Online Master’s Degree in Sustainability

The use of alternative and sustainable energies has become a part of the focus of national and international energy policy. As such, the need for professionals who understand environmental economics, ecology, hydrology, and engineering will increase as more emphasis is placed on “green” sources of energy and building. If the environment is important to you and you want to be on the cutting edge of promoting sustainability, then you may want to consider earning a master’s degree in sustainability. Master’s degrees in this discipline are often found at online colleges and universities as well as at traditional, brick-and-mortar institutions. The advantage to an online degree program is that it enables a student to complete their course work on a flexible schedule instead of having to adhere to rigid class hours.

Classes for an Online Master’s Degree in Sustainability

Students of an online master’s degree in sustainability program learn how non-renewable and renewable energy resources are developed, used, and regulated; issues in traffic management and water supplies; green building trends; climate science; and ways to encourage others to apply sustainable strategies at the local and global level. To learn these skills students may enroll in courses such as environmental finance and economics, environmental protection law, energy fundamentals, green building, and renewable energy. A green building course discusses sustainable building strategies and tools, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and the materials best suited for green building design and operation. Meanwhile, a renewable energy course covers the different types of major alternative energy sources and their strengths and weaknesses. Here are just a few common sustainability courses:

  • Environmental Foundations and Principles
  • Environmental Finance and Economics
  • Environmental Management
  • Climate Change and Science
  • Green Building

When a student nears graduation they may be required to complete a capstone project or seminar. A capstone project or seminar gives students a chance to apply all they’ve learned in the program to research a problem or issue, and they’re evaluated on the professionalism of their research and writing, problem-solving skills, and knowledge of research design. Some colleges and universities offer online master’s degree programs in sustainability with thesis and non-thesis options. If a student chooses the non-thesis option, they may be required to take other courses instead.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Master’s Degree in Sustainability

A master’s degree in sustainability may qualify an individual for employment in a number of industries. For example, a chief sustainability officer is responsible for coordinating sustainability strategy and activities, and a vice president of sustainability works to reduce the environmental impact of a company and its products. Other occupations available for graduates of a master’s degree in sustainability program include general and operations management; industrial production management; and transportation, storage, and distribution management, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports that chief executives, such as chief sustainability officers, earned a median annual salary of $166,910 in May 2010, while general and operations managers earned $95,150. However, this data is no indication of actual salary which may vary by employer, location, condition of the economy, and the applicant’s credentials.

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