Six Degrees of Sustainability: The Hottest Schools for Environmental Studies

In January, we reported on the 10 green jobs poised to carry us through the next decade. Five months later, the demand for those jobs is still growing strong—President Obama recently pledged $500 million for environmental job training, and an additional $150 billion to create 5 million new sustainability-related jobs. So what better time to trade in that white collar, blue collar (or no collar) for a green one? Here are six academic programs, each with its own environmental twist, to help get you started.

The University of Pennsylvania

1. Green MBA
The University of Pennsylvania
(Philadelphia, PA)

This dual-degree program allows students to earn an MBA and a Masters in Environmental Studies in about three years. University officials say they "expect that this degree will allow students to use cutting edge management and financial techniques to close the gap between business and the environmental sciences." In addition, Wharton also offers an MBA concentration in Environmental and Risk Management, which focuses on how business impacts the environment, health and safety.

Degrees awarded: MBA and Masters in Environmental Studies
Sample course: Environmental Sustainability and Value Creation
Annual tuition: $50,430 (2008-2009)

College of the Atlantic

2. One Major: Human Ecology
College of the Atlantic
(Bar Harbor, ME)

There are no dilemmas over choosing a major at this liberal arts college, where all 318 undergraduates study the same thing: Human Ecology. The program, which is rooted in "the study of our relationship with our environment," is broad, though, and students have the flexibility to design academic programs that focus on anything from conservation biology to sustainable business to literature and writing. The school, founded in 1972, runs exclusively on renewable hydropower and was the first college in the country to be carbon-neutral.

Degrees awarded: Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Philosophy, both in Human Ecology
Sample course: Issues in National Park Planning, Agroecology of the Yucatan
Annual tuition: $31,470 (2008-2009)

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design

3. Green Interior Design
Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design
(Denver, CO)

Sometimes what's on the inside matters just as much as the solar panels and green roofs on the outside. Students in this green design program learn the ins and outs of crafting eco-friendly interiors, whether it's by maximizing natural lights or choosing environmentally-friendly paint. They create models of sustainable homes, redesign existing buildings to meet LEED standards, and spend time retrofitting historic office buildings in Denver. University officials say we spend more than 90% of our lives holed up in homes and office buildings—all the more reason to revamp from within.

Degrees awarded: BFA in Interior Design
Sample course: Green Design I, Restaurant + Retail Design
Tuition cost: $24,840 (2009-2010)

London College of Fashion

4. Sustainable Clothing
London College of Fashion: The Centre for Sustainable Fashion
(London, UK)

Eco-friendly threads aren't limited to just scratchy hemp T-shirts anymore. Clothing lines today are recycled, animal-free, biodegradable and made of everything from bamboo to soybeans, and students at The Centre for Sustainable Fashion aim to "change the landscape of the fashion industry" for good. The school's movement toward green threads couldn't come at a better time: Analysts are predicting that eco-chic clothing will balloon into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Degrees awarded: M.A. in Fashion and the Environment
Sample course: New Perspectives on Fashion
Tuition cost:
£3,995 ($6,028) for U.K./E.U. students, £11,900 ($17,954) for international students (2009-2010)

new hampshire

5. EcoGastronomy
The University of New Hampshire
(Durham, NH)

Don't expect to land a spot on Top Chef from here, but students do get hands-on experience at farms, in kitchens and in laboratories preparing for a future in sustainable agriculture and holistic nutrition. Undergraduates in the dual-major program take courses like Sustainable Food Production and Nutrition in Health and Well Being, and cap off their studies by spending a semester at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. Other environmentally-friendly campus programs include an organic dairy farm, local harvest initiative and an organic garden club.

Degrees awarded: A dual-major in EcoGastronomy
Sample course: Food and Society
Annual tuition: $11,756 for residents, $25,236 for non-residents (2008-2009)

East Carolina University

6. Sustainable Tourism
East Carolina University
(Greenville, NC)

This sustainable tourism program—slated to debut in fall 2009—will be the first of its kind in the U.S. The degree is designed to advance the world's largest industry, tourism, while "preserving environmental and community attributes" in areas as far reaching as hospitality, recreation, medicine and the arts, according to University officials. In addition, the program will feature "culturally diverse coursework" to introduce students to the opportunities and challenges of tourism in a globalizing world.

Degrees awarded: M.S. in Sustainable Tourism
Sample course: Environmental Factors and Tourism
Annual tuition: $2,445 for residents, $12,959 for non-residents (2008-2009)

Related: Best Green Jobs for the Next Decade

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10 Comments

  • Sylvia Hysen

    Great article for engineering and architectural design students.

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  • Victoria Knight

    This is a pretty popular area of study, especially in the last few years. Great article, thanks for the info.
    -Victoria
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  • Victoria Knight

    This is a pretty popular area of study, especially in the last few years. Great article, thanks for the info.
    -Victoria
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  • Victoria Knight

    This is a pretty popular area of study, especially in the last few years. Great article, thanks for the info.
    -Victoria
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  • Victoria Knight

    This is a pretty popular area of study, especially in the last few years. Great article, thanks for the info.
    -Victoria
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  • Victoria Knight

    This is a pretty popular area of study, especially in the last few years. Great article, thanks for the info.
    -Victoria
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  • Michael Jameiosn

    I'm glad to see that this business of environmental studies is taking a life of it's own. It will be an important industry in the future.
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  • kevin moss

    I applaud this list. Most of all because it doesn't focus on environment as an isolated discipline. Rather the courses highlighted put environmental issues within the context of business, of tourism, of food, of clothing. As someone who has a job title that includes the letters CSR, I am frequently asked by soon to graduate students how they can get into CSR or green jobs. I am certainly very appreciative of having the role I hold, but for those seeking to have an impact, bringing sustainability principles into a mainstream role within a sector can have as much, if not more impact than having the coveted sustainability or green word in your job title.