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Best online master's in sustainability 2022: Top picks

Ready to inspire change? A master's in sustainability equips you to understand and advocate for healthy relationships between the human and natural worlds.
Written by Melissa Sartore, Contributor on

Sustainability focuses on ensuring the healthy future of both humanity and the natural world. The discipline explores how culture, technology, and politics affect the environment and willingness to adopt green practices.

Growing concerns about climate change have led to the rise in sustainability-related jobs. With a master's in sustainability, individuals can take on leadership roles to protect the planet and its residents alike. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 7,000 new environmental scientists and specialists positions by 2030. The U.S. Department of Labor also estimates growth in green jobs in the coming years. 

Top 3 online schools for master's in sustainability: Quick facts

College

Program stats

How much?

University of South Florida

Tampa, FL

  • MA in Global Sustainability
  • Acceptance rate: 48%
  • Graduation rate: 72%
  • Includes an internship or research project

Avg. annual net price: $8,355

Application fee: $30

University of Wisconsin Parkside

Kenosha, WI

  • MS in Sustainable Management
  • Acceptance rate: 66%
  • Graduation rate: 35%
  • Students lead a capstone sustainability project

Avg. annual net price: $11,317

Application fee: $50

Montclair State University

Montclair, NJ

  • MS in Sustainability Science, Sustainability Leadership
  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 69%
  • Designed to accommodate working professionals

Avg. annual net price: $18,034

Application fee: $60

The best online master's in sustainability degrees

ZDNet's ranking methodology uses independent data and insight from industry experts to assess academic programs. Our proprietary formula looks at academics, affordability, and accessibility to give you the essential and unbiased facts about the top online sustainability master's in 2021.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

About the program: USF's master of arts in global sustainability includes a concentration in climate mitigation and adaptation, sustainable business, sustainability policy, or sustainable tourism.

  • Acceptance rate: 48%
  • Graduation rate: 72%
  • Avg. annual net price: $8,355
  • Years to completion: Five
  • GRE/GMAT: GRE verbal of 153 or higher
  • Minimum GPA: 3.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery methods: Not publicly available

Accreditation: The University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

2. University of Wisconsin Parkside

Kenosha, Wisconsin

About the program: UWP offers a comprehensive 34-credit online master's of science in sustainable management. As a capstone, students lead a real-world sustainability project.

  • Acceptance rate: 66%
  • Graduation rate: 35%
  • Avg. annual net price: $11,317
  • Years to completion: Two
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Wisconsin Parkside is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Montclair State University

Montclair, New Jersey

About the program: Montclair's 32-credit online master of science in sustainability science with a concentration in sustainability leadership is designed to accommodate working professionals.

  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 69%
  • Avg. annual net price: $18,034
  • Years to completion: Two
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Montclair State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

4. Unity College

Unity, Maine

About the program: Unity's online master's in environmental studies and sustainability emphasizes experiential learning through fieldwork and is designed to meet the needs of working professionals. 

  • Acceptance rate: 98%
  • Graduation rate: 63%
  • Avg. annual net price: $26,080
  • Years to completion: Two
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • Enrollment periods per year: Five
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Unity College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). 

5. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Daytona, Florida

About the program: ERUA's online aviation and aerospace sustainability master's degree includes eight specialization options, including aviation cybersecurity, aeronautics, and aviation safety. 

  • Acceptance rate: 62%
  • Graduation rate: 35%
  • Avg. annual net price: $20,333
  • Years to completion: Two
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Embry-RIddle Aeronautical University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

6. Black Hills State University

Spearfish, South Dakota

About the program: BHSU's online master's degree in sustainability aims to create a comprehensive understanding of the complex relationships among the environment, natural systems, and human institutions.

  • Acceptance rate: 84%
  • Graduation rate: 40%
  • Avg. annual net price: $16,641
  • Years to completion: Two
  • GRE/GMAT: GRE required if GPA is below 2.75
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Black Hills State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

What to expect in an online master's in sustainability degree program

Earning a master's in sustainability online requires dedication and initiative. Online assignments accompany independent reading and research, while projects encourage collaboration with classmates.


An online master's degree in sustainability includes coursework on the discipline's theoretical and practical foundations. Students explore sustainability's social, economic, and scientific aspects, build analytical and research skills, and complete internships.

Some master's in sustainability programs emphasize science. Others focus on resource management, sustainable development, and legal and ethical aspects of sustainability. 

A sustainability master's degree may culminate in a research project and thesis, comprehensive exams, or an independent or group project. 

Master's in sustainability courses

No two sustainability programs are identical, but most cover some common topics. Students study theories and practices of sustainability, environmental economics, research methods, and global issues related to sustainability. 

A master's in sustainability also emphasizes urban and rural development, communication and change, and innovation.

Environmental economics

Students assess how market forces drive environmental problems and gain insight into solutions. Topics include pollution control, renewable resources, optimal extraction of natural resources, and environmental entrepreneurship.

Foundations of sustainable practice

Foundations courses cover social, scientific, and economic aspects of sustainability on local, regional, national, and global scales. Students learn to apply each of sustainability's core practices: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Sustainability management

This course explores sustainability's environmental, social, economic, and regulatory aspects. It introduces students to strategies to meet sustainability challenges in business and industry. Topics include resource management, corporate social responsibility, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

Contemporary issues in sustainability

Students gain a solid understanding of the ever-changing field by reviewing sustainability's history. Coursework assesses the role of pollution, renewable energy, and resource management in the modern world through case studies. Learners also examine the discipline's future.

Sustainability degree levels

Sustainability degrees vary in length, price, scope, and outcomes. 

If you want to enter the field of sustainability management and development, you may benefit from an undergraduate degree in sustainability. Graduate programs focus on research, implementing solutions, and advanced concepts and strategies for sustainable practice.

Certificate in sustainability

Length: Two years

Cost: $2,000-$5,000

Post-grad careers: Sustainability accountant, supply chain manager, environmental science technician

An undergraduate certificate introduces sustainability's economic, social, and political aspects. Students also gain the scientific knowledge necessary for environmental science technician roles.

A graduate certificate in sustainability provides in-depth information on one facet of the discipline. Working professionals may specialize in subdisciplines like sustainable food production, sustainability policy, and sustainable supply chain management. 

Associate in sustainability

Length: Two years

Cost: $5,000-$10,000

Post-grad careers: Environmental science technician, hazardous materials handler, conservation worker

Students enrolled in a sustainability associate degree establish foundational knowledge of environmental policy and law, environmental communication, and environmental science. An associate degree in sustainability includes communications, information technology, and humanities coursework. 

Many associate degrees in sustainability serve as transfer programs for learners who seek a bachelor's degree in sustainability or a related discipline.

Bachelor's in sustainability

Length: Four years

Cost: $12,000-$120,000

Post-grad careers: Sustainability manager, climate change analyst, urban planner 

A bachelor's in sustainability degree includes four years of general education and major coursework. Introductory classes in sustainability theories and practices prepare students for advanced courses in sustainable development, the economics of natural resources, and environmental politics and policy.

This degree culminates in a comprehensive capstone requirement — typically an internship, individual or group project, or research project. With a sustainability bachelor's degree, individuals can pursue careers across business and industrial sectors or continue to graduate programs.

Master's in sustainability

Length: Two years

Cost: $15,000-$80,000

Post-grad careers: Sustainability director, environmental scientist, sustainability engineer

A master's in sustainability builds critical thinking skills while diving deeper into the discipline's theory and practice. Many sustainability master's programs have specialization options such as sustainable food production, environmental public policy, and environmental research. Degree requirements may include independent and group projects, internships, and experiential learning activities. 

If you're aiming for a managerial role in sustainability, you may benefit from a master's program. Business-oriented learners may find a better fit in an MBA with a sustainability concentration. This MBA concentration focuses on sustainability in business.

Doctorate in sustainability

Length: Three to five years

Cost: $$18,000-$90,000

Post-grad careers: University professor, senior environmental scientist, climate science researcher

A doctorate in sustainability emphasizes research and policy. As future policy-makers, doctoral students complete foundational coursework in sustainable development, economics, natural science, and social science.

Comprehensive exams precede a research project on a topic chosen by the student and members of the faculty. Students must then produce and defend a discipline.

In conclusion

If you're interested in learning more about how humans and the planet relate to one another and how to ensure the health and safety of both, a degree in sustainability may be right for you.

Weigh the above information with your interests, educational background, and professional experience as you seek the perfect master's in sustainability for your needs.

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