What Can You Do with a Degree in Sustainability?

While there are usually limited sustainability degree options available for students, there are more sustainability careers available because organizations are recognizing the benefits of:

  • efficiency
  • corporate responsibility
  • green technology

Keep reading to learn why a green degree can help you get the jobs below.


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Why the Sustainability Field is Growing

There are many reasons why sustainability and the buzzword “green” are making organizations diligently integrate them into operations. First, sustainability improves brand awareness and competitive advantage. Consumers prefer goods and services from companies that practice sustainable habits. Second, it can reduce costs and increase productivity through optimized practices and policies that lead to:

  • efficient operations
  • streamlined workflows
  • conserved resources

Third, the legal and regulatory pressure is growing, so organizations can increase their ability to comply with new laws to protect the environment. This will help minimize legal and financial risks. Fourth, sustainability is a positive movement that investors, employees, and shareholders want to support.

Sustainability Coordinator

Sustainability coordinators assist in the design and implementation of:

  • waste reduction
  • energy efficiency
  • materials management policies and programs

They provide direction and customer service to a variety of internal customers. They may administer, update and communicate corporate sustainability policies and practices. They may provide input to executives about:

  • upcoming legal changes
  • potential legal ramifications
  • best industry practices

Sustainability coordinators build cooperative partnerships that improve the effectiveness and performance of their programs. They may represent the company in local and public through presenting metrics, explaining policies and responding to questions. Sustainability coordinators may help management hold employees accountable and increase internal transparency.

Environmental Manager

Industry, production, transportation and other companies hire environmental managers to oversee internal and required compliance programs. Environmental managers may:

  • track metrics
  • analyze data
  • report results of programs to executives

They may implement and manage:

  • recycling
  • energy conservation
  • waste reduction
  • employee training programs

Environmental managers may create:

  • exhibits
  • resources
  • presentations
  • interactive activities
  • community events

Many environmental managers will oversee ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) certification programs for corporations. They must have comprehensive research and analytical skills to quickly gather information and synthesize it into actionable information.

Sustainability Director

Certain industries that extract natural resources, such as oil and gas corporations, experience more intense media scrutiny, so they employ sustainability directors to officially represent and direct the organization’s green practices. Sustainability directors will present project, campaign and sustainability reports to stakeholders and shareholders. These may benchmark best practices in:

  • compliance reporting
  • target development
  • material assessments
  • investor engagement

Sustainability directors communicate with business functions to develop content for internal and external sustainability disclosure. They must carefully create legally compliant responses for inquiries from external sources like news media and government compliance agencies. They must have strong project management and organizational skills to prioritize multiple responsibilities to achieve strategic objectives.

Other sustainability careers for those with a sustainability degree include:

  • program analyst
  • compliance supervisor
  • sustainability outreach specialist
  • corporate responsibility and sustainability officer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an overview of the sustainability profession here.