The Green Initiative, as described by the International Labour Organization, seeks to bring about a sustainable future, and colleges in the United States have gotten on board by offering programs to train a green workforce. You'll find educational routes to green careers ranging from associate degrees to master's degree programs emphasizing paths to renewable energy sources and infrastructure that will yield a cleaner, low-carbon economy.
From the University of Wisconsin in Madison, you can earn a certificate, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree in Sustainable Management, which you could think of as a degree in environmental business. This is an online degree program, allowing you plenty of flexibility. These programs in Sustainable Management will train you to be a business team member or leader who can promote sustainability initiatives and practices for the organization for which you work.
The bachelor's degree in Sustainable Management from the University of Wisconsin is an online degree designed for adults working in a business setting who wish to gain skills and knowledge to bring sustainability practices to their place of work. You can complete the degree at your pace.
- Curriculum - The coursework for the bachelor's degree is interdisciplinary and consists of classes in natural resource management, sustainability economics and environmental policy and science.
- Career Possibilities - This program will give you a good foundation for careers in solar installation, renewable energy and energy consulting.
If you already have a bachelor's degree and are working in a green field, you may want to earn a certificate to broaden your knowledge and understanding of sustainable management. In less than one year of study, you can earn a Sustainable Management Science certificate or a Sustainable Enterprise Management certificate.
- Curriculum - You can focus on either the science side or the business side of the topic. For the Sustainable Management Science certificate, you'll learn about engineering for energy technologies and natural resource management. For the Sustainable Enterprise Management certificate, you'll learn about business sustainability and sustainable operations management.
- Career Possibilities - These certificate programs help working adults advance in their current careers by acquiring enhanced skills and knowledge in sustainability.
Working adults interested in broadening their understanding of sustainability and thereby enhancing their careers might want to look into the University of Wisconsin's Master of Science in Sustainable Management. This is an online program that consists of twelve courses.
- Curriculum - The coursework focuses on sustainability law and ethics, supply chain management and effective sustainability leadership.
- Career Possibilities - The master's degree in Sustainable Management will help you rise to high positions of leadership in business and other organizations where you can promote policies of sustainability.
Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency
Greenfield Community College, located in Greenfield, Massachusetts, is at the forefront of an effort by colleges in New England to promote sustainability and to train a green workforce. Greenfield's associate degree in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency will give you the skills you need to get an entry-level position in fields related to energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy.
- Curriculum - In addition to general education requirements, you'll take coursework that includes topics like Energy Conservation and Efficiency, Sustainable Design and Green Building Practices and Green Careers Exploration and Career Skill Building.
- Career Possibilities - If you're already working in a trade, GCC's associate degree in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency will give you the knowledge and the skills you need to develop, install and sell wind, solar and photovoltaic energy systems. With this degree, you can also secure an entry-level job in energy auditing or green retrofitting.
MBA in Sustainability
Located in Keene, New Hampshire, Antioch University is another college in New England that has joined the movement among like-minded institutions of higher learning to promote and train a green workforce. To this end, Antioch offers an MBA in Sustainability. Antioch has offered this degree, also known as the "Green MBA," since 2007. The Green MBA will take you two years to earn and combines online courses with on-campus classes offered four weekends each semester.
- Curriculum - Coursework for the Green MBA comes from three areas: Leadership & Change, Business Fundamentals and Sustainability & Systems Thinking. Leadership & Change teaches students about the ethics of sustainable management and how personnel can work as a team. In Business Fundamentals, students learn the basics of business and organizational management. Sustainability & Systems Thinking helps students learn about climate change, sustainable systems and environmental economics.
- Career Possibilities - Graduates who have earned the Green MBA can pursue careers in fields such as renewable energy, government, agriculture, manufacturing and healthcare. Job possibilities include sustainability auditing and consulting, sustainable investment analysis, community finance and carbon and environmental management.
Arboriculture/Urban Forestry Technician
From Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you can earn an Arboriculture/Urban Forestry Technician Associate of Applied Science degree, which would be a great career path for someone who loves to work outside. Campus Technology praises GTC for its role in building a green workforce. You can earn an A.A.S. degree from GTC in Arboriculture/Urban Forestry Technology in two years.
- Curriculum - To earn an Arboriculture/Urban Forestry Technician Associate of Applied Science degree from GTC, you'll take coursework in multiple facets of forestry and tree management, including Urban Tree Maintenance, Tree Growth and Development and Applied Landscape Architecture. The coursework throughout all four semesters has aerial work components and tree work components so students can learn the required skills by doing them.
- Career Possibilities - With an A.A.S. in Arboriculture/Urban Forestry Technology, you'll have a good foundation to pursue a career as an urban forester, an arborist, a tree health care manager, or a consultant. Arborists are people who work in the arboriculture field, and urban foresters care for forests and trees in urban areas. Urban planning increasingly involves planting more trees to enhance the quality of life for city residents, so this career has good growth potential.
Arizona State University, located in Tempe, was commended by USA Today College for its School of Sustainability, calling the facility the first of its kind in the United States. ASU's School of Sustainability offers educational paths tailored for both underclassmen and graduate students. Many of these degree programs are also available online.
You can earn either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainability. If you want to apply your knowledge of sustainability to social sciences or other humanities fields, you'll likely be interested in the B.A. degree. With this degree, you can test social organization's sustainability or work with property rights issues. A B.S. degree is for students who lean toward engineering, hard sciences, or economics, and they can pursue careers developing sustainable technology. Both degree programs are available online.
ASU offers several graduate degrees to students interested in sustainability. A Master of Arts degree will help you champion sustainability in social sciences or humanities fields. A Master of Science degree will help you do the same in science and engineering fields. You can also earn an applied master's degree in either Sustainability Leadership or Sustainability Solutions, and these degrees prepare you to apply sustainability practices and leadership over a wide spectrum of fields and industries.
Lane Community College, in Eugene, Oregon, offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Energy Management, which takes two years to complete. The program has been going strong since 1980 when LCC got a grant from the National Science Foundation to promote energy efficiency in built environments through combining physics and energy analysis. Lane Community College has been spearheading green career paths since the 1980s.
- Curriculum - To earn an A.A.S. degree in Energy Management from LCC, you'll take coursework in subjects such as Residential and Light Commercial Energy Analysis, Energy Control Strategies, Fostering Sustainable Practices and Energy Accounting. You'll learn how to analyze the ways by which residential and commercial buildings use energy, and you'll learn how to make recommendations to improve energy efficiency.
- Career Possibilities - An A.A.S. degree in Energy Management will train and prepare you to become an Energy Management Technician. You'll be able to use your skills in jobs that require energy management expertise, including energy auditing, weatherization installation and insulation for walls, floors and ceilings of buildings.
Located in New York, Stony Brook University features a Sustainability Studies program that offers five undergraduate programs for students who are interested in green careers. All the programs lead to bachelor's degrees and are interdisciplinary, combining methodology and knowledge from several other fields.
Ecosystems and Human Impact
You can earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ecosystems and Human Impact. This interdisciplinary program draws from biology, genetics, geography, ethics and economics and teaches students how to approach these subjects from an ecological perspective that emphasizes sustainability.
- Curriculum - You'll take coursework in biological anthropology, sustainability studies, environmental science and ecological studies and human impact. In addition to on-campus coursework, you can elect to study abroad during your junior or senior year in Ranomafana, Madagascar, where you'll do field study in ecology, anthropology and biology. The major combines understanding in ecosystems and human behavior.
- Career Possibilities - A degree in Ecosystems and Human Impact will prepare you for a variety of careers that emphasize ecology and environmental health such as environmental education, environmental advocacy, resource management and ecosystem restoration.
Coastal Environmental Studies
If you're passionate about coastal zone management, Stony Brook University's Coastal Environmental Studies degree is the program for you. Culminating in a Bachelor of Science degree, the program combines work in natural sciences with environmental policy and law to prepare students to manage impacts of rising sea levels on coastal zones.
- Curriculum - You'll take classes in science, including chemistry, physics and geospatial science. Then you'll learn to put your scientific knowledge to work in the practical arena by taking classes in ethics, policy and law. The Coastal Environmental Studies program emphasizes the complex interactions between humans and the natural environment.
- Career Possibilities - A degree in Coastal Environmental Studies will prepare you for a diverse array of careers pertinent to managing coastal zones, including fishery conservation, government regulation and administration and work for nonprofit groups that advocate for environmental responsibility.
Environmental Design, Policy, & Planning
If you choose the Environmental Design, Policy, & Planning program at Stony Brook University, you'll earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The program emphasizes design and planning and seeks to train students to understand the complexities of urban development with an eye toward preserving open, natural spaces.
- Curriculum - The focus of the Environmental Design, Policy, & Planning Program at Stony Brook is to prepare students to deal with challenges posed by climate change to urban areas. To earn this degree, you'll take coursework in energy production, green architecture, transportation and waste management, all with an emphasis on sustainability.
- Career Possibilities - With a degree in Environmental Design, Policy, & Planning, you can pursue a career as a sustainability coordinator in such venues as government, public utilities, community organizations, green urban design and businesses that focus on renewable energy.
The Environmental Humanities program at Stony Brook University, which leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree, is a green degree that is highly enriched by liberal arts disciplines. The ideal candidates for this degree would be students who wish to integrate environmental understanding and policy with literature, philosophy, art, writing, architecture and history.
- Curriculum - To earn a degree in Environmental Humanities, you'll take a broad range of humanities-related coursework, including philosophy, history, art, politics, literature, film and social science, all studied from an environmental perspective. Basic courses in science are also a part of this curriculum, which fuses social sciences and the humanities focusing on sustainable living.
- Career Possibilities - A degree in Environmental Humanities will give you a good foundation for a career in environmentally focused journalism, education, advocacy, consulting, or politics. Graduates from this program could be employed by social media companies, governments, nongovernmental organizations, museums, or green businesses.
Stony Brook University's program in Sustainability Studies leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree, and it's perfect for environmentally conscious people who are passionate about social justice and the responsible use of resources. In this program, students will learn the dynamics of how individual people and groups produce and consume and the ramifications these choices have on our environment.
- Curriculum - Students in the Sustainability Studies program begin by taking courses in economics and the physical sciences. They build on this foundation of knowledge by taking classes in communication and teamwork. Then they pursue an interdisciplinary curriculum that comprises coursework in ecology and human population.
- Career Possibilities - A degree in Sustainability Studies will prepare you for diverse careers in the private and public sectors including ecotourism, international trade, economic development and energy and resource conservation. Sustainability Studies graduates may work for governments, renewable energy businesses or environmental advocacy groups.
Green Workforce Education and Training
Los Angeles Trade Technical College has an entire division devoted to implementing green initiatives across campus and educating a green workforce. On their webpage about green education and training, LATTC lists fourteen career programs that culminate either in Certificates of Achievement or Associate of Science Degrees.
- Curriculum - Certificate programs at LATTC include Utility Industry Fundamentals, Powerline Mechanic, Energy System Technology Fundamentals, Weatherization and Energy Efficiency, Solar PV Installation and Maintenance, Solar Thermal Installation and Maintenance and Hybrid and Electric Plug-In Vehicle Technology. A.S. degree programs include Wastewater Technology, Supply Water Technology, Chemistry Technology, Renewable Energy Generation, Transmission and Distribution and Renewable Energy with emphases in either Solar Thermal or Solar PV.
- Career Possibilities - A certificate or an A.S. degree in any of the programs offered by LATTC will give students an excellent foundation to enter the specific field that is the focus of the program. These fields are expected to enjoy significant job growth since the demand for clean and green energy and responsible methodology and delivery continues to go up.
Keene State College, in New Hampshire, offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies for which you must complete 120 credit hours. Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary program intended for students who want to make a difference in the world by contributing their knowledge and skills to enhance the sustainability of the earth's resources. Keene State College is one of the institutions participating in developing a greener economy for the New England states of Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
- Curriculum - To earn your degree in Environmental Studies from Keene State College, you will take a wide variety of coursework from multiple disciplines including economics, statistics and geography. You'll get a good grounding in basic physics and chemistry, then you'll take courses for your major such as Principles of Sustainability, Risk and the Environment, Conservation of Ecological Systems and Ecosystems and the Environment.
- Career Possibilities - With a B.S. in Environmental Studies, you have numerous possibilities for building a career. You could help develop environmental policies and procedures, perform field study, become an environmental consultant, or help business and other organizations meet their sustainability goals.
Agricultural and Environmental Education
You can earn a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Environmental Education from the University of California at Davis. The program will equip you with the skills, knowledge and hands-on experience to develop sustainable agricultural and environmental systems and to teach other people how to do the same.
- Curriculum - To earn a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Education, you'll start out by taking core courses like history, political science and the natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics and geology. Your major courses will focus on both agriculture and environmental health and will encompass such topics as Environmental Science and Policy, Agricultural & Resource Economics, International Agricultural Development and Agricultural and Environmental Engineering.
- Career Possibilities - People who earn a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Education are well-prepared for teacher credential programs and careers related to the environment or to agriculture in which instruction skills are important. Graduates of this program can secure employment public school systems, government agencies, community organizations and nonprofits.
The Time Is Now
Given the impacts of climate change, the need for people who know how to utilize natural resources in a responsible manner is growing and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. All sectors of society, including businesses, governments and educational institutions, are recognizing the need to turn toward a greener and more sustainable economy. As a result, more and more colleges are stepping up to offer programs to train the green workforce of the future.