15 Best Master’s Degrees in Sustainability 2020

| Staff

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Sustainability aims to protect Earth and everyone who lives on it. The following 15 Best Master’s Degrees in Sustainability prepare graduates to help build a sustainable future for 2020.

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The planet sustains all life, but its resources are limited. As commerce booms and industry expands, it becomes a human responsibility to help sustain the planet for generations to come. Grad School Hub‘s 15 Best Master’s Degrees in Sustainability address the intersection of the economy and the environment. The consideration of sustainable practices can benefit all communities, industries, and the planet as a whole. The following programs build students’ skills in addressing environmental problems and proposing sustainable solutions. They equip students to lead life-sustaining organizations and initiatives. Graduates of these programs can positively impact the world by spreading green thinking throughout the corporate world and beyond.

Individuals with sustainability-related masters’ degrees may pursue a variety of careers in a variety of industries. They may work in corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, public relations agencies, or schools. Generally speaking, environmental specialists apply their understanding of the natural and social sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may focus on major tasks such as limiting pollution, pushing policy, or reducing waste. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental scientists and specialists earned a median salary of $71,130 in 2018. The job outlook for these professionals is growing at a projected rate of 11%, which is faster than average. Environmental expertise will be in demand as climate crisis continues and as the global population — and public interest in the environment — grows.

Top 10 Best Master’s Degrees in Sustainability 2020

Rank School Location
1 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
2 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
3 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
4 Tufts University Medford, MA
5 University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI
6 Columbia University New York City, NY
7 Arizona State University Scottsdale, AZ
8 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
9 Edgewood College Madison, WI
10 American University Washington, DC
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Methodology

The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 15 Best Masters’ Degrees in Sustainability for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:

  • Alumni Feedback: 20% 
  • Continued Enrollment: 20% 
  • Degree Selectivity: 10%
  • Graduate Expenses: 25%
  • Projected Annual Salary: 25%

A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page. 

Here are the 15 Best Masters’ Degrees in Sustainability for 2020 – 2021!

  1. Cornell University
    Location

    Ithaca, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Cornell University is home to Grad School Hub 's top sustainability master's degree program. The university offers a Master of Business Administration in Sustainable Global Enterprise through its SC Johnson College of Business. Students can expect to join a cohort group of students with common interests and to participate in hands-on business case studies. The degree program requires students to complete an immersive practicum experience dealing with a real-world, sustainability-related challenge. Students can also expect to engage in multidisciplinary consulting projects with their cohort groups. All students must also take the Strategies for Sustainability course and five credits of electives. Students have the option to takeadvantage of Johnson's networking opportunities, including the Energy Club, General Management Association, and the Sustainable Global Enterprise Club.

    Cornell is a private Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. It also operates satellite medical campuses in New York City and Qatar. The university was founded in 1865 by senators Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White. It is the only private land-grant institution in New York. It operates a cooperative extension program that delivers agricultural and ecological education to every county in the state. The university's research facilities include the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. In its most recent survey, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the university's Johnson College as the No. 2 business school for sustainability in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranks Johnson the No. 15 business school in the nation at the graduate level.

  2. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Harvard University offers a master's degree program in Sustainability through its Extension School. Students can take courses on campus or online. The curriculum consists of 12 courses, for a total of 48 credits. Core courses include Introduction to Sustainability and Environmental Management and a proseminar in Critical Analysis of Environmental Systems. Each student must take at least one residential course over three weeks to culminate their experience. The program offers a thesis track and a capstone track that involves a real-world research project. Students also have the option to pursue agraduate certificate in an area such as Corporate Sustainability and Innovation, Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Ecosystems, or Sustainable Food Systems.

    Harvard University is an Ivy League research university that is counted among the world's most prestigious universities, and one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States. The school originally trained Congregational and Unitarian clergy, though it does not have any formal religious affiliation. In addition to its main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard operates campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area. The university was a founding member of the Association of American Universities. It has the world's largest academic endowment and its largest academic and private library system. U.S. News & World Report lists Harvard second overall in the nation, and fifth nationally in graduate-level environmental policy programs.

  3. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Pennsylvania offers a Master of Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability. The non-thesis degree program prepares students to take leadership positions that boost sustainability in corporations, nonprofits, or universities. The interdisciplinary curriculum includes course offerings from various schools within the university, including the School of Design, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Wharton School of Business. Course examples include Green Development, Renewable Energy & Its Impacts, and The Role of Water inUrban Sustainability and Resiliency. The curriculum culminates in a capstone project that synthesizes each student's classroom, internship, and research experience. Students can complete the program on a full- or part-time basis, but all requirements must be met within four years.

    Penn is a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, it is one of the nine colonial colleges founded prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin's intention was to train leaders in commerce, government, and public service. The university was home to the nation's first business and medical schools and its first student union. The Carnegie Foundation categorizes Penn in the top tier of research universities in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university's School of Engineering No. 17 and its Wharton School of Business first in the nation at the graduate level.

  4. Tufts University
    Location

    Medford, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Tufts University offers a Master of Science in Sustainability. The degree program is offered through the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy within the university's School of Engineering. The degree program requires 11 courses, for a total of 36 credits. The core curriculum includes courses in Economics for Policy and Planning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Socio-Ecological Systems Thinking for Sustainability. The curriculum culminates in a fieldproject involving sustainable planning and research in a community or government setting. Students may complete the program on a part-time basis, but it is designed to be completed in 12 months of full-time study.

    Tufts is a private research university that emphasizes active citizenship and public service. It was founded in 1852 by Christian universalists as a nonsectarian institution. Originally a small New England liberal arts college, the university has evolved into a large research university. The main campus is located on Walnut Hill in the cities of Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts, in the Boston metropolitan area. The university also operates campuses in Grafton, Massachusetts and Talloires, France. The French campus is noted for hosting the Talloires Declaration, a document citing 22 universities' commitment to sustainability. U.S. News & World Report ranks Tufts' School of Engineering No. 67 in the nation at the graduate level.

  5. University of Michigan
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Michigan offers a Master of Science in Environment and Sustainability. The degree program emphasizes applied professional training and field-based learning. Core courses include Ecology: Concepts and Applications and The Science and Practice of Social Change. Students can choose from six specializations: Behavior, Education, and Communication; Conservation Ecology; Environmental Informatics; Environmental Justice; Environmental Policyand Planning; and Sustainable Systems. Students can choose to culminate their program through a group project, practicum, or thesis. The degree requires 42 credit hours of study.

    U of M is a public, sea- and space-grant research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Founded in 1817, it is the state's oldest and flagship university. In addition to its Ann Arbor campus, the university operates regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn. It is a founding member of the Association of American Universities. The Carnegie Foundation classifies U of M as a doctoral research university with a very high level of research activity. The university has also been included on lists of the nation's "Public Ivies," meaning its quality of education is comparable to those of private Ivy League universities. U.S. News & World Report ranks U of M eighth nationally in graduate-level environmental policy programs.

  6. Columbia University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Columbia University offers a Master of Science in Sustainability Management through its School of Professional Studies. The degree program is designed for individuals who seek management careers that deal with the intersection between the environment and the economy. The curriculum covers five content areas: economics and quantitative courses, general and financial management, integrative sustainability management, physical dimensions of sustainabilitymanagement, and public policy. The curriculum culminates in an Integrative Capstone Workshop that addresses sustainability management consulting for real-world clients. The degree requires 36 credits of study. Students can complete the degree on a full- or part-time basis.

    Columbia is a private Ivy League research university. Chartered in 1754 by King George II of Great Britain, it is one of the nine colonial colleges developed before the creation of the Declaration of Independence. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, and the fifth-oldest in the nation. It is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. It is a founding member of the Association of American Universities, an organization of the foremost research universities in North America. The university's Earth Institute is the world's largest university research organization dedicated to sustainability. The Natural Research Council ranks the university's graduate Earth Science programs No. 1 in the United States.

  7. Arizona State University
    Location

    Scottsdale, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Arizona State University offers several sustainability-related masters' programs through its School of Sustainability. Its offerings include both a Master of Arts and a Master of Science degree in Sustainability. Each flexible, interdisciplinary degree program is rooted in learning through problem-solving. The MA and MS programs are research-oriented and suitable for students seeking careers in research or academia. Both programs culminate in either a research thesis or scientific capstone paper. The MA program incorporates the humanities, planning, and social sciences, while the MS programincorporates economics, engineering, and natural sciences. Core courses for both programs include Perspectives on Sustainability, and Social-Ecological-Technical Systems: Domains and Interfaces. Each program requires 37 semester hours of study.

    Arizona State is a public research university spread across five campuses in the Phoenix metropolitan area. It was established in Tempe in 1885 as a teacher-training school. Today, ASU is one of the largest public universities in the United States by student enrollment. It operates numerous learning locations across Arizona; in Washington, D.C.; and in Santa Monica, California. It also offers extensive online programs through ASU Online. In 2015, The Princeton Review ranked the university one of the nation's most sustainable schools. In 2017, the Sierra Club named it one of its top "Cool Schools." The Carnegie Foundation categorizes ASU in its top tier of research universities. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks the university No. 1 in the nation for innovation.

  8. Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Duquesne University offers a Master of Business Administration in Sustainable Business Practices. The accelerated degree program emphasizes real-world challenges and experiential learning. It begins each year in May and follows a full-time, daytime schedule. Students can expect to follow a set course sequence. Course examples include Business Ethics and Global Responsibility, Managing People for Sustained Competitive Advantage, and Systems Thinking and Managerial Decision Making. Students must complete a Sustainable Business Practices Project each semester. In their final year of study, studentsmust also attend a series of professional development practicum seminars and participate in a spring break international immersion trip. The degree program is designed to be completed in three semesters, for a total of one year of full-time study.

    Duquesne is a private Roman Catholic university. It was founded in 1878 by members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. It was the first Catholic university in Pennsylvania, and it is the only Spiritian higher education institution in the world. It is located on a hilltop in the Bluff neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university is also associated with a campus in Rome, Italy. The Carnegie Foundation classifies Duquesne as a research university with "higher research activity." The university was the first in Pennsylvania to receive an Energy Star Combined Heat and Power Award from the Environmental Protection Agency. The campus has a natural gas turbine, an innovative ice cooling system, and a LEED Silver-rated Power Center facility.

  9. Edgewood College
    Location

    Madison, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Edgewood College offers a Master of Arts in Social Innovation & Sustainability Leadership. Students enter the program as a member of a cohort group of 18 students or less. Individual or group projects in social innovation are key aspects of each core course. Courses are designed to meet the needs of both working professionals and full-time students. The degree requires 33 credits of study. Required courses include Designing Regenerative Communities, Innovation for Social and Economic Well-Being, and Self and Natural Systems. Students can expect to engage in coursework, including field trips, hands-on activities, and guest presentations. The curriculum culminates in a community or organizational project in social innovation. Individualswith significant work experience in a relevant field may apply for a Community Fellowship role, in which they share their expertise with peers and pay a reduced program rate.

    Edgewood is a private liberal arts college in suburban Madison, Wisconsin. It was established in 1927 as a junior women's college affiliated with the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. The university was the first in the state to be Green Tier Certified by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Its campus is surrounded by woods, overlooks Lake Wingra, and includes LEED-Silver certified student housing. The university is the first in the nation to offer a face-to-face MA degree program in Sustainability Leadership.

  10. American University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    American University provides a Master of Science in Sustainability Management through its Kogod School of Business. The degree requires 30 credit hours of graduate study, including a minimum of 24 credit hours completed in residence at the university. Required courses include Financial Analysis of the Firm: Concepts and Applications; Marketing Management; and Social Sustainability Strategy. The degree also requires a study abroad experience and project, which involves travel to and study of international business environments. Students must choose and follow a Sustainability CommunicationsExecutive, Sustainability Consultant, Sustainability Entrepreneur, or Sustainability Executive career track. The curriculum culminates in a hands-on capstone project in Applied Sustainability Management.

    American is a private university in Washington, D.C. It was chartered in 1893 by an Act of Congress, which was prompted by the efforts of John Fletcher Hurst, whose aim was to create a school to train public servants. Although the university remains affiliated with the United Methodist Church, students do not need to have any religious affiliation in order to be accepted. The American Public Garden Association designated the university's campus a public garden and arboretum. In 2018, The Princeton Review ranked AU No. 1 on its list of the "Top Colleges with the Most Politically Active Students."

  11. Rochester Institute of Technology
    Location

    Rochester, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Rochester Institute of Technology offers a Master of Science in Sustainable Systems. The degree program prepares graduates to contribute to global sustainability and efficiency through innovation and intelligence. Rooted in sustainability science, the curriculum covers challenges such as food scarcity, pollution, public health crises, and more. Courses include Industrial Ecology; Risk Analysis; and Technology, Policy, and Sustainability. Students can expect to work one-on-one with a faculty member who aligns with their personal research interests. Students can culminate in their programthrough a capstone project or research thesis. The degree can be completed in as little as one year of study. Graduates have the option to advance into the university's Ph.D. program in Sustainability Studies.

    RIT is a private university in the town of Henrietta in the Rochester, New York metropolitan area. The university was the result of an 1891 merger between a literary society and a technical training school. Today, it is one of the largest private universities in the United States in terms of full-time student enrollment. Its vast main campus is a diverse wetland featuring several rare plant species. In 2009, the Sustainable Endowments Institute named the campus a "Campus Sustainability Leader." The university also operates on global campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo. The university is noted for its hands-on cooperative education program, which is one of the world's oldest and largest co-op programs. U.S. News & World Report ranks RIT No. 43 nationally for best value.

  12. Hofstra University
    Location

    Hempstead, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Hofstra University offers a Master of Arts in Sustainability through its Sustainability Studies department. The degree program examines sustainability through an economic, environmental, ethical, philosophical, and social lens. It emphasizes real-world, hands-on learning, and problem-solving experiences. It considers the enhancement of sustainability in the developed world as well as the sustainability crisis in developing countries. The degree requires 30 semester hours of study, including three core courses: Readings, Sustainability Theory and Practice, and Sustainable Development.Students must culminate their studies through a research thesis or internship experience. The program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis.

    Hofstra is a private university in suburban Hempstead, New York. It was established in 1935 as an extension of New York University. Today, it is the largest private university on Long Island. It is located about seven miles from the Borough of Queens in New York City. Students can see the New York City skyline from the library's tenth floor. The campus is home to an arboretum and bird sanctuary, which features rare Dutch trees and springtime tulips. It is located across the street from the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which hosts sporting events including the New York Open. The university is recognized for hosting prominent presidential conferences and debates. U.S. News & World Report ranks Hofstra No. 77 nationally for best value.

  13. Western Kentucky University
    Location

    Bowling Green, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Western Kentucky University offers a Master of Business Administration with a Graduate Certificate in Business Sustainability. The university's MBA program is the first in Kentucky to offer a graduate certificate in sustainability. Though the certificate is offered through the MBA program, students do not need to be pursuing an MBA in order to earn the certificate, although certificate credits can count as elective credits toward the MBA. All certificate students need only to have graduate standing at the university. The certificate program examines the intersection of economic, environmental,and social interests in sustainable business. It requires four three-credit courses: Survey of Business Sustainability Issues; Sustainable Business Operations; Sustainability, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship; and Sustainability Marketing. All of these courses are offered online.

    WKU is a public university with the main campus on a hilltop overlooking the Barren River valley in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The university's roots can be traced back to the 1876 founding of a teacher-training school and business college in Glasgow, Kentucky. The school's evolution led to the 1906 founding of WKU by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Chronicle of Higher Education has repeatedly named WKU one of the nation's top producers of Fulbright Scholars.

  14. Maharishi University of Management
    Location

    Fairfield, IA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Maharishi University of Management provides a Master of Business Administration in Sustainable Business with a "consciousness-based" approach to training students to create or support successful, life-sustaining businesses. Students take one course at a time, and MBA courses typically have class sizes under 20 students. Course examples include Socially and Environmentally Responsible Management, Sustainable Community Development, and SustainableTechnologies. Students have the option to engage in a graduate assistantship or internship program. Working students may pursue their degree in an online or evening-weekend format, which can be completed in two and a half years. The degree requires a minimum of 58 credits of study.

    MUM is a private, not-for-profit university founded in 1971 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Originally located in Goleta, California, the university is now located in Fairfield, Iowa. The campus was rebuilt in accordance with green technology and Vedic architectural principles. The university's spiritual education model incorporates the daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Programs are organized in a block system, focusing on one subject for four weeks at a time. The school offers programs in art, business, communications, education, literature, math, health, sustainability, and Vedic Science.

  15. Chatham University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Chatham University offers a dual degree program leading to a Master of Sustainability and a Master of Business Administration. It is offered through a partnership between the university's MBA program and its Falk School of Sustainability & Environment Master of Sustainability program. The degree program prepares graduates for leadership and management positions in sustainability in business and government. The curriculum includes foundational business and sustainability coursework and extends to more specialized areas such as agriculture and ecology. Coursework includes individual and groupsustainability projects, summer work placements, and creating sustainability-focused business plans. The degree requires 57 credits, and it is designed to be completed in two years of full-time study.

    Chatham is a private, coeducational university with a main campus in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was established in 1869 as a woman's college. The university's MBA/MSUS dual degree program is offered on its Eden Hall Campus, which opened in 2013. Located in the Richland Township suburb of Pittsburgh, the Eden Hall Campus houses the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment. In 2016, the campus' first phase of architectural development earned a sustainable development award from Mithun. U.S. News & World Report ranks Chatham No. 82 for best value and No. 62 overall in the northern United States.

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