustainability program go on to pursue an online MBA at the university.
Qualified applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA. All distance learners pay the same tuition rates. Liberty is located in Lynchburg, Virginia.
|Chicago, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Located in Chicago, RU offers a bachelor's degree in sustainability studies that can be completed online. Students explore the intersection of natural and social ecosystems while examining how local, state, and federal policy affects sustainability and the environment.
In one course, students look at how postsecondary institutions maximize sustainability through a variety of methods. Another class focuses on sustainable urban planning.
The school's campus features LEED Gold buildings, while its virtual courses use an asynchronous format that allows students to complete their assignments largely on their own schedules. Students who live in the Chicagoland area may take advantage of internships and research opportunities at regional urban farms, museums, and nature centers.
Students may join this bachelor's in sustainability program in the fall, spring, or summer.
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
|Kenosha, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
UW-Parkside offers an online bachelor's completion program in sustainable management. The 63-credit curriculum builds students' knowledge related to sustainable business practices, systems thinking approaches, and communicating sustainability issues to various audiences.
The program can be completed entirely online and courses are delivered asynchronously. Nonetheless, learners maintain strong connections with faculty and peers through online discussion boards.
Students enrolled in this bachelor's in sustainability program take 21 major-related courses, including a capstone in which they work with a local business. One of the program's newer courses — climate change and sustainability — explores how human and natural factors influence climate change and how businesses, organizations, and public agencies can reduce carbon emissions.
Students learn from experienced instructors serving throughout the University of Wisconsin System. Applicants should hold an associate degree or at least 60 college-level credits.
St. Petersburg College
|Clearwater, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Students pursuing SPC's online bachelor's degree in sustainability prepare themselves to serve as leaders in the "green collar" jobs of the future. The program features mostly eight-week courses, although some electives are delivered over 16-week terms. Students also participate in an internship, during which they learn directly from experienced professionals and take on projects of their own.
Through the curriculum, students learn about grant writing, Six Sigma project management, and sustainable business practices. Students also present a capstone project before graduation.
Eligible applicants must possess at least 60 credits of college credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA; many students transfer into this program after earning an associate degree in building design and construction management or engineering technology at SPC. All distance learners pay the same tuition, even if they live out of state.
What Will I Learn in an Online Bachelor's in Sustainability?
An online bachelor's degree in sustainability is usually 120 credits of coursework, which involves a combination of general education and major courses. While programs differ, students often complete courses in economics, ecology, and math before moving into courses focused on sustainability. Students in these courses analyze problems through the lens of a triple bottom line: strong profits, a strong environment, and strong communities.
- Environmental Science: Often one of the first courses required in a sustainability program, this course tackles several core subjects like basic ecological ideas, and how humans affect the environment. The curriculum explores how sustainable practices offset human impact on the environment. This course is relevant to all practitioners, from engineers to consultants.
- Systems Thinking: Sustainability graduates are often in demand because of their grasp of systems thinking. In other words, they understand the links and interactions that comprise systems. In these online sustainability online degree programs, students use systems thinking to analyze problems and apply sustainability practices to business and scientific issues.
- Economics of Sustainability: Students complete basic economics or algebra courses before moving into the economics of sustainability, which covers macroeconomics, microeconomics, and the application of these principles to environmental goods and services. Contemporary economic issues are also analyzed using systems thinking. This course is essential for sustainability managers and consultants to show the economic benefits of incorporating sustainability.
- Environmental Policy: This course explores the history, role of government, and influencers of environmental policy. Students also learn about the issues facing sustainable policy initiatives and the processes to implement those new initiatives.
- Sustainability Capstone: Often completed in the final year or semester of the program, the sustainability capstone is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned to a real-world scenarios, often by working directly with an organization to help them solve a sustainability problem. This course is particularly useful for future consultants and managers with similar duties in their careers.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Sustainability Degrees
It is important that students ensure any college or university they attend is accredited, including those offering online programs. The Department of Education (ED) recognizes seven regional accrediting agencies, and these agencies ensure that colleges meet certain standards. The ED also recognizes national accrediting agencies, and these generally oversee career schools, training colleges, and other specialized institutions across the country. While nationally accredited schools may be less expensive, it is usually easier to transfer credits earned at a regionally-accredited college. Graduate programs often require students to have earned a bachelor's degree at a regionally-accredited institution, as well.
In addition to the ED, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also recognizes accrediting agencies. The ED and CHEA monitor accrediting agencies to prevent anyone from declaring themselves an accrediting agency. If a college is not accredited by a recognized regional or national accrediting agency, they cannot offer federally-funded aid to students. Even though it is not required, many accrediting agencies also apply for CHEA evaluation. The EDs website provides a list of accredited colleges and universities, and students should ensure their prospective institution is listed.
Career Opportunities for Bachelor's in Sustainability Graduates
With an increased interest in sustainability across industries, graduates with sustainability online bachelor's degrees are prepared for careers related to the environment, engineering, or business. Businesses are increasingly interested in their social responsibility -- and the improved profits that sustainability can bring -- leading them to work with consultants and managers that specialize in sustainability. Some companies even appoint top executives who are singularly focused on a corporate sustainability strategy. A degree in sustainability can also lead to influencing public policy, designing solar energy systems, and improving public health.
- Chief Sustainability Officers
These top executives enact and oversee corporate sustainability strategy, which includes addressing issues like energy use, waste elimination, and building design at a specific business or corporation. According to ONET Online, other job titles include Director of Sustainability, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability.
Median Annual Salary - $79,929
- Environmental Scientist and Specialist
Environmental scientists and specialists work in a variety of areas, including advising policymakers, working with industries to reduce waste, or studying the effect of certain chemicals on the ecosystem. This occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 11% -- faster than average -- between 2014 and 2024.
Median Annual Salary - $68,910
More commonly known as supply chain coordinators, logisticians analyze and coordinate a supply chain. They manage a product from distribution through delivery to the consumer. For sustainability graduates, a career in sustainable supply chain management may be desirable, as logisticians are needed in every industry. Half of all logisticians are employed in manufacturing or the federal government.
Median Annual Salary - $63,379
- Sustainability Consultant
Similar to management analysts, these consultants advise businesses and companies on improving their sustainability practices in order to make the corporation more environmentally efficient and profitable. Sustainability consultants often work for private firms, and one in five are self-employed. Consultants and analysts travel frequently to meet with clients.
Median Annual Salary - $61,924
- Environmental Engineers
For those wanting to develop solutions to environmental problems -- including efforts to improve recycling, public health, and air pollution -- a career as an environmental engineer could be a good fit. Similar occupations include energy analysts, solar systems designers, and wind turbine technicians.
Median Annual Salary - $58,334
BACHELOR'S IN SUSTAINABILITY SALARY
Almost all positions in sustainability require a bachelor's degree. The number of jobs in this field is constantly growing; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the employment of environmental engineers is expected to grow 12% over the next decade. While salaries vary, almost all are above the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2016 median wage for all occupations of $37,040 per year.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Sustainability Program
Students pursuing an online sustainability degree have several options for financing their education, including federal financial aid and work study, scholarships, grants, and loans. All students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid and work study programs. The FAFSA may also be required by some universities for scholarship consideration. Some sustainability programs also offer program-specific grants, which have been donated by businesses and individuals with a commitment to the field. Additionally, students should investigate other “green scholarships”, which are generally reserved for students majoring in the natural sciences, environmental studies, or sustainability.
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