Calling All Sustainability Majors, Masters, and PhDs

The upward mobility of the discipline of sustainability – and its ample amount of similar/creative names – within education is becoming evident. Since the Agenda 21 agreement in 1992, progress towards higher education in sustainability has been slower than expected. However, in my researching, more universities are establishing undergraduate and graduate programs that focus on integrative approaches to our environmental/economic problems (MSNBC recently did a piece on this. You can access the video here). The timing of this change within higher education correlates well with the Y generation, who is genuinely interested in carrying the green agenda and furthering the issues within sustainability.

Below, I spotlight interesting programs that you may want to research more. I also provide two websites at the bottom that have a more inclusive collection of graduate and undergraduate degrees you may find across the nation.

Undergraduate Programs in Sustainability

It is harder to find undergraduate programs that have a major solely for “sustainability” or one of its other related names. Most programs are titled “Environmental Science” or “Environmental Studies.” Additionally, there are many minors available as well.

Sustainability, Arizona State University:

Arizona State University is the only school in the nation to have a whole school dedicated to sustainability. The School of Sustainability is in its 2nd year and is making strong strides.

The undergraduate programs will introduce students to the problems of sustainability taking a comparative approach. Students will learn about factors that determine the sustainability of human institutions, organizations, cultures, and technologies in different environments. --
Environmental Science and Policy, Duke University:
The A.B. degree is designed for students interested in the interdisciplinary study of environmental issues. The major permits students to combine studies in natural sciences and engineering with courses in social sciences and humanities to develop particular focus areas or themes relevant to students’ individual interests. --

Graduate Programs in Sustainability (Masters or PhD)

Below I highlight a more specific side of sustainability. Just like a law degree (health law, patent law, criminal law, etc.), you have to have an idea of what aspect of sustainability you would like to focus on when you reach this level. I provide one premier university for each focus here.

Sustainability, Arizona State University:

The graduate programs train students for academic, research, and professional roles. Graduates will be able to understand the dynamics of coupled social and environmental systems and will be able to organize collaborative teams to conduct research and provide adaptive solutions to specific sustainability problems. --
Environmental Economics, UC Santa Barbara:
The EES Training Program is not a PhD program or department in and of itself. Students in the program are doctoral students in either the Department of Economics or the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and must satisfy the PhD requirements in their home unit. What the EES Training Program provides is a structure for students who wish to pursue a multidisciplinary program in environmental economics. This is achieved by supplementing their home unit's degree requirements in a well-defined manner. --
Green Building, Carnegie Mellon:
The 12 month Master of Science in Sustainable Design degree program provides an integrated education that strives to prepare its graduates for careers that will reshape the built environment in a sustainable fashion. --
Energy/Renewables, Cal State Berkeley:
For thirty years, the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California, Berkeley has provided its outstanding graduate students and exceptional faculty the scholarly conditions in which to study the environmental sciences, analyze the social causes of our energy and environmental problems, undertake field research in a variety of ecosystems, engage in cross cultural learning, and devise technical and policy alternatives to unsustainable energy and resource use patterns. --
Public Policy, Columbia University:

The MPA in Environmental Science and Policy combines Columbia University's hands on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. Graduates of the program are prepared for leadership positions in local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as in nonprofit organizations and the environmental divisions of private corporations. --

International Development -- American University/University for Pace:

A dual degree in natural resources/sustainable development allows students to address sustainable development issues in the context of the northern and southern hemispheres. Students spend one year in Washington D.C., strengthening their skills in international relations, economics, and policy and spend one year in Costa Rica, applying their knowledge and skills in sustainable development projects. --

Water Quality/Scarcity, Oregon State University:

The Water Resources Program at Oregon State University awards M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Students will draw from a set of existing OSU courses covering engineering approaches, watershed processes, and/or water resources management and policy. --
Conservation Biology/Sustainable Development, University of Wisconsin:
“Understanding the complex interactions between natural ecosystems and human societies is essential for ecologically sustainable development, which meets the growing needs of humanity while protecting the integrity of nature.

The Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program promotes this kind of understanding. Its unique interdisciplinary curriculum combines studies of the nature and value of biological diversity with studies of the economic and social dimensions of development. --

Websites to Further Research

  • Visit to find undergraduate/graduate degrees with a sustainability slant. These include disciplines such as agriculture, architecture, business, economics, education, engineering, and law.
  • Visit for graduate programs. It hasn’t been updated for many years, so this was not the best
Being that I just finished applying to many schools, I also know that the University of Michigan, University of Maryland, California State Pomona, State University of New York-ESF, Yale University, and University of Oregon have reputable programs in sustainability.

Additionally, confer your prep books such as Peterson’s and Kaplan and contact your school advisor to help with your search. Ask professors at your alma mater or college of interest as they undoubtedly have connections and knowledge of programs around the country. Please comment below with any other programs you have found or attended that would be of interest to our readers.

Further Reading:


If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

Justin (anonymous)

what are your impressions on the school for sustainability at ASU. I am considering obtaining the MA in sustainability there. Also, asu is the only school in the nation to offer such a concentration in a graduate program?

Written in September 2008

Riley Smith (anonymous)

I actually am a student at ASU in the MA program right now. The best advice I would give you is to check it out in person if you can. I am very impressed with the faculty thus far and feel that I have learned quite a bit in my first 5 weeks. It is in its 3rd (maybe 4th?) year so things are always bound to change. I love the campus and most importantly, I enjoy my fellow PhD/Masters students and what they bring to the table. It is fun to converse in a topic where everyone is bringing different expertises to the table. President Crow is highly supportive of the program and it will only continue to grow and prosper (they added undergrad program this year). Any other questions, let me know.

Written in September 2008

Randy (anonymous)

I too am interested in this school sustainablility. I am currently pursuing a BS in architectural studies and this is my third semester. What exaclty so sustainability majors do? What type of jobs and what type of income are they capable of? Any guidance will be appreciate it. Thanks

Written in October 2008

Riley Smith (anonymous)

Randy, I can't promise what type of jobs and income... all I know is there will be a blossoming field of businesses, gov't, private sectors etc that will be looking to have someone with a sustainability background on their team. It is too 'present' right now to ignore it and everyone is beginning to realize that it makes fiscal sense as well. As the director of the program says, it is risky to be in the school as they have no students that have went through the curriculum and thus, they have no data on who is getting into what field. Get on the website and email the graduate school advisors ( and they will be able to answer any more questions....or hit me back here and I'll do my best.

Written in October 2008

marco valente (anonymous)

Hi, thanks for this post, it is really good to attempt to list all the educational offer in sustainability beyond environmental sciences.

I wanted to add that there is a masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability, would he be interested in adding that up to his post, in Sweden at the Blekinge Institute of Technology.

More info can be found at
And yes, I also struggled a lot to get a thorough list/database of masters in sustainability. Might be the right time to create one?

All the best,
Marco Valente

Programme Assistant
Strategic Sustainability

Written in August 2009

Heramb (anonymous)

Hi ...
I am Heramb from India. I have done my Mechanical engineering (considered as Undergraduate in USA) i have 3 years work experience and am now trying to find the right course in Sustainability for my masters.

i have seen the courses offered at ASU, University of Michigan and city university of New York. these are the courses that appealed to me the most. I am interested in studying Sustainability in Urban Development. Do you know any more schools which offer similar courses ?

thanks - Heramb

Written in December 2009

Emily (anonymous)

Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, Ohio has a fantastic sustainability program. We were the first in the state to develop a sustainability undergraduate degree and MBA. I was the 5th to graduate with a BA in Sustainability. We have businessman in Cleveland that mentor us, fantastic paid internships, and really great professors. I can't recommend the program highly enough.

Written in July 2012

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