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3 Graduate Degrees for Environmental and Sustainability Activists

We are living in an extraordinary time.

A new generation of leaders are stepping up and spearheading the race towards a just and sustainable world. These leaders are rewiring the world by focusing on things such as —

  • Providing Clean Energy
  • Building Smarter Cities
  • Reimagining the Global Food System
  • Financing the Future
  • Reinventing Transportation

Policy innovators, sustainable business entrepreneurs, and leaders in environmental and sustainability education are all change agents driving these revolutions. But which path is right for you?

In this post, we discuss how you can take on a leadership role and join the community of sustainable change-agents by getting a master’s degree. After deciding which direction is right for you, a master’s degree can provide the right set of skills and create a pathway to turn your calling into a high-impact career. 

Careers in Sustainability

Policy Careers: changing the rules.

Through government laws and regulations, and also within corporations, NGOs, and agencies — policies are the rules that drive behavior (sustainable or otherwise).

From international treaties governing trade and investment; to national policies on energy, agriculture, and transport; to local zoning and transit regulations; to internal business and agency policies—getting rid of ineffective rules and putting better ones in place is critical.

An MS degree in Environmental Policy or in Climate Science and Policy from Bard Center for Environmental Policy prepares students to become leaders on whatever area their passion lies, including but not limited to:

  • Relieving Toxics
  • Environmental justice
  • Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation
  • Urban Sustainability or Climate Change

Graduates can also combine the MS degree with Peace Corps service to support a career in sustainable development.

 Business careers: transforming the game.

Can we change the world through business? We have to. Even as state and national policies evolve, a new breed of business has to put food on our table, keep the lights on, and do it all with dramatically lower environmental footprint, while also treating workers and communities with justice and respect.

Sustainability-inspired leaders are now reinventing business and directly solving social and environmental problems by pioneering profitable and scalable solutions.

Bard’s MBA in Sustainability, based in NYC, is one of a handful of graduate programs around the world that combines a focus on sustainability with the mastery of the key skills and language of business.  Featuring a one-weekend a month plus on-line structure, students can complete the program from anywhere in the US, while still working up to full-time.

Bard MBA graduates have gone on to:

  • Start their own mission-driven businesses
  • Transform existing companies and non-profits towards a stronger focus on social and environmental purpose
  • Work as sustainability consultants.

Education careers: changing minds.

In the long run, education is the primary driver of change. Yet there are very few graduate programs that prepare educators specifically for a focus on environmental and sustainability education.

Bard’s M.Ed in Environmental Education prepares graduates to create an informed and engaged citizenry supporting progress towards a just, prosperous, and sustainable future. Through intensive academic training, real world professional experience, and career development opportunities, the program enables graduates to pursue successful, high-impact careers in areas such as:

  • Private schools
  • NGO’s
  • Government Land Management Agencies
  • Sustainability Offices,
  • Private Land Conservation Organizations
  • Museums
  • Environmental Education Centers
  • Consulting Firms

Three Critical Components of A Graduate Degree for Insuring Career Success

Engaged, World Class Faculty. Bard was recently ranked #1 in Classroom Experience by the Princeton Review.  Unlike “cash cow” master’s programs staffed by faculty with little attachment to the institution, Bard’s master’s degrees offer unparalleled attention from and access to excellent teachers who are focused on student academic and career success.

Experiential Education.  Sustainability cannot be learned in the abstract. Bard’s master’s degrees are all centered around deep experiences.

  • In the MS and M.Ed programs, students pursue 4-6 month high-level professional internships —in NYC and Washington, DC, in Texas, Alaska, Geneva, South Africa, Thailand or China. Capstone projects typically emerge out of these internships, with students focused on solving real world problems.
  • In the MBA, students in their first year complete a year-long course in sustainability consulting, working for real world clients, including recently, Jet Blue, Siemens Wind, Clif Bar and UBS. No other MBA program in the world offers this foundational opportunity.

Individual Mastery. Master’s students need to develop mas­tery of a subfield in their discipline. This requires a rigorous indepen­dent thesis or capstone. Many master's degree programs have dropped the individual capstone, replacing it with a group project because of the expensive re­quirement for excellent, one-on-one fac­ulty advising. This is not okay. At Bard, the individual capstone is a critical dimension of the master’s experience, and the primary foundation for career success.

Closing Thoughts — What it Really Means to Get a Master’s in Sustainability

If you have been working to change the world—or want to—a well-crafted master’s degree provides a route to a leadership career. Look for programs that combine rigorous academics and engaged faculty with substantive real world experience, individual mastery, and strong career development.

Whether you are looking to build a purpose-driven career in business, policy, or education—or want to combine these areas with a dual degree —  the challenges ahead demand talent, courage, and the ambition to become a sustainability leader.

Get a glimpse of what you could learn in two weeks with Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy, 

in our free resource, A Crash Course in Sustainable Development.

Visit the Page 

About the Author

Katie Boyle

Katie Boyle

Katie Boyle is the Enrollment and Marketing Director for the Bard MBA in Sustainability program and Bard Center for Environmental Policy. In this role, she oversees the marketing and brand management for The Impact Report podcast. She also manages recruiting, admissions, and enrollment for both programs as well marketing and advertising campaigns.