The 2017 Ultimate Guide To Green Degrees

Today, the impact of human activities on the environment have aroused major concerns on sustainability. Valid concerns on the deteriorating states of major natural habitats and peaked pollution levels have demanded more action on environmental protection. Manufacturers and organizations are finding themselves needing to develop products and deliver services in more environmentally friendly ways than ever before.

Previously, environmental protections seemed to be mainly the work of a few committed governments and advocacy organizations but this is no longer the case. Environmental sustainability consciousness has not left out the field of academics and hence many colleges and universities have developed and rolled out curricula for green majors and degrees.


Increasing Focus on 'Green-Minded Careers'

These courses are designed to fit into the green movement, to promote more awareness on environmental sustainability and to equip different professionals for a ‘green-minded’ approach to practice after completion of school. They are made up of content and programs that target careers spanning consulting, product development and design, as well as lobbying. Whether your interest is in communication studies, engineering science, environmental architecture, bioethics or entrepreneurship, there is a major you can choose from.

With AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) increasing advocacy for green higher education, there has never been a better time than now to choose a green career path. The organization uses an institutional self-reporting tool, STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System), to rate colleges and universities that have put in place the best efforts towards sustainability awareness and training.

Most Popular Green Courses

The list below contains the majors that have gained high popularity among students, tutors, and employers:

Major Specialization Possible Career Areas
Entrepreneurship Environmentally sound management, accounting, economics and fundraising; Green start-ups Any environmental sustainability (green) business and investment
Fashion Design Sustainable fashion and design; Sustainable fabric production Any career in fashion design from design to marketing and advocacy
Food Science Sustainable food production; Sustainable food safety standards and regulation; Food science and genetics Sustainable food production (farming, cooking, retail); Sustainable food policy
Bioethics Ethics in science; Ethics in Health and Environmental issues; Green movement philosophy Healthcare; Education; Policy
Urban Planning Ecological and sustainable urban planning and design; Sustainable urban management; Urban sociology Urban planning and design; Urban health
Horticulture Food and flower plants art and science; Green landscaping; Plant genetic engineering and cultivation Household and business sustainable agriculture; Organic food production
Marine Biology Marine biology; Ecosystem management; Marine habitat diversity Marine Biologists
Environmental Design Ecological indoor and outdoor architecture and design Green indoor and outdoor design; Green architecture
Engineering Science Engineering methods for environmental sustainability; Sustainable energy supply systems design, development and engineering Environmental engineering; Environmental chemistry or biology
Communication Studies Communication for environmental sustainability; Environmental corporate social responsibility Public Relations in environmental sustainability

When Looking for a Green Major

There are several aspects to consider for a green major prospective student. Some of the courses are offered at certificate, degree or masters level. Some of them require prior licensure, for example an environmental law major requires at least an undergraduate law degree and a valid practice license. Environmental engineers studying non-basic courses (post-graduate) need a first engineering degree and practice license. The same applies to green environmental and public health majors. The list below provides insights into some of the available study options for you if you have been considering pursuing an environmentally friendly career:

Degree/Major: Environmental Health Science

Level: Bachelors; Masters

Duration: Varied

Course Content: Environmental health and safety; Occupational health; Industrial hygiene; Environmental hazards assessment; Health and safety programming: Health and safety regulation; Environmental epidemiology; Environmental health research; Disease surveillance, control and prevention; Environmental health policy

Career Paths: Environmental health and safety specialists; Environmental epidemiology; Industrial hygiene

Requisite Certification & Licensure: State/Local Environmental and Occupational Health certification and license.


Degree/Major: Environmental Architecture & Design

Level: Bachelors/Masters

Duration: Depends on level

Course Content: Green architecture; ecological friendly building design and construction; sustainable landscape design; indigenous building and construction materials concepts; sustainable water utilization in irrigation, heating and cooling system design and environmental urban design.

Career Paths: Urban design; Green Architecture; Sustainable Landscape Design among others.

Requisite Certification & Licensure: Architecture


Degree/Major: Environmental Engineering

Level: Bachelors; Masters

Duration: Depends on Level

Course Content: Air and ground water sampling and testing; Site management; Field data and reporting; Field operations management; Environmental regulation; Management of water resources and hydrology studies; AutoCAD application systems.

Career Paths: Hydrology; Hydrogeology; Environmental Project Management and Environmental Engineering Technician

Requisite Certification & Licensure: Engineering degree and license

Degree/Major: Environmental Law

Level: Certificate

Duration: Less than one year

Course Content: Environmental policy, law and litigation; Environmental law research and advocacy; Environmental protection; Environmental law representation

Career Paths: Environmental lawyers (Private, government and civil society)

Requisite Certification & Licensure: Valid law practice license


Degree/Major: Marine Science

Level: Bachelors; Masters

Duration: Varied

Course Content: Ocean chemistry, biology and physics; Marine habitats; Marine rules and regulations; Marine habitat research; Marine equipment design and development; Marine health; Marine issues advocacy

Career Paths: Marine biologists; Ocean Engineering; Fisheries management specialists

Requisite Certification & Licensure: None


Degree/Major: Environmental Science and Sustainability

Level: Bachelors; Masters

Duration: Varied

Course Content: Natural and human environment protection; Climatology and climate change; Environmental chemistry and biology; Environmental hazards management; Field data collection; Laboratory testing; Environmental safety and regulation compliance

Career Paths: Industrial ecology; Climatology; Climate change analysts; Environmental chemists

Requisite Certification & Licensure: Laboratory practice license especially for environmental chemists


Degree/Major:  Horticulture

Level: Certificate; Bachelors; Masters

Duration: Varied

Course Content: Cultivation science (berries, fruits, nuts, vegetables, trees, flowers); Horticulture therapy and rehabilitation in healthcare settings; Plant science research and development; Plant field research; Vineyard and winery management; Horticulture resources management.

Career Paths: Plant scientists; Vineyard and winery management; Horticulture therapy

Requisite Certification & Licensure: Therapist licensing for therapist tracks


Degree/Major:  Renewable Energy

Level: Bachelors; Masters

Duration: Varied

Course Content: Design, development and oversight of solar, wind, geothermal energy systems and facilities; Inspection of renewable power plant sites; Materials, water flow and soil testing procedures; Earth physics, biology and chemistry; Renewable energy research and development; Natural disasters (storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis); Molecular and atomic properties of earth, rubber, metals, polymers and other materials; Material science in relation to environmental safety

Career Paths: Geology; Civil engineering

Requisite Certification & Licensure: Engineering practice license


Green Graduate Degrees

For those who are looking for management level qualifications to add to their current qualifications, there are a variety of green specifically graduate majors to choose from:

1. Master of Science in Environmental Sciences
Field biology, mathematics, chemistry and physics with relation to environmental sustainability.
Institution: Baylor University (College of Arts and Sciences)

2. Master of Science in Geography
Sustainable geography.
Institution: Central Connecticut State University

3. Master of Science in Sustainable Design
Green architecture and design and methods.
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University (College of Fine Arts)

4. MBA in Sustainability
Sustainable business and management with sustainability in mind.
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler School of Business)

5. Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
Sustainable environmental engineering systems design, development and management; Waste management; Sustainable waste systems design; Environmental pollution control.
Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology (School of Civil and Environmental Engineering)

6. Master of Science in Environmental Studies
Combination of social, business, physical and natural sciences as well as sustainability law and communication.
Institution: University of Oregon

7. Master of Science in Sustainable Agriculture
Study areas such as sustainable agricultural systems, social, environmental and economic issues relating to agriculture as well as agro-ecology and food systems.
Institution: Vermont University (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

8. Master of Science in Environmental Health
Analysis of the impacts of natural, social and occupational environments on both human and environmental health; occupational health and hygiene; toxicology and environmental physics, biology and chemistry.
Institution: University of California, LA (Fielding School of Public Health)

9. Master of Science in Fish and Wildlife Management
Study to gain deeper knowledge in wildlife and fish conservation, apply management skills in conservation and protection of natural resources. There are deeper concepts of public policy, economics and natural resource policy development.
Institution: State University of New York (College of Environmental Science and Forestry)

Green Universities and Institutions

You need to identify an institution that has put considerable efforts in sustainability training and research. Many institutions are choosing sustainable policies and have embedded the same to their administration and delivery of services. The self-reporting tool, STARS has been used by renowned institutions to track, assess and rate their efforts in environmental sustainability.

Below are some of the top institutions:

Stanford University

The university’s Energy Systems Innovation Program has earned it a top place in sustainability innovation. The program’s aim is to cut down carbon emissions by up to 68%. It has an incredibly effective waste diversion and targets hit a 75% rate by the year 2020. Student enjoy participating in the mix of the excess of 20 green and sustainability clubs and societies that are open to all students.

Colorado State University at Fort Collins

Colorado State University is one of the leading university in the sustainability approach. They have a green campus with a building fitted with solar heating and air conditioning. The university’s collaboration with NASA gave rise to CloudStat, a research tool for climate change monitoring. CloudStat uses a radar system to generate climatic data from cloud profiles.

University of Washington

The University of Washington is known for wide ranging grant opportunities for students and faculty with an eye on environmental impact initiatives. Its ‘living laboratory’ helps keep the university community sustainability minded. It has an office for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability that designs and conducts programs targeting increased sustainability involvements, funded by its CSF (Campus Sustainability Fund).

University of Washington

The University of Washington is known for wide ranging grant opportunities for students and faculty with an eye on environmental impact initiatives. Its ‘living laboratory’ helps keep the university community sustainability minded. It has an office for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability that designs and conducts programs targeting increased sustainability involvements, funded by its CSF (Campus Sustainability Fund).

University of Connecticut (STARS Rating: 78.48)

Having hosted environmental compliance and regulatory law engagement for faculty, student and staff for over 15 years, this university boasts diverse sustainability initiatives and programs. On campus sits the Office of Environmental Policy from which initiatives related to water, climate, recycling and energy initiatives are rolled out for students and the university community to participate in. it boasts of 23 LEED registered and certified buildings and 42 offices that are Green Office Certification Program certified. 

Sterling College (STARS Rating: 78.97)

This college’s high score is due to its commitment to environmental stewardship training blended with outdoor skills training and a mandatory pre-graduation internship. All its food is produced on campus with students running farms that produce more than 20% of it on-campus food needs. All its students have on-campus jobs and report 95% gainful post-graduation employment within the first year. The college is being equipped to use more than 80% of its power consumption from solar power.

With all these attractive green majors promising lifetime careers in sustainability, prospective students have an array of choices to consider. Green careers are highly employable and are among the highest paid positions. The worldwide innovation craze offers green students an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills and apply them to come up with ideas and programs that can save the earth and make it a better place for current and future generations.

Choose a green major today and you will not be disappointed. The world is evolving to a more environmental-conscious route, take advantage.