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As businesses and organizations focus on reducing their ecological footprint, the demand for green leaders continues to grow.
An MBA in sustainability prepares business students to help organizations react, adapt, and respond to the world's rapidly growing concerns about sustainability. Most organizations recognize sustainability as integral to their success, and professionals who can develop these initiatives enjoy successful careers.
While many organizations have felt the effects of COVID-19 and related economic downturns, the subsequent digital transformation has also improved sustainability for some businesses. Increased interest in personal health and safety now join the traditional environmental and social concerns of sustainability, pushing the field to greater heights.
Students earning an MBA in sustainability complete traditional business courses and specialized sustainability training, which expands their job prospects. Career opportunities for business management professionals, like sustainability experts, appear strong; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average 5% growth rate from 2019-2029.
This guide explores sustainability careers in greater detail and ranks the best programs in this field.
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online MBA in Sustainability
These rankings include
#1 Best MBA in Sustainability
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Located in Stillwater, Oklahoma State University enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online sustainability program. The master of business administration in business administration: business sustainability uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the field. With a master's degree, candidates also pursue new career opportunities.
The master's curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to sustainability. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The master's program recommends a background in sustainability or a related field when applying.
Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. The program encourages graduate students to attend networking events to expand their professional connections.
Oklahoma State University at a Glance:
Type of School: Public
Admission Rate: 70%
Total Online Master's Programs: 25
Program Name: Master of Business Administration in Business Administration: Business Sustainability
Graduate Tuition In State: $5,531
Graduate Tuition Out of State: $21,034
#2 Best MBA in Sustainability
Concordia University Wisconsin
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Located in Mequon, Concordia University Wisconsin enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online sustainability program. The master of business administration in sustainability management and analytics strengthens specialized skills, preparing graduates for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. With a master's degree, candidates also pursue new career opportunities.
The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The master's program recommends that applicants bring a background in sustainability or a related field.
Online enrollees work with the program to find internship opportunities in their local area. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.
Concordia University Wisconsin at a Glance:
Type of School: Private
Admission Rate: 64%
Total Online Master's Programs: 25
Program Name: Master of Business Administration in Sustainability Management and Analytics
Graduate Tuition In State: $11,052
Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,052
#3 Best MBA in Sustainability
Franklin Pierce University
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Graduate students interested in a master's in sustainability can earn their degree from Franklin Pierce University, located in Rindge, New Hampshire. The master of business administration in energy and sustainability studies program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. After completing a master's degree, candidates pursue career advancement in their current field or a new one.
The master's curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. Applicants without a degree in sustainability or a related field may need to meet prerequisite requirements to enroll in the program.
Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. Graduate students also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.
Franklin Pierce University at a Glance:
Type of School: Private
Admission Rate: 66%
Total Online Master's Programs: 15
Program Name: Master of Business Administration in Energy and Sustainability Studies
Graduate Tuition In State: $16,000
Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,000
Online MBA in Sustainability Programs Ranking Guidelines
We selected the following programs based on their quality, curricula, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation -- including the school's reputation for effectively providing online degrees.
What Is an Online MBA in Sustainability?
An online MBA in sustainability teaches students to align organizational strategies with long-term sustainability goals. The training examines how businesses can reduce their environmental impacts and incorporate social responsibilities while remaining fiscally sound. These programs are designed for problem-solvers, forward thinkers, and socially conscious business professionals.
In addition to advanced leadership and management courses, an MBA in sustainability delivers focused training in sustainable finance, clean energy, and social innovation. Most MBAs feature 30-45 credits, though some may require up to 70 credits. Learners can usually complete the degrees in less than two years, though accelerated full-time programs and dual degrees can significantly vary in timeline.
Choosing an Online Green MBA
When selecting an online MBA in sustainability, students should consider their unique goals and needs. In addition to available concentrations, they should also consider factors like location, program length, and cost. Online learning can make attending distance programs easier, and out-of-state programs may offer in-state tuition rates for online enrollees.
Learners should closely examine program details, checking course listings and internship options. Since sustainability covers such a vast space, prospective students should identify desired specializations, such as climate change, clean energy, and sustainable investing. Some candidates may choose programs based on prestige, although highly regarded programs often have higher costs and stiffer competition.
Accreditation for Online MBA in Sustainability Programs
All students should check the accreditation status of their prospective schools and programs. Accreditation demonstrates to students, employers, and financial aid organizations that the institution meets rigorous educational standards.
For an online MBA in sustainability, programmatic accreditation may come from one of three major agencies: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of BusinessAccreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
What Can I Expect in Pursuing an MBA in Sustainability Online?
In many of the best online MBA programs, training covers several essential areas, such as finance, marketing, and economics. The sustainability concentration then delves into niche topics, including sustainability marketing, initiative implementation, and sustainable innovation. The courses below are popular in most curricula in the field.
Common Courses in MBA Online Programs
- Sustainable Systems: This course examines the relationship between financial gain and ecological practices, preparing 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. This class explores the impacts of human and financial capital on sustainability to prepare students for financial advisory roles. Students also explore issues of consumerism, technological advances, and the ethical use of natural resources.
- Sustainability and Legal Issues: This course provides an overview of the legal and ethical issues impacting sustainable economics, equipping students for management positions in marketing and consulting. Enrollees explore climate change policies, legal protection of the environment, and local and international laws affecting business strategies.
MBA Joint / Dual Degrees
These combination degrees challenge students to apply advanced business knowledge to other disciplines. The training may require more time and effort than a standard MBA, but a dual MBA degree gives graduates specialized credentials that can set them apart from competitors.
Earning a sustainability MBA dual degree can qualify graduates for many professions, depending on the subject of the second degree. For example, a public administration master's dual degree can lead to careers as political scientists, while a master's in economics can lead to a career as an economist.
Other common programs available for MBA joint or dual programs include master of environmental management and master of forestry degrees.
After completing an MBA in sustainability, graduates can bolster their resumes with professional credentials. Though not usually required for employment in this field, industry certifications can help distinguish students by demonstrating their understanding of sustainable business practices.
ISSP Certified Sustainability Associate or Professional
The International Society of Sustainability Professionals offers two certifications: the sustainability excellence associate credential for new professionals in the field and the sustainability excellence professional for more experienced personnel and sustainable organization stakeholders.
Individuals must renew these credentials every two years. To qualify, candidates must complete a set number of continuing education credits.
Sustainability Management Certified Associate or Professional
The Sustainability Management Association offers three types of certifications for students and professionals looking to gain a competitive advantage in the sustainability field. The association offers a student associate certification for degree-seekers, an associate certification for new graduates, and a professional certification for personnel with at least two years of relevant experience.
Once certified, each professional must maintain the credential by completing 15 hours of continuing education within the three-year certification window.
An MBA in sustainability establishes graduates as experts in providing sustainable business solutions. The training can lead to many of the traditional management occupations, plus some highly specialized and niche opportunities.
While the following sections highlight some of the more popular and direct career pathways, the list is by no means exhaustive. Some of the careers listed may require additional training or certifications.
These specialists help organizations meet their sustainability goals and requirements by developing, implementing, and maintaining green programs and practices. These professionals ensure that organizations meet industry and legal standards, evaluate current sustainability indicators, and create new policies to keep organizations on track.
Sustainability specialists may work for one organization or they may work independently as advisors or consultants. For employment, these professionals need an in-depth understanding of sustainability laws and requirements, along with knowledge of sustainable processes and technologies. Candidates typically need a bachelor's degree at minimum, along with critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Natural Sciences Managers
Natural sciences managers oversee teams of scientists and research professionals. They design and direct research activities, maintain labs and facilities, and evaluate and supervise team members and their work. These professionals may develop projects for organizations in manufacturing, product development, or academic research.
Natural sciences managers typically work in research and development facilities, though many also work in manufacturing or with the government. Education requirements vary by field and employer, but often include graduate degrees in management or a science discipline. Along with natural science knowledge and expertise, these managers need communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills.
Chief Sustainability Officer
Chief sustainability officers develop and implement sustainability policies within organizations. They set goals and establish measurements to ensure the organization meets them while still staying within operational means and budgets. These professionals may oversee teams or entire departments, and they often control communication on sustainability matters.
Chief sustainability officers often work with large organizations in areas like manufacturing and professional services, but they may also work in healthcare or for the government. Candidates typically need at least a bachelor's degree, though many have master's degrees. They also need sustainability expertise, along with skills in communication, analytics, and leadership.
Sustainability in Business Professional Organizations
Membership with a professional organization can provide crucial support and guidance. Through a professional organization, MBA students, recent graduates, and experienced professionals can all gain access to valuable resources, programs, and events that can help them advance their careers.
The U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce provides a unified voice for small businesses across the country. Business owners and entrepreneur members join a strong network where they can access sustainability resources, information, and technological solutions.
BSR works with organizations around the world to help meet their sustainability goals. Member organizations enjoy access to sustainability consulting, global network collaboration, and research on emerging sustainability technologies and theories.
ISSP advances sustainability within organizations and public policy. Members can access the professional network for collaboration, information, and insight. ISSP also offers training and professional development programs, along with certifications.
SMA strives to improve the world's sustainability actions and measures by standardizing specialized training and practices. The association offers access to networking opportunities, professional support, training programs, and certifications.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can You Do With an MBA in Sustainability?
An MBA in sustainability can lead to many business and management careers, both within large companies and in consultant roles. The training equips learners to guide organizations as they implement sustainability initiatives and strategies.
Is a STEM MBA Worth It?
A STEM MBA prepares professionals to operate and lead companies working in technology-forward spaces. These degrees provide enormous value for graduates, allowing them to join the fast-growing technology landscape.
What Is a Career in Sustainability?
Professionals with careers in sustainability typically focus on how people and organizations can thrive while addressing environmental and social needs. They may help organizations seek sustainable solutions to business problems and develop sound environmental policies.
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