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Sustainable Practices Education

Top Graduate Schools with Degrees in Sustainable Practices


For purposes of this article our definition of sustainable practices includes professional fields in science, management, public policy, engineering, architecture, and agriculture.  There are degrees in all of these disciplines that have been developed for careers relating to environmental responsibility.  There are some degrees that delve into sustainability in detail and others – such as MBA programs – that treat environmental concerns as simply another area of specialization.  We have tried to select graduate programs that are primarily dedicated to an academic discipline focused on sustainability as the main educational goal.  Many of these graduate degrees are interdisciplinary which is only appropriate in a field where the solutions to environmental issues are a complex knot of regulatory, scientific, and financial issues.


1.      SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry has an astonishing set of graduate programs in sustainable practices, divided into six areas.  In the Environmental and Forest Biology field there are Master of Science (MS) degrees in eleven disciplines including Applied Ecology, Environmental Physiology, and Plant Biotechnology.  In the Environmental & Forest Chemistry are there are four areas of focus for the MS including Environmental Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry of Natural Products.  In Environmental & Resource Engineering the MS options include Ecological Engineering, Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Management, and Geospatial Information Science & Engineering.  For the Sustainable Construction Management & Engineering area there are four master’s degrees.  There are six degrees in Environmental Science and five in Forestry Management.


2.      Yale University College of Forestry & Environmental Studies has been in existence since 1901 and today offers a good range of sustainable practice degrees.  The Master of Forestry is the oldest but for today’s sustainable issues there is the Master of Environmental Management, Master of Environmental Science, Master of Forest Science, and a Development Economics degree.  Among the joint degree options is a program with the Yale School of Divinity.


3.      Duke University has established the Nicholas School of the Environment & Earth Sciences where many of the sustainable practices graduate programs are to be found.  The school offers the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) and Master of Forestry degrees as professional studies programs, meaning that they are terminal degrees for students who wish to work in those fields.  The MEM is available in Coastal Environmental Management through the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC.  There is an online MEM program in Environmental Leadership.


4.      Arizona State University School of Sustainability represents a proactive effort by a major public university to develop undergraduate and graduate studies relevant to environmental responsibility.  The school was founded in 2007, offering a degree in sustainability at the Bachelor’s Master’s and Doctorate level.  They refer to their sustainability course of study as “transdisciplinary.”  The Master of Arts in Sustainability degree is designed for students inclined toward the social sciences, policy and planning initiatives, and human services.  The Master of Science in Sustainability is the degree focused on Environmental Science, with courses in Sustainable Water, Sustainable Energy & Material Use, Sustainable Ecosystems, and Food Systems Sustainability.


5.      University of California/Berkeley has perhaps thirty graduate programs (in thirty departments) relevant to sustainability but several offer only doctoral degrees.  The terminal masters degrees include Ecosystem Science, Environmental & Science Journalism, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Health Sciences, Society & Environment, Urban Design, and the Energy Resources Group which offers a Masters in Energy Resources with areas of specialization in such areas as climate change, energy, water, environmental justice, and development.


6.      University of Illinois graduate program in Civil & Environmental Engineering offers a number of academic options for students who have a particular area of environmental engineering that interests them.  The Master of Science degree is offered in Civil & Environmental Engineering, and in Civil Engineering & Environmental Science.  Further specialization options include Environmental Engineering & Science, Environmental Hydrology & Hydraulic Engineering, and Geotechnical Engineering.  This program provides detailed specialization in the major areas of environmental engineering.


7.      University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment offers just two masters degrees: the Master of Landscape Architecture and the Master of Science in Natural Resources & Environment.  Under the umbrella of this MS degree, however, there are eight areas of specialization: Aquatic Sciences, Research & Management; Behavior, Education & Communication; Conservation Biology, Environmental Informatics; Environmental Justice, Environmental Policy & Planning, Sustainable Systems, and Terrestrial Ecosystems. 


8.      Johns Hopkins University has an Environmental Studies program that offers the Master of Science in Environmental Sciences & Policy.  There are four options for an area of concentration with this degree; those include Environmental Monitoring & Analysis, Ecological Management, Environmental Management, and Environmental Planning.  There is also a Master of Science in Energy Policy & Climate.


9.      College of the Atlantic is a small liberal arts school founded in 1972 that has only one major: Human Ecology.  The school offers a Master of Philosophy in Human Ecology to its graduate students.  Today it has about 400 students who have three choices for area of specialization: Arts & Design, Human Studies, and Environmental Sciences.  All of these options have curricula that reflect the school’s mission, which is to teach the principles of human ecology for various professional applications.  There is a great deal of flexibility for student design of personal education goals, so there are further specialization options in Ecological Policy & Planning, Sustainable Business, Sustainable Food Systems, Conservation Biology, and Marine Studies.  It is located on Mt. Desert Island off the coast of Maine, adjacent to Acadia National Park.


10.  Cornell University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences offers Masters in Environmental Engineering, Science of Natural & Environmental Systems, Development Sociology, and several other degrees that feature sustainability as an important part of the curriculum. The Department of Natural Resources offers the Master of Professional Studies in Natural Resources while the MS is designated as part of the doctoral program.  There are several programs such as Biology & Society that offer a bachelor’s degree and a PHD but no master’s program



11. Environmental Policy Graduate Programs. Earn a Master’s degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management from The New School. This graduate program equips students to play valuable roles as planners, managers, policy analysts, and consultants in defining environmental policy and giving support to institutions that seek to enhance their sustainability performance


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