15 Best Master’s Degrees in Sustainability

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Updated March 17, 2021

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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.

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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

#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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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!

  1. Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY



    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

    Cambridge, MA



    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

    Philadelphia, PA



    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

    Medford, MA



    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

    Ann Arbor, MI



    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

    New York City, NY



    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

    Scottsdale, AZ



    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

    Pittsburgh, PA



    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

    Madison, WI



    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

    Washington, DC



    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."

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