Best Online Graduate Certificate in Sustainability 2021: Top Picks


Sustainability programs explore the relationships between humans, nature and the environment. A Graduate Certificate in Sustainability emphasizes the fundamental aspects of sustainability and how they can be integrated into business and industry.

Sustainability certificates complement existing professional training and experience, enabling individuals across the workforce to apply the fundamental principles of sustainability to their current careers. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expected growth in entry level and advanced positions in green industry.

Graduate certificates in sustainability vary in terms of duration and requirements. Therefore, determining which program meets your needs requires careful consideration of what they offer. The content below provides some of the key information you should know before choosing a program.

The Best Online Graduate Certificate in Sustainability Degrees

ZDNet evaluates university programs using a proprietary formula that draws on objective data and insights from industry experts. However, ZDNet’s ranking methodology was not used for the two programs listed below because there was no need to rank them. Instead, the top picks for graduate certificates in sustainability found below are listed in alphabetical order.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is taken from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

Pennsylvania State Global Campus

University Park, Pennsylvania

About the program: Online Graduate Certificate from Penn State World Campus in sustainability management and policy trains students to create, adopt and deploy techniques and technologies for long-term sustainability solutions.

  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 73%
  • Avg. annual net price: $ 27,372
  • Years until the end: 1 year or less
  • SAT range: N / A
  • Minimum GPA: N / A
  • Registration periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

College of the unit

Unit, Maine

About the program: Unity is online graduate certificate in sustainability focuses on mitigation and adaptation alongside biodiversity conservation, resource conservation and pollution reduction.

  • Acceptance rate: 98%
  • Graduation rate: 63%
  • Avg. annual net price: $ 26,080
  • Years until the end: One year or less
  • SAT range: N / A
  • Minimum GPA: N / A
  • Registration periods per year: Eight
  • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Unity College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE).

What to Expect in an Online Graduate Certificate in Sustainability Studies Program

Online Graduate Certificates in Sustainability Courses introduce you to the fundamentals of sustainability while providing information on how to integrate them into business and industrial environments. You will learn about the social, economic and political aspects of sustainability as it relates to organizations, communities and individual well-being.

Graduate certificates in sustainability typically last 12 months or less. The pace of classes can be somewhat intense, depending on the program of study. Lectures accompany courses designed to bring students together through group projects, presentations and comparable cooperative activities.

Most sustainability certificates have a specified course set and do not allow electives, although there are exceptions. Within the broad category of sustainability certificates, however, many focus on specialist topics such as industrial ecology, sustainability in sport, and sustainability management and policy.

Graduate Certificate in Sustainability Course

Graduate Certificates in Sustainable Development train you to incorporate environmentally friendly practices and policies into the workplace. Coursework offers a comprehensive overview of the economic, political and social aspects of sustainability. You learn to lead sustainability initiatives, implement sustainability-related programs and policies, and create innovative and effective sustainability solutions.

No two graduate certificates in sustainable development are the same, but some common courses appear in the curriculum.

Social economy and sustainability

A course in the economics of society and sustainability explores how economic, environmental and social issues related to sustainability influence the market. The course also emphasizes creating sustainable business practices as well as the responsibilities of businesses, government and individuals as part of a larger conversation about sustainability.

Organizational behavior and sustainability

The courses in Organizational Behavior and Sustainability examine how to implement and influence decisions related to sustainability. Students study management principles, theories and functions of human behavior in organizations and their connection to creating an environmentally friendly workplace.

Management and environmental technology

A management and environmental technology course trains students to use information and data processing systems to manage sustainability within an organization. Topics include green data centers, uses of data and information in green businesses, and energy efficiency trends in information technology.

Global social enterprise and sustainability

With an emphasis on tools and techniques for overcoming the challenges of sustainable practices in a global context, students learn to develop and execute global innovation strategies to solve social problems. Topics include building global networks, entrepreneurship in the social sector, value-based entrepreneurship

Sustainability degree levels

Depending on your education, work experience, and personal goals, there are different levels of sustainability degree that can help you achieve your goals. Undergraduate programs in sustainability introduce you to the fundamentals of the subject, while graduate degrees and certificates provide advanced information on sustainability in principles, practices, and policies.

Sustainable development partner

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $ 3,000 – $ 20,000
  • Postgraduate careers: Environmental science technician, conservation officer and solar system installer

Often designed to help students progress to a bachelor’s degree in sustainability, an associate’s degree in sustainability includes two years of coursework in the natural sciences, English, humanities, and information technology. Lectures and practicals accompany practical requirements as you learn topics such as natural resource consumption, energy systems and conservation, and the implementation of sustainable practices.

With an associate’s degree in sustainability, you can take on entry-level sustainability positions in businesses, organizations, and industries.

Bachelor of Sustainability

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $ 12,000 to $ 125,000
  • Postgraduate careers: Environmental scientist, environmental science teacher and urban planner

A bachelor’s degree in sustainable development comprises four years of general education and major courses. In the first two years of the program, you study natural sciences, social sciences, English, and humanities while taking introductory courses in the fundamentals of sustainability.

The final two years of a bachelor’s degree in sustainability include advanced courses in aspects of sustainability such as sustainable management and organizations, sustainable environment and science, and urban sustainability. Some sustainability degrees provide options to specialize in areas such as politics and governance in sustainable systems, international development and sustainability, and society and sustainability.

A bachelor’s degree in sustainable development can include an internship or internship to allow you to gain valuable experience in preparation for a career related to sustainable development. Most degrees also end with a synthesis requirement.

Master in sustainable development

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $ 16,000 to $ 60,000
  • Postgraduate careers: Environmental engineer, sustainability manager and climate change analyst

A master’s degree in sustainable development prepares you to take on leadership and management roles in sustainable development. Many masters have specialization options, allowing you to focus on aspects of the discipline such as conservation ecology, sustainability management, and environmental engineering.

The masters in sustainable development integrate two years of coursework and practical requirements with activities based on projects and cooperatives. You also focus on qualitative and quantitative research, developing analytical and critical skills along the way. A master’s degree in sustainable development may include a comprehensive research requirement such as a thesis.

Doctorate in sustainable development

  • Length: Three to five years
  • Cost: $ 18,000 to $ 80,000
  • Postgraduate careers: Principal Conservation Researcher, University Professor and Director of Sustainability

Designed to create problem solvers and educators in the field of sustainability, PhD. in sustainability takes an interdisciplinary approach to the discipline. The Doctorates in Sustainability focus on sustainability scholarship and research, as well as courses in sustainability science, sustainability economics, and sustainability policy.

After a required number of courses, seminars, and workshops, you will take a comprehensive exam before starting to work on a dissertation proposal. You will choose an area on which to focus your thesis, such as food system sustainability, urban infrastructure and sustainability, or ecology and resource management.

In conclusion

Sustainability Certificates provide a pathway for environmentally conscious professionals to understand and implement sustainable practices in their working lives. A graduate certificate in sustainability is just one way to improve your understanding of how humans, the environment, and natural systems interact. The information on this page can help you find the best certificate while also showing you the many options for sustainability programs.


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