Why Get a Sustainability Management Degree?

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - April 18, 2017
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Sustainability is one of the most important and pressing topics in the world today, as it deals with ensuring that planet Earth continues to be a suitable place to live. As a result, sustainability is found everywhere, from people’s domestic properties to huge multinational Fortune 500 companies, and from nonprofit organizations to governmental departments. In addition, sustainability is incorporated into a variety of functions. For instance, in a domestic property, people may consider installing solar panels, recycling, using energy saving light bulbs, and switching off their electronics when they are not in use.

Featured Programs:
Sponsored School(s)

Sustainability Management Opportunity

Because sustainability issues are all around us, there are huge growth opportunities as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), however, has had to cancel reporting on the issue due to the changes implemented by the Trump Administration, which has taken a different view on climate change. However, universities that offer training in sustainability have taken a different stance.

For instance, Columbia University has reported that demand for sustainability professionals continues to grow. They have seen particular growth in the professions of scientists, policymakers, communications professionals, marketers, engineers, and lawyers. Within these fields, sustainability is becoming increasingly important.

Similarly, the University of Wisconsin has reported that there is a bright outlook for sustainability careers, with existing professions developing and several new positions emerging. They have stated that “global business is in the midst of a revolution”, which means that businesses are having to change their operations and strategies to take sustainability into consideration.

The University of Wisconsin has also reported that:

  • 43% of all company executives in 2014 stated that they wanted to align their company values, mission, and goals with sustainability, and increase from 30% two years prior.
  • That almost all Fortune 500 companies but particularly Nike, Wal-Mart, and Apple, have led the way in making sustainability commitments.

The main commitments made to sustainability, according to the University of Wisconsin, are:

  • Resource conservation
  • Energy-use reduction
  • Pollution prevention
  • Recycling
  • Transportation efficiency
  • Wast elimination
  • Community development
  • Building design
  • Human rights

Sustainability Management Degree Career Paths

Because the field of sustainability is so broad, careers within the field exist across the board. According to Johns Hopkins University, the most popular positions, and their associated annual salary, are:

  • Chief sustainability executives, earning $166,910 per year.
  • Natural sciences managers, earning $114,770 per year.
  • General and operations managers, earning $95,150 per year.
  • Chemical engineers,, earning $92,930 year.
  • Atmospheric and space scientists, earning $89,790 per year.
  • Industrial production managers, earning $88,190 per year.
  • Environmental engineers, earning $79,050 per year.
  • Civil engineers, earning $77,990 per year.
  • Health and safety engineers (excluding mining safety engineers and inspectors), earning $75,470 per year.
  • Industrial engineers, earning $77,240 per year.

Sustainability Management Degree Salaries

One of the key factors determining what people can earn in the field of sustainability management is where in the country they work. Payscale.com has reported that the average national salary for all sustainability managers is $73,137 per year. However, they have reported that those who work in:

  • Chicago earn between $59,392 and $130,195 per year.
  • New York earn between $47,399 and $145,437 per year.

Sustainability Management Degree Employers

Of equal importance to where in the country someone works in the field of sustainability, is the company for which they work. A recent report by Glassdoor showed that:

  • PVH Corp. paid sustainability managers between $77,000 and $92,000 per year.
  • Aramark paid sustainability managers between $49,000 and $64,000 per year.
  • Abt Associates paid sustainability managers between $69,000 and $75,000 per year.
  • Alaska Airlines paid sustainability managers between $95,000 and $104,000 per year.
  • AMG Vanadium paid sustainability managers between $87,000 and $93,000 per year.
  • Lenovo paid sustainability managers between $102,000 and $110,000 per year.
  • Cagwin & Dorward paid sustainability managers between $67,000 and $72,000 per year.
  • The University of Tennessee paid sustainability managers between $52,000 and $57,000 per year.
  • The Estee Lauder Companies paid sustainability managers between $82,000 and $89,000 per year.
  • The Ohio State University paid sustainability managers between $50,000 and $54,000 per year.
  • Transwestern paid sustainability managers between between $67,000 and $73,000 per year.
  • Matr Boomie paid sustainability managers between $34,000 and $37,000 per year.
  • Sears paid sustainability managers between $57,000 and $62,000 per year.
  • Deloitte paid sustainability managers between $52,000 and $57,000 per year.
  • IKEA paid sustainability managers between $62,000 and $68,000 per year.
  • International Flavors & Fragrances paid sustainability managers between $102,000 and $112,000 per year.
  • Architectural Energy paid sustainability managers between $84,000 and $85,000 per year.
  • Thunderbird School of Global Management paid the sustainable innovation challenge manager between $44,000 and $52,000 per year.
  • KraFort Foods Global paid its Program Manager, Gsc Environmental/Sustainability, between $95,000 and $102,000 per year.
  • The Venetian Casino Resort Inc paid its Project Manager, Sustainability, between $76,000 and $81,000 per year.

What the above information shows is not just that salaries can vary tremendously, but also that sustainability professionals are required across all different types of industries and sectors.

Sustainability Management Bachelor’s Degree

In order to become involved in the field of sustainability, it is important to have a good education. This will tremendously improve your job prospects. This starts with a bachelor’s degree, such as the Sustainability Management B.A.S. offered by St. Petersburg College. Interestingly, this degree is offered online, which allows for highly convenient studying. The core curriculum of the program includes:

  • Energy and environmental management
  • Sustainable business strategies
  • Green construction and urban planning
  • Legal aspects of sustainability

Sustainability Management Master’s Degree

To really propel your career to the next level, you should consider pursuing a master’s degree. Various schools across the country and even the world now offer graduate degrees in sustainability. One of those is the M.S. in Sustainability Management, offered by Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, which is sponsored by The Earth Institute.

Sustainability Management Degree Admission Requirements

Schools can set admission requirements as they see fit. They are designed to demonstrate that a prospective student is able to cope with the demands of studying at graduate degree level. The degree at Columbia University is offered to very specific individuals, being those who are currently employed, or seek to take on positions of management, in:

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Operations
  • Facilities management
  • Regulatory compliance

Applicants must currently already have responsibility for sustainability in some form within their position. The program will develop professionals required in the field of technology, food service, transportation, media, pharmaceuticals, energy, industrial manufacturing, utilities, financial services, risk and environment management, environmental stewardship, and sustainability management.

To be accepted into the program, Columbia University looks for those who:

  • Hold college level economics, math, and science.
  • Have significant practitioner experience in sustainability management.
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree and can provide transcripts.
  • Can demonstrate English proficiency if they are non-native speakers.

Sustainability Management Degree Curriculum

Schools are entitled to set their own curriculum. As the field of sustainability management at graduate degree level is still emerging and quite innovative, there are considerable differences between the schools that offer this type of program. The curriculum at Columbia University includes:

  • Integrative Courses in Sustainability Management
  • Economics and Quantitative Analysis
  • The Physical Dimensions of Sustainability Management
  • The Public Policy Environment of Sustainability Management
  • General and Financial Management

Sustainability Management Degree Financial Assistance

Completing an education is an expensive endeavor, but one that can be mitigated to some extent. For instance, by studying online, you may be able to work alongside your degree program, which in turn means that you have a greater disposable income. At the same time, however, you must be realistic about the time commitment required to complete a degree.

In terms of the financial commitment you have to make, the bursar’s office of your chosen university will be more than happy to signpost you to the federal financial aid office, and they may also have scholarships and grants for you to apply for. External scholarships and grants also exist, including the:

  • A.V. Stout Fund Research Grant, to the value of $3,000.
  • Abbey Road Green Ticket Scholarship, for varying amounts.
  • AFSA High School Essay Contest, to the value of $2,500.
  • Alabama Environmental Health Association Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
  • Albuquerque Open Space Scholarship, to the value of $500.
  • Allegheny Mountain Section Air & Waste Management Assn. Scholarships, to the value of $5,000.
  • Alpha Gamma Rho Horticulture Scholarship, to the value of $500.
  • Apprentice Ecologist Scholarship, to the value of $500.
  • Association for Iron & Steel Technology Scholarships, to the value of $3,000.
  • Association of California Water Agencies Awards, to the value of $3,500.
  • Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund, to the value of $5,000.
  • Beulah Frey Environmental Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
  • Blandy Experimental Farm Undergraduate Research Education Program, to the value of $4,808.
  • Bradford-Sullivan Forest Landowners’ Association Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
  • Brown and Caldwell Minority Scholarship Program, to the value of $5,000.
  • Campus Safety Health & Environmental Management Association Scholarship, to the value of $3,000.
  • Chesapeake Bay Trust Student of the Year, to the value of $5,000.
  • Colorado Garden Show Scholarships, for varying amounts.
  • Connecticut Building Congress Scholarships, for varying amounts.
  • CSHEMA Scholarship, to the value of $3,000.

Generally speaking, in order to be eligible for one of those scholarships, you have to meet very specific requirements. Often, those include being a member of a professional organization, studying in a certain geographical area, aiming for a career in a specific field of work, holding a minimum GPA, demonstrating financial need, being of a certain gender, and/or belonging to a certain minority group. That being said, there are a great deal of scholarships available, and everyone should be able to find at least one that they can apply for. Additionally, while the scholarships with higher values may seem more interesting, they are usually a lot more competitive. so much so, in fact, that it is often easier, and more likely to be successful, to apply for multiple small scholarships.

Sustainability Management Degree Certifications

There are generally no legal requirements for those in the field of sustainability to be certified. However, certification can greatly improve your job prospects. You do, however, have to be realistic about the fact that it can take around six months to become certified, and you need to invest some money. Furthermore, you will generally have to maintain your certification through continuous education credits. That being said, those who have certification and employers alike have stated that this is a very worthwhile investment. Some of the certifications you may want to consider in the field of sustainability are:

  • Certified Sustainability Manager
  • Sustainability Studies Certificate
  • Certified Sustainability Manager On Demand
  • Certification of Professional Achievement in Sustainable Water Management

Sustainability Management Degree Associations

It is advisable that you become a member of relevant professional organizations as soon as possible. This is true not in the least because many of these associations offer scholarships and grants to their members. However, what is more important is that you will ensure that your knowledge is always up to date, and that you will always have the opportunity to further your own career. For instance, associations may also offer certification options, and continuous education credits. Additionally, as a member of an association, you will instantly be able to build a strong professional network. Some of the associations you may want to consider in the field of sustainability are:

  • Sustainability Management Association
  • National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM)
  • Association for Sustainability in Business
  • Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA) – Sustainability
  • ICMA – Sustainability


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

"It doesn't matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once." - Mark Cuban