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9 Best Masters In Sustainability For Outstanding Environmental Education

Hailey Carrillo

Is there an MBA in sustainability? Of course, but is a master’s in sustainability worth it? 

It depends on what your goals are. 

Getting your master’s degree in sustainability could make you highly competitive in the job market and open up new career opportunities. 

Or, it could be a huge green cost (money, that is.) 

Before deciding if graduate studies are right for you, we highly recommend researching the demand for sustainability experts in your chosen field.

Some disciplines value practical experience far more than advanced degrees, in which you’d probably be better off playing the field. But, if you are ready for your sustainability studies, here are some of the top sustainability Master’s programs in the world.

Best Master’s In Environmental Sustainability USA

1. The University of Michigan

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The University of Michigan’s Top Master’s In Sustainability

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

The University of Michigan’s Master of Science program allows students to specialize in one of seven fields of study: behavior and education, environmental justice, environment policy and planning, conservation ecology, geospatial data sciences, sustainable development, and sustainable systems.

All tracks involve various degrees of field work, applied personal training, and practical approaches to changing behavior. 

Prior to the start of the program, students are offered an intensive workshop to advance their quantitative skills and prepare them for their upcoming studies.

Definitely recommending, considering the degree culminates with a capstone project that demonstrates critical thinking of environmental problems and application of appropriate analytical problem solving techniques.

Students can complete a group project, practicum, or thesis, but the time to completion varies depending on which specialty you pick.

About The University Of Michigan 

As the oldest public university in Michigan, U-M is renowned for its quality academic program, extracurricular activities, and unparalleled athletics.

With over 100 graduate programs across various disciples, U.S. News has ranked it third on its list of top public universities.

Via their Planet Blue initiative, U-M has created a comprehensive approach to their master’s in environmental sustainability that involves energy and waste reduction, and overall environmental stewardship.

Along with green purchasing policies, campus sustainable gardens, and sustainable buildings.

As of 2023, the university has decreased their baseline carbon emissions by 28%!

2. University of Florida

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University Of Florida’s Sustainable Development Master’s

Location: Gainesville, Florida

If you can brave the alligators and the sweltering heat (and, well… the Floridians,) then the Master of Sustainable Development Practice from the University of Florida may be worth your while.

What can you do with a master’s in sustainable development?

The program focuses on understanding the multi-dimensional nature of global development challenges and becoming critical thinkers about the process and its implications via on campus instruction and in-field training.

Field practicum that has been completed all over the world, including Central and South America, Asia, and South Africa.

The MDP program requires 45 credits, and can be finished within 2 years (though, it’s flexible.)

About The University of Florida

It’s great to be a Florida gator. 

Not only does the land grant uni have the best master’s in sustainability and the best football team (okay, maybe we’re a little biased,) but they also have some amazing resources for students. 

Including an extensive bus network, sustainable systems for waste like recycling and composting, local produce subscriptions, food pantries, e-waste recycling, and the first LEED Platinum-certified building in the state of Florida.

As one of the first universities to sign onto the President’s Climate Commitment, all of these initiatives are part of UF’s comprehensive plan to reach carbon neutrality.

3. Harvard Extension School

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Harvard’s Master’s In Sustainability Online

Location: Online/ Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Harvard Extension Sustainability Master’s Degree program allows students to gain confidence in analytical research and understand the science, policies, technologies, and financial models that support sustainable development.

Though mostly an online master’s in sustainability, Harvard offers a 12 course program featuring one in-person course at Harvard University that will allow students to gain real world experience.

As you work towards gaining your degree, you can take core courses that count towards a micro certificate. A cost effective, time saving opportunity to build specialized skills. 

Some stackable courses include environmental policy and international development, sustainable and green cities, sustainable food systems, circular economics, and regenerative agriculture. 

You can choose to culminate your Harvard Master’s in Sustainability with a thesis or a classroom capstone project. 

About Harvard Extension School

With a mission to extend access to education, The Harvard Extension’s admissions process is more flexible than the official university, notably by allowing students to enroll in courses without formal admission to a program. 

Contributing to further accessibility, many courses are offered online so students will not have to relocate for classes. 

Though, after learning about Harvard’s Sustainability Initiative Plan, you may still be tempted to. 

With sustainable development goals to be fossil free by 2050, the green campus is accelerating the adoption of clean energy and investing in new renewable energies.

Their Green Revolving Fund provides capital for high-performance campus designs, operations, and projects.

4. Columbia University

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Columbia Master’s In Sustainability Management

Location: New York City, New York

Columbia‘s reputation in sustainability education is globally recognized for strength in Earth Science by the National Research Council.

Their Sustainability Management Master’s Degree is designed for students who want to study the intersection between business and environment (so they can one day have a brand that gives back).

The program requires the successful completion of 36 credits, divided among five comprehensive content areas.

Which include management decisions, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, public environmental policy, and general and financial management. 

That’s all topped off with an integrative capstone workshop that serves as a culminating educational experience.

Both full time and part time options are available.

About Columbia University

Using science based target initiatives and UNEP principles, Columbia plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

A plan which involves sustainable investments, fossil fuel free construction, zero emission vehicle parking, and water conservation. 

Via the Sustainable Leaders Network sustainable-minded students and faculty members have the chance to collaborate on campus wide initiatives to achieve these goals and foster a culture of sustainability.

5. Arizona State University

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Arizona State University’s Master’s In Sustainability Online

Location: Online/ Tempe, Arizona

Arizona State University offers four different Master’s programs in sustainability.

The Master of Arts and Master of Science in Sustainability require a thesis or professional paper. The former is suitable for students more interested in the socio ecological systems of sustainability, while the latter fits those leaning towards economic development and engineering.

Both programs require 35 credits. 

Meanwhile, the Master in Sustainability Leadership and Master in Sustainable Solutions only require 30 credits, and a capstone rather than a thesis. 

The former is offered as an 100% online Master’s in Sustainability.

About Arizona State University

Through energy efficiency, green construction, offsetting, and renewable energy acquisitions, ASU is carbon neutral for both Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, and is actively working towards a net positive impact on the climate. 

Via their Campus Metabolism tool, you can see real time energy use and generation on campus. 

Beyond the many zero waste stores in Phoenix and Tucson, ASU is aiming for a zero waste campus, through implementing various recycling programs for styrofoam, commingled recycling, e-waste, soft plastics, and specialty low waste office supplies.

That’s in addition to on-campus sustainable food systems like athletic and dining hall food waste recovery, residential composting, and yard trimming utilization.

6. University Of Pennsylvania

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The University Of Pennsylvania’s Master’s Degree In Sustainability

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania offers a Master’s of Environmental Studies with a concentration in sustainability that allows you to focus on the areas you’re most interested in. 

Examples of courses you can take include corporate sustainability strategies, renewable energy and its impacts, energy economics and policy, and green development. 

The program requires 12 course units and a capstone project. 

Full-time students can complete the program in two years, and part-time students can complete the program in three. 

About The University of Pennsylvania

UPenn addresses environmental challenges through inclusive climate change scholarships, innovative policy formation, and energy efficiency.

They currently have two large solar facilities under construction, which will account for an estimated 70% of electricity for their main campus, which has over 40 LEED sustainability certified buildings.

As well as 34 green roofs that reduce urban heat island impacts, minimize stormwater runoff, and support and increase biodiversity.

A first in the Ivy League, UPenn launched the Climate Impact Offset Charge (CLIO) to offset air travel emissions for all staff, faculty, and students traveling on behalf of Penn.

Best Master’s In Environmental Sustainability UK

7. University Of Glasgow

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The University Of Glasgow’s Environmental Sustainability Graduate Programs

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

The University of Glasgow offers S.T.E.M. focused post-graduate programs for fields in geography, earth science, green energy, and geographic data sciences. 

With 8 different master’s programs in sustainability in total, you can find exactly which one is suited to you. 

Almost all of the programs feature some training courses in G.I.S., a growing technology field in conservation ecology that should not be overlooked.

All of their programs can be completed in 12 months if enrolled full-time.

About the University Of Glasgow

GLA is ranked in the top 20 universities for QS World Sustainability Rankings, which is no surprise considering they offer one of the best sustainability Master’s programs in Europe.

Their Glasgow Green plan aims to reach net carbon zero emissions by 2030 by targeting energy efficiency, recycling, and waste reduction. 

Their Center for Sustainable Solutions enables individuals to act towards sustainable solutions through education, research, and partnership. 

Being a research-centric university, they have a ton of great projects going on, mostly tackling the suburban context of conservation.

8. University Of London

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The University Of London’s Environmental Sustainability Master’s Program

Location: London, England

For sustainable travellers out there, The University of London offers a Master’s of Conservation in Global Environment and Sustainability. 

The renowned program tackles global climate change, biodiversity conservation, food systems, waste and pollution, and water and energy sources.

Each module is 30 credits, and is topped off with one project module for another 30 credits. 

Meaning, the program takes a minimum of two years to complete, and a maximum of five years. 

The best part about this program is that if applicants do not meet the requirements for direct entry, they can still apply via the Performance Based Admissions route.

About The University Of London

The University of London Sustainability team is responsible for improving the sustainable performance of the University and to lead on the delivery of their strategic plan for zero carbon emissions.

Their four key sustainable delivery areas are: carbon emissions, natural resource management, nature, and knowledge/engagement.

Their award winning community sustainability efforts include competitions, challenges, and webinars that encourage students to save natural resources and reduce waste. 

And, their WorldWide model allows students to study remotely in their home countries or local teaching centers, effectively making a positive impact on their carbon footprint via reduced travel and physical resources.

Best Master’s In Environmental Sustainability Australia

9. University Of Sydney

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The University of Sydney’s Master’s Programs In Sustainability

Location: Sydney, New South Wales

The Master of Sustainability from The University of Sydney will enhance your career in diverse areas of sustainability, including finance, law and urban planning, sustainable building design, and public health.

You will complete core units to build your foundational knowledge in sustainability, along with a capstone research project.

As a full time student, it will take 1.5 years to complete. Part time is also available to earn your sustainable development master’s.

If that’s still too much of a commitment, they also offer a graduate certificate that takes 6 months to complete.

About The University of Sydney

The University of Sydney has a comprehensive program covering energy and waste conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable transportation.

The four pillars of their sustainability strategy include enriching lives through research, maintaining a responsible carbon footprint, empowering good governance and coordination, and embracing multiple knowledge systems.

Focused on research, the uni has initiatives targeting environmental conservation and social responsibility.

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Final Thoughts On The Top Master’s In Sustainability

Between entrance exams, letters of recommendation, and a whole lot of money, a graduate degree (sustainability or otherwise) is not to be taken lightly. 

The last thing you’d want to do is commit to a program that’s not worth it. 

The institutions featured on this list are highly regarded and will undoubtedly teach you important skills you’ll need to succeed.

So, get to stocking up on those eco-friendly school supplies and start filling out those applications because the perfect ESG master’s program is out there waiting for you.

And, because we need people pursuing degrees in sustainability leadership and development now more than ever, be sure to share this article with a fellow friend who might want to join your eco academic cohort.

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