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Best online sustainability degrees: Make a lasting difference

A sustainability degree integrates coursework in natural science, environmental studies, engineering, and management to prepare you for a rewarding career in sustainability.

Sustainability is the practice of preserving natural resources, protecting habitats, and meeting the needs of both living things and the planet. As a sustainability student, you'll study how to reduce waste, pollution, and energy consumption on both individual and large scales.

More and more households and businesses are becoming aware of sustainability efforts, allowing for sustainability jobs to flourish across different economic sectors. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected faster-than-average job growth for environmental scientists and specialists, hazardous materials removal workers, and environmental science and protection technicians from 2020 to 2030.

A sustainability degree gives you a pathway to put your environmental consciousness to work. Take a look at the top sustainability degrees we found for 2022.

Top 3 online schools for sustainability: Quick facts

College

Program stats

How much?

Florida International University

Miami, FL

  • BA in Sustainability and the Environment
  • Acceptance rate: 58%
  • Graduation rate: 64%
  • Designed as a degree-completion program

Avg. annual net price: $7,296

Application fee: $30

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

  • BS in Sustainability
  • Acceptance rate: 82%
  • Graduation rate: 64%
  • Intended as a double or second degree

Avg. annual net price: $20,016

Application fee: $65

Prescott College

Prescott, AZ

  • BA in Sustainability Management
  • Acceptance rate: 97%
  • Graduation rate: 60%
  • Incorporates projects in rural and urban settings

Avg. annual net price: $18,798

Application fee: Free

The best online bachelor's in sustainability degrees

ZDNet's ranking methodology assesses the best online bachelor's degrees in sustainability using a formula based on independent data and insights from industry experts. We look at affordability, academics, and overall outcomes to determine which degrees will meet your overall goals. Our independent, five-layer review provides objective insight into the top sustainability degrees for 2022.

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

1. Florida International University

Miami, Florida

About the program: FIU's online bachelor of arts in sustainability and the environment functions as a degree-completion program and focuses on the relationships among human institutions, organizations, cultures, and technologies in the environment. 

  • Acceptance rate: 58%
  • Graduation rate: 64%
  • Avg. annual net price: $7,296
  • Years to completion: Two
  • SAT range: 1110-1280
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

2. Oregon State University

Corvallis, Oregon

About the program: Students can complete Oregon State's online bachelor of science in sustainability as a stand-alone degree or as a dual program with a major in business administration. 

  • Acceptance rate: 82%
  • Graduation rate: 64%
  • Avg. annual net price: $20,016
  • Years to completion: Four
  • SAT range: 1080-1320
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

3. Prescott College

Prescott, Arizona

About the program: Prescott College's online bachelor of arts degree in sustainability management incorporates projects throughout the curriculum that allow students to focus on urban or rural settings. 

  • Acceptance rate: 97%
  • Graduation rate: 60%
  • Avg. annual net price: $18,798
  • Years to completion: Four
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Prescott College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. Roosevelt University

Schaumburg, Illinois

About the program: RU's online bachelor of arts degree in sustainability combines coursework in natural science, the social sciences, and the humanities with research opportunities at urban farms, nature centers, and local sustainability organizations.

  • Acceptance rate: 67%
  • Graduation rate: 53%
  • Avg. annual net price: $22,749
  • Years to completion: Four
  • SAT range: 1010-1230
  • Minimum GPA: 2.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Roosevelt University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

5. Bellevue University

Bellevue, Nebraska

About the program: Students can complete BU's online bachelor's in sustainability management as an accelerated cohort program or a comprehensive, flexible degree.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 46%
  • Avg. annual net price: $15,616
  • Years to completion: Two to four
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Synchronous

Accreditation: Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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

An online sustainability bachelor's degree includes four years of interdisciplinary coursework in natural science, technology, engineering, and environmental studies. Students study how humans coexist with flora, fauna, and the planet to better understand the complex relationships between them.

Sustainability coursework emphasizes behavioral and systematic changes to conserve energy, restore the environment, and increase overall awareness of global environmental issues. Lecture classes, cooperative projects, and practical requirements accompany culminating capstone courses to prepare students for a career in business, policy, or science as it relates to the environment. A sustainability program may allow for students to participate in hands-on activities as part of the program.

Any online degree requires learners to dedicate their time and energy to the program. Completing a sustainability degree requires motivation, self-discipline, and commitment.

Bachelor's in sustainability courses

Classes in sustainability programs vary, but students generally complete a combination of core courses in science, social science, and technology. Coursework in the business of sustainability accompanies classes in topics such as natural resource management, environmental policy, and environmental ethics. 

Environmental and sustainability policy

By introducing students to public policies related to the environment and sustainability, this course emphasizes historical, theoretical, and technical aspects of sustainably managing natural resources and quality standards. Additional areas covered include risk management, environmental legislation, and sustainability ethics. 

Sustainability and natural resource management

With a comprehensive look at natural resources management, students examine how land, air, and water depend upon each other. Information about environmental issues and policies and how they relate to the use and management of natural resources accompanies discussion of maintaining sustainability and social needs alike. 

Economics in society and sustainability

By exploring the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainability, students gain insight into how markets, trade, and government services influence the environment. Additional topics include sustainability and supply chains, poverty and discrimination, and environmentally conscious decision-making.

Conservation and restorative science

Conservation and restorative science classes focus on the principles of conservation and restoration within the context of environmental science as a whole. Topics include biodiversity, systems thinking, human influence on the environment, and behaviors to bring about change.

Sustainability degree levels

Sustainability degree levels accommodate students at different stages of their educational and professional careers. An associate degree in sustainability introduces learners to the concepts and principles of the discipline, while a bachelor's degree integrates additional advanced coursework. Graduate programs in sustainability train leaders and experts in the field of sustainability, often within a focus area.

Associate in sustainability

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $7,000-$20,000
  • Post-grad careers: Conservation worker, environmental science technician, solar system installation worker

An associate degree in sustainability includes two years of coursework in communications, biology and chemistry, and the fundamentals of sustainable practice. Students study social science and computer technology to prepare them for entry level roles as technicians and assistants in various sustainable contexts.

Most associate degrees in sustainability serve as a pathway to a bachelor's degree in environmental science or sustainability.

Bachelor's in sustainability

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $14,000-$80,000
  • Post-grad careers: Climate change analyst, sustainability specialist, recycling coordinator 

Sustainability bachelor's degrees emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of the major through coursework in environmental pollution and waste management, earth systems and global climate change, and social perspectives on sustainable practices. Classes in business aspects of sustainability accompany courses in environmental ethics and policy. 

As part of a bachelor's degree in sustainability, learners often complete an internship or work-based learning requirement. Bachelor's degrees culminate in a capstone course during which learners synthesize degree content through a project, paper, or portfolio.

Master's in sustainability

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $12,000-$80,000
  • Post-grad careers: Sustainability director, environmental scientist, conservation manager

A master's in sustainability includes two years of lecture, research, and experiential learning coursework. Students complete classes in management, natural science, and environmental policy alongside courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods. 

Many master's degrees in sustainability allow learners to specialize in an area such as sustainability in outdoor industries, sustainable food systems, and urban sustainability. A sustainability master's may culminate in a thesis, project, or cumulative exam.

Sustainability master's degree, individuals can advance to managerial roles and serve as sustainability leaders in business, government, and educational settings.

Doctorate in sustainability

  • Length: Three to five years
  • Cost: $18,000-$120,000
  • Post-grad careers: Environmental scientist, sustainability analyst, natural resource manager

A doctorate in sustainability emphasizes advanced principles and concepts of environmental science and policy. Students complete applied science and research methods coursework to prepare for and carry out a research project that results in a dissertation. 

As part of a doctoral program in sustainability, learners complete comprehensive exams and choose an area of emphasis. Specialization areas include sustainable enterprise and development, environmental justice, social cohesion and inequity, and sustainable food production. 

In conclusion

Environmental enthusiasts who want to fight for the protection of the planet thrive in sustainability degree programs. A degree in sustainability can lead to careers in business, public service, education, and science. 

The information on this page can help you determine which sustainability degree is right for you. 

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