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Earning a Bachelor's Degree in Sustainability

written by: Erik Hinrichsen•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 8/1/2014

This article gives helpful advice to students interested in a bachelors degree in sustainability. It lists the schools offering degrees and provides a list of careers in sustainability.

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    What is Sustainability?

    Careers in sustainability have exploded with the dawning of the new "green" age. Several prominent universities are now offering a bachelors degree in sustainability, and students are flooding into these programs at never before-seen rates. But wary students should research just what a sustainability degree is, what kind of jobs such a degree can lead to, and which schools are the best before committing to the subject area. This article will provide curious students with an overview of the best schools, as well as what sort of jobs and salaries one can expect with a sustainability degree.

    Sustainability "... calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Students studying sustainability, then, learn how to implement technologies and strategies to operate our society without compromising our future. They study the environmental effects of such technologies as automobiles and the energy sector, and learn about alternatives that may be more environmentally friendly. They also learn about water pollution, the effects of overuse of farmland, air pollution, and much more.

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    Schools with Sustainability degrees

    Schools may offer a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BS), or both, in sustainability. At Arizona State University, which was the first school nationwide to create a school in sustainability, students can study for either a BA or BS. In the BA program, students can choose from one of four tracks: Society and Sustainability, Policy and Governance in Sustainable Systems, International Development and Sustainability, and Sustainable Urban Dynamics. Below is a list of all the schools offering a bachelor of arts in sustainability.

    • Acadia University (Environmental and Sustainability studies)
    • Appalachian State U. (Sustainable Development)
    • Arizona State University (Sustainability)
    • The University of Arizona (Sustainable Built Environments Degree Program)
    • Baldwin Wallace College (Sustainability)
    • Dalhousie University (Environment, Sustainability, and Society)
    • Dominican University of California (Sustainable Communities)
    • Drew University (Environmental Studies and Sustainability)
    • Johns Hopkins University (Global Environmental Change and Sustainability)
    • Lipscomb University (Sustainability Practice)
    • Meredith College (Environmental Sustainability)
    • Messiah College (Sustainability Studies)
    • Pennsylvania State University (Energy and Sustainability Policy)
    • San Francisco State University Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice)
    • Stony Brook University (Sustainability Studies)
    • Wilson College (Environmental Sustainability)

    Students looking to get a bachelors degree in sustainability may prefer to go the bachelors of science approach. This may open more career opportunities to them, especially if they gain a strong science background from courses. Compare Arizona State University's tracks for the BS degree with those for the BA listed above: Sustainable Energy, Materials, and Technology; The Economics of Sustainability; and Sustainable Ecosystems. The following schools offer BS's in sustainability or a closely related field.

    • Appalachian State University (Sustainable Development)
    • Arizona State University (Sustainability)
    • Dalhousie University (Environment, Sustainability, and Society)
    • Eastern Mennonite University (Environmental Sustainability)
    • Kean University (Sustainability Science)
    • Lipscomb University (Sustainable Practice)
    • Mountain State University (Environmental Sustainability)
    • Philadelphia University (Environmental Sustainability)
    • Rochester Institute of Technology (Environmental Sustainability )
    • St. Petersburg College (Sustainability Management)
    • University of Florida (Sustainability and the Built Environment)
    • University of New Haven (Sustainability)
    • Western New England College (Sustainability)

    Admissions requirements for sustainability are the same as those for regular admission in most cases.

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    Careers in Sustainability

    As sustainability is a brand new degree, there isn't a career field that it's most commonly associated with. Graduates may find work in a diverse range of fields, from farming to corporate. Indeed, companies are sure to begin hiring sustainability grads to help improve their environmental footprints. There certainly seem to be a large number of job postings in sustainability, based on the number of listings on the website JobsInSustainability. Following are ten careers in sustainability:

    1. Urban Planner. Salary range: $43,000-65,000
    2. Sustainability Systems Developer. Salary Range: $71,000-97,000
    3. Recycling industry. Salary Range: $40,000-79,000
    4. Green Entrepreneur. Salary Range: unknown
    5. Conservation Biologist. Salary Range: $39,000-62,000
    6. Wind Turbine Fabricator. Salary Range: $41,000-60,000
    7. Energy Efficiency Builder. Salary Range: $55,000-95,000
    8. Solar Power Installer. Salary Range: $31,000-46,000
    9. Forester. Salary Range: $39,000-62,000
    10. Sustainable/Organic Farmer. Salary Range: $24,000-50,000+
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    Sources and Further Reading

    Bachelor's Degree Programs in Sustainability:

    Ten Jobs in Sustainability:

    Median salaries from