Green Majors Growing in U.S. Schools

Dec 29, 2009

Responding to demand from students and employers, colleges and universities across the country are rapidly adding majors and minors in the hottest 21st century field: sustainability.

green campus college university sustainability

Environmental Education

Environmental studies are no longer just for biologists and ecologists. Programs in sustainability, renewable energy and related 'green' fields are exploding on campuses across the U.S. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), more than 100 majors, minors or certificates with an emphasis in sustainability were created at American colleges in 2009 alone. Paul Rowland, associate director for the AASHE, reports that there are two major factors contributing to green studies' rise in popularity: interest from students and demand from potential employers.

Today's college students are deeply concerned about environmental issues. Alternative school rankings like the Sierra Club's annual Cool Schools List, which rates 'America's greenest campuses,' are growing in popularity as prospective students add 'environmentally friendly' to their list of important college factors. It makes sense that colleges would seek to meet this demand by adding sustainability studies to their curricula.

And perhaps just as important is the growing demand from the workplace. In 2009, the American Council of Economic Advisors predicted that jobs in energy and the environment would grow at an astonishing rate of 52% between 2000 and 2016. When the projections for the rest of the workforce during the same period are as low as 14%, getting an education in sustainability starts to look like smart career preparation.

Johns Hopkins University

Sustainability Studies

So where can you go to study sustainability? The AASHE keeps a list of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field, as well as minors, certificates and study abroad programs with a focus on sustainability. In addition to degrees in fields like sustainability practice and energy and sustainability policy, the organization tracks degrees with a sustainability focus in disciplines as diverse as law, economics, architecture and urban studies.

A sampling of sustainability degree programs at each level from around the country includes:

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Green Technology and Sustainability Option at Portland Community College (PCC) in Portland, OR
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Global Environmental Change and Sustainability at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD
  • Master of Science (MS) in Sustainable Systems at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY
  • Ph.D. in Sustainability at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ

Some non-degree programs in sustainability include:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility minor at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA
  • Certificate in Sustainable Practices from California State University in San Bernardino, CA
  • Sustainability abroad studies in Kenya via the Master of Science in International Development (MSID) program at the University of Minnesota in Twin Cities, MN

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