As businesses and organizations increasingly focus on reducing their ecological footprint, the demand for online sustainability master's degree graduates grows. Degree holders enjoy diverse career opportunities and make, on average, about $25,000 more per year than professionals with just a bachelor's degree.
Graduates with an online sustainability master's degree find employment opportunities across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. They often work in environmental and energy policy, developing and advocating for sustainable laws and regulations that lead to cleaner and healthier communities. Sustainability professionals also help businesses and organizations manage risk, boost profits, attract talented employees, and improve reputations.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not maintain specific wage data for sustainability jobs, the agency's economists project considerable growth for the field. Graduates may find especially strong opportunities in management, science, engineering, business operations, and compliance and auditing.
Data and recent trends indicate that seeking an online master's in sustainable development represents a sound investment for students seeking a competitive salary and positive impact.
Online MBA in Sustainability Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
The Best Online MBA in Sustainability Programs
1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Based in Chapel Hill, UNC's flagship campus hosts an online MBA program that offers eight concentration options, including one in sustainable enterprise. This online MBA in sustainability requires students to earn 66 credits. Learners can choose between a full-time track, which takes about 18 months to complete, or a part-time track that takes twice as long. The program delivers most coursework synchronously, with online learners also attending video conferences once a week.
Program coursework includes the study of operations, sustainable enterprise, global marketing, and innovation and entrepreneurship in developing economies. The program regularly brings in speakers from the sustainability field, and many students choose to participate in sustainability-related case competitions. In-person requirements for the program include quarterly global immersion experiences where students travel to major business centers around the world, including Chicago, London, Dubai, Shanghai, Mumbai, Singapore, and New York. During these immersions, students have met with executives from companies such as ESPN, Virgin, Google, and General Mills.
The program runs on a cohort model, and students can apply for admission in the spring, summer, or fall terms. All applicants must have a bachelor's degree and at least two years of professional experience. Additionally, prospective students must submit GRE or GMAT scores and attend a remote interview with a program representative. The program charges each student the same per-credit tuition, regardless of where they live.
UNC is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The university's business school is nationally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
2. Oklahoma State University
Located in Stillwater, Oklahoma State University hosts several online programs, including an online MBA program with a concentration in business sustainability. Offered in partnership with the school's graduate environmental science department, the sustainability concentration features a 42-credit curriculum. The online program is for part-time students and delivers coursework asynchronously through the Brightspace virtual classroom.
Students pursuing an MBA in sustainability online complete core business classes, such as marketing management and business finance, in addition to coursework in sustainable enterprises and business and social responsibility. Learners complete an additional six credits of electives, choosing from courses such as ethical leadership and organizations, business and nonprofit organizations, and social entrepreneurship. Students can also enroll in a supporting emerging enterprises elective class that features a practicum experience in South Africa; other than this optional course, the program has no in-person requirements.
Applicants to the program must have earned a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and recorded competitive GMAT scores. The program prefers applicants with professional experience, although this is not explicitly required. Applicants should also have a basic understanding of calculus and quantitative concepts.
Oklahoma State is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission. The university's business school is nationally accredited from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
3. Northeastern University
Northeastern University has seen a steady rise in its national profile over the past several years, resulting in a more competitive group of students, a larger endowment, and an extensive slate of online programs. Distance learners from across the nation can earn an online MBA with a concentration in sustainability from Northeastern, without ever needing to visit the school's main campus in Boston.
The curriculum of this online MBA in sustainability consists of 50 credits, including 13 core business courses and five electives that allow students to focus on sustainability-related issues. Possible electives include sustainability and leadership, sustainability and supply chain management, and sustainability and the business environment. Students can choose to complete a one-week residency on campus to earn three credits, but this is not required. Additionally, learners who complete their first year in good standing, which requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, can complete an international field study residency. Past residencies have occurred in Greece, Chile, Turkey, Peru, China, and Russia. After earning a sustainability MBA online, students have the option to complete four additional courses to earn a dual MBA/MS in finance degree.
Northeastern delivers online MBA coursework asynchronously. Most students in the program continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree, which they can earn within two years. Northeastern's online MBA admissions committee focuses on professional experience; prospective students must have at least five years of work experience and be full-time employees. Prospective students must also have earned a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. GRE and GMAT scores are not required for admission.
Northeastern is regionally accredited from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The university's business school is nationally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
4. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
UC-Denver, a member of the University of Colorado system, is the largest research university in the state and offers multiple distance education programs. UC-Denver awards more graduate degrees than any other school in Colorado, and its MBA program is its most popular graduate program in terms of enrollment. Distance learners nationwide can complete a sustainability MBA online at UC-Denver without ever needing to visit campus.
This program's curriculum consists of 48 credits, including 30 credits of core courses, 15 credits related to the sustainability concentration, and three credits in international business. Classes in the concentration include green marketing strategy and sustainability and eco-efficiency as sources of competitive advantage. The curriculum does not include a thesis or comprehensive examination. The program features a hands-on curriculum that uses case studies, group projects, and computer simulations to give students practical business experience. Distance learners also gain access to the school's dedicated experiential learning team, which helps facilitate internship opportunities. UC-Denver delivers all online coursework asynchronously. Out-of-state online students pay a significantly discounted rate compared to out-of-state on-campus students.
UC-Denver is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission. The university's online MBA program is nationally accredited from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
5. Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Based in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University extends its influence beyond the commonwealth by offering MBA programs online. Distance learners enrolled in the school's online MBA program can pursue a graduate certificate in sustainability. WKU designed this program for part-time students, delivering coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. Students may take up to six credits per term. Completion times vary, but students who take six credits each term finish in 18 months. The 30-credit curriculum includes core coursework in organizational behavior, microeconomic theory, and managerial finance. Each online course lasts seven weeks.
All applicants to WKU's sustainability MBA online program must have earned a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.75. Applicants should also submit GMAT scores; acceptance into the program requires a minimum overall score of 500 and a minimum written score of 3.5. The program prefers individuals with an academic background in business, although prospective students can complete foundational business coursework or proficiency exams once admitted. The program currently enrolls students for the fall and spring terms. All distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition, even if they reside outside of Kentucky.
WKU is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The university's business school is nationally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
6. University of Saint Francis–Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne, Indiana
The University of Saint Francis is a Roman Catholic-affiliated liberal arts school that primarily serves students from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana. Distance learners from regions beyond the Midwest can earn an MBA in sustainability online through USF without ever visiting the school's main campus in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Full-time students can complete the program with 12 months of asynchronous study. However, USF also caters to working professionals, allowing students to enroll part-time.
The online MBA in sustainability consists of 36 credits, including 21 credits of core business courses and 15 concentration-specific credits. Sustainability-related courses include environmental epidemiology, environmental law, and applied statistics for environmental studies. Core requirements include survey courses financial management and managerial accounting. The program does not have any thesis or capstone requirements.
All applicants must have earned a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75. Prospective students who do not meet this requirement must also submit their GMAT scores for consideration, unless they have at least five years of professional experience. The program evaluates and accepts transfer credits on a case-by-case basis. USF charges all online graduate students the same per-credit, base tuition.
USF is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission. The university's MBA program is nationally accredited from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
7. Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
Based in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University is a private school best known for its doctoral research. The university also offers many strong distance education programs, including an online MBA in sustainability. WilmU's MBA program caters to working adults, offering asynchronous learning and options for full-time and part-time students.
The program's 36-credit curriculum includes seven core courses and five classes focusing on the environmental sustainability concentration. Each course lasts seven weeks. Environmental sustainability concentration courses include economic and financial analysis of environmental issues, environmental regulations and ethical issues, and principles of environmental sustainability. This program does not contain any on-campus requirements. Additionally, students do not undertake any capstone or thesis requirements; instead, the program emphasizes business and environmental theory. Graduates learn how to strategically align the needs of businesses and the environment to promote ecological sustainability.
Applicants must have completed undergraduate coursework in finance, economics, mathematics, and accounting. Students must complete four introductory courses before advancing to degree candidacy status. Online students pay the same tuition, regardless of their state of residence.
WilmU is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The university's MBA program is nationally accredited from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
8. Marylhurst University
Located just south of Portland, Oregon, Marylhurst University is a Roman Catholic-affiliated university that focuses on liberal arts and business. Originally formed as a women's college at the turn of the 20th century, Marylhurst now offers co-educational opportunities. Among its many offerings is an MBA in sustainable business, which can be completed entirely online.
Catering primarily to working professionals, Marylhurst's online MBA program features an accelerated format, delivering coursework asynchronously in classes that last five weeks. Students interested in earning an MBA in sustainability online complete 48 credits, including 24 credits of core business courses such as financial management, managerial accounting, and statistics. All students also complete a two-part capstone, in which they create a plan to improve an organization's performance. The remaining credits relate to green business, including studies in environmental law, operations management, alternative and renewable energies, and principles of sustainability. Students can earn their degrees within 18 months.
The program accepts students in the spring, summer, and fall terms. All applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and five years of professional experience. Prospective students do not need to submit their GMAT scores unless they fail to meet these two requirements, in which case they must have earned a GMAT score of at least 550. All students in the program pay the same per-credit tuition, even if they live outside of Oregon.
Marylhurst University is regionally accredited from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. All of Marylhurst's business programs are nationally accredited from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
9. Franklin Pierce University
Rindge, New Hampshire
Franklin Pierce University is a small liberal arts school based in Rindge, New Jersey. Learners from across the nation can enroll in the university's online MBA in sustainability and energy program. All coursework is delivered asynchronously, and students can opt to engage in full-time or part-time study. The curriculum consists of 13 courses and features a concentration of sustainability-related coursework. Students complete classes that cover energy economics; building a sustainable enterprise; and the future of energy, business, and society. Learners also participate in leadership and strategic management seminars.
All applicants must have earned a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 2.8. They must also display skills in computers, statistics, and accounting; these competencies may be demonstrated based on the completion of previous undergraduate coursework or through post-admission assessments. FPU also requires students to submit a brief essay. The admissions committee takes a holistic approach to evaluating applicants, considering the totality of an applicant's portfolio. Prospective students do not need to submit their GRE or GMAT scores. As a private university, FPU charges all students in the program the same base tuition, regardless of their home state.
FPU is regionally accredited from by the New England Association of Colleges and Schools. The university's business programs are nationally accredited from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
10. Green Mountain College
Green Mountain College, located in Poultney, Vermont, has long been associated with the United Methodist Church. The school offers many online graduate programs, including a sustainable MBA.
The 37-credit program began in 2006 and is offered completely online. Students learn how to meet economic goals while addressing environmental standards, employees, communities, and other stakeholders. The curriculum covers core business administration topics, including finance, accounting, marketing, organizational leadership, and business law. Most courses are three credits and take about six weeks to complete. Each course is capped at 20 students, providing a more intimate environment and plenty of opportunities for one-on-one instruction. Residencies allow students to build relationships with their peers, professors, and scholars; learners must attend at least one residency per year. Courses include ethical issues and legal environment, stakeholder economics and sustainable performance management, and financial measures of value added. The program culminates with a capstone project, which has students devise a research topic and prepare a written report that is presented to the MBA Capstone Committee for approval.
There is also a communication management course that provides students with an introduction to communication strategies for success in distance learning. Learners examine issues and organizations that affect business and nonprofit organizations. Course topics include communication skills, scholarly practice, individual and group presentation techniques, and research tools.
Green Mountain College is regionally accredited from the Commision on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
What is a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management Degree?
A typical online MBA sustainability curriculum consists of courses on foundational business, leadership, and sustainability. Business courses feature topics applicable to any business setting, including accounting, economics, and negotiation strategies. Leadership courses teach students theories of social psychology, leadership styles, and strategies for fostering organizational change. Courses centering on sustainability consider subjects such as environmental management, sustainable marketing and finance, and climate change. Graduates of an online MBA sustainability program enter careers in areas such as sustainable marketing management, consulting, and financial analysis.
By pursuing an MBA in sustainability online, students can positively impact business practices and help protect the environment. With topics like clean-water initiatives and waste management, many MBA programs include electives that allow students to tailor their degree to professional goals. Several programs feature a capstone project that includes a field experience and applied research.
Online MBA in Sustainability Programs
Distance programs differ from conventional options in that students access course materials through online learning management systems. These programs may feature synchronous or asynchronous formats. In a synchronous model, students take classes in a predetermined order, often with the same cohort of their peers. Asynchronous programs allow students to progress through courses at their own pace.
Some online master's in sustainability programs require students to complete an internship or fellowship, working alongside professionals across a variety of fields. These experiences typically involve traveling to an office or other job site to fulfill a certain number of internship hours.
Successful students in an online sustainability master's program possess discipline and self-motivation as online courses lack the inherent accountability structure of a traditional classroom.
The Advantages of an MBA in Sustainability
Graduates with a sustainability bachelor's degree may work as a sustainability coordinator, energy consultant, or environmental specialist in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Graduates may also pursue work in production management, public relations, and accounting.
An online master's in sustainable development offers even more opportunities to influence environmental and energy policies within businesses, organizations, and government agencies. Graduates often serve as climate change analysts, corporate sustainability directors, and energy policy analysts. They may also find a sustainability focus leads to career growth in seemingly unrelated fields, such as marketing, finance, and risk management.
Graduates with an online sustainability master's degree also earn considerably higher salaries than those with only a bachelor's degree.
|Degree Level||Average Salary|
|Bachelor's in Sustainability||$49,000|
|MBA in Sustainability||$75,000|
What Can You Do With an MBA in Sustainability?
Graduates of an online sustainability MBA enjoy ample opportunities for professional growth, environmental stewardship, and job satisfaction. The following occupations rely on familiarity with fundamental business practices, enhanced with knowledge of sustainability.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers: Sustainability professionals in these areas develop strategies that increase revenue and promote sustainability. Advertising managers develop campaigns to attract consumers to company products, while promotions managers oversee the implementation of incentives to improve sales. Marketing managers determine product demands and identify new consumer targets.
Management Analysts: Serving in a consulting capacity to address specific business problems, management analysts collect data through observations and interviews. With a focus on organizational efficiency, management analysts with training in sustainability provide recommendations for business practices that reduce waste and optimize clean production. Many companies seek management analysts with a graduate degree.
- Personal Financial Advisers: Financial advisers assist clients with their investments, including educating clients on risks, planning for various life stages, and interpreting investment reports. An online MBA sustainability degree equips personal financial advisers with the knowledge needed to help clients make socially responsible investments that support environmental preservation.
Choosing an Online MBA in Sustainability Degree Program
When researching online sustainability master's degrees, there are several factors to consider. For instance, many in-state schools offer more affordable rates than out-of-state schools. A program's length, internship requirements, and transfer policies are also important considerations. Furthermore, some programs require on-campus components, which students should ensure they can fulfill.
- Program Cost: Program costs may include tuition, fees, textbooks, and supplies. Students benefit from creating a budget for each term to manage their finances. Many schools offer lower tuition to in-state students than out-of-state students and some online programs charge an additional technology fee to students.
- Transfer Policies: Students should research potential schools' articulation agreements with other postsecondary institutions, as they allow for seamless credit transfers to online sustainability master's programs. Additionally, some schools offer credit for professional or military experience.
- School Size and Type: Typically, public institutions are more affordable than private schools. However, private options may feature lower class sizes and more financial aid opportunities than their public counterparts. Students should examine the details of each program, including class sizes and faculty background, before deciding on a school.
- Program Length: Program length varies by enrollment status -- part-time learners may take several additional years to complete the degree compared to full-time students. Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to expedite graduation.
- On-Campus Requirements: Some programs may feature mostly online classes with some on-campus requirements. These requirements may include courses or intensives. Students should ensure that they can fulfill all on-campus requirements before enrolling.
- Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Many online master's in sustainability programs require students to participate in an internship or fellowship through which they complete a research project or work alongside professionals in the field. A program may also require a final thesis, asking students to apply what they learned to a research paper.
Accreditation for Online MBA in Sustainability Degrees
Accreditation should play a critical role in the selection of an MBA in sustainability online degree. Accreditation provides quality control, ensuring that schools offer rigorous academic programs that meet national standards. Most higher education institutions in the United States hold regional accreditation. Nationally accredited schools are typically for-profit and/or vocational, whereas regionally accredited schools are nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. Some regionally accredited programs only accept credits from other regionally accredited programs.
An additional accrediting body to consider when selecting a sustainability MBA online is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which accredits business programs and promotes ongoing advancements in business education.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online MBA in Sustainability Degree Program?
Most online sustainability master's programs in the United States require two years of courses, including capstones, internships, fellowships, and thesis requirements. However, there are several factors that influence the length of a program, such as enrollment status and program format.
Students who work full time may pursue part-time enrollment, which can add years to the degree. Additionally, asynchronous programs allow students to progress through course material at their own pace, which may lengthen or shorten the time to graduation depending on the student.
Whether a program is accelerated or not also impacts its length. Accelerated programs may allow students to graduate in a year or less, depending on transfer credits and program details.
Courses in an Online MBA in Sustainability Program
- Sustainable Systems: Examining the relationship between financial gain and ecological practices, this course prepares students to enter careers in consulting and management. Topics include strategies for reducing carbon emissions, developing community partnerships, and instigating corporate changes that promote sustainability.
- Economics of Sustainability: Students enrolled in this course learn about principles of sustainability and environmental issues in the business world. Preparing students for financial advisory roles, this course examines capital -- both human and financial -- that impacts sustainability. Students explore issues of consumerism, technological advances, and the use of natural resources.
- Sustainability and Legal Issues: Equipping students with the knowledge necessary for management positions in areas such as marketing and consulting, this course provides an overview of the legal and ethical issues impacting sustainable economics. The course familiarizes students with climate change policies, legal protection of the environment, and local and international laws impacting business strategies.
Certifications and Licenses an MBA in Sustainability Prepares For
- ISSP Certified Sustainability Associate or Professional: Associate certification through the International Society of Sustainability Professionals allows emerging sustainability professionals to improve their marketability. Candidates must pass a test that examines their knowledge of core sustainability theories and practices. Candidates for professional certification need a minimum of five years of professional experience. They must also pass an in-depth examination of sustainability and business knowledge.
- Sustainability Management Certification: The Sustainability Management Association (SMA) offers three levels of sustainability management certification. Student members of SMA may receive student associate certification that attests to their basic knowledge of the field. Associate certification allows recent graduates to acquire professional credentials prior to work experience. Professionals with at least two years of relevant work experience qualify for professional certification.
Sustainability Professional AssociationsProfessional organizations offer many resources for MBA in sustainability students and graduates. Members benefit from networking opportunities, discounts on professional resources, and continuing education opportunities. Professional organizations also foster mentoring relationships and feature job listings. Below are several professional organizations that emphasize community, corporate sustainability, and continuing education opportunities.
- Business for Social Responsibility: This international organization specializes in the development of business strategies that promote sustainability through collaboration, consultation, and research. Members enjoy access to exclusive webinars, peer networking, and regional events.
- International Society of Sustainability Professionals: A global leader in the advancement of sustainability occupations, ISSP features the latest sustainability research, job resources, and opportunities for professional certification. Members gain access to free recorded webinars.
- Sustainability Management Association: SMA promotes business strategies that emphasize economic growth, environmental protection, and societal well-being. Student members receive discounted membership fees and access to sustainability project management webinars.