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What Can You Do With a Degree in Sustainability Studies?

As you may know, students in Europe apply to a specific field of study, which is like knowing their major ahead of time. This sometimes scares students, because they see it as choosing a career. This is a misconception though.
Jennifer Viemont on Oct 21, 2022
What Can You Do With a Degree in Sustainability Studies?

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Jennifer Viemont
Founder & Chief College Advisor
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Article updated Nov 23, 2022

“It used to be that I could eavesdrop on a conversation and learn that the two men at the next table were doctors, or that one was a massage therapist and the other sold life insurance for cats. Now, though, I have no idea what anyone does, especially if the people I’m listening in on are under forty. I hear the words “integration” and “platform” a lot, but not in any recognizable context” -David Sedaris, from Calypso

I can relate! There are just so many professions-and fields of study-now that weren’t really a thing when I was in college or entering the work force. Though the career possibilities have grown exponentially since then, many high school students I meet (and their parents) still aren’t aware of them.

As you may know, students in Europe apply to a specific field of study, which is like knowing their major ahead of time. This sometimes scares students, because they see it as choosing a career. This is a misconception though, since many programs are multidisciplinary and/or can lead to a number of different careers. I often advise students to start by looking into the areas of study related to their interests and exploring associated careers from there.

I thought it might be helpful to have a series of posts that explore the careers that are associated with certain fields, starting with Sustainability. Was this even a term used when I was growing up? Not one used in the environmental context (which is probably one of the reasons the Earth is in its current condition…). People may have studied earth science or environmental science related topics back in the day, but the multidisciplinary sustainability studies programs just weren’t a thing.

I meet a lot of students who are interested in studying sustainability, but not with the hard core science/engineering focus. There are a number of programs around this in Europe that appeal to then, but they (and their parents) often wonder what type of job this degree qualifies them for.

I did a bit of research and learned that many companies hire Sustainability Analysts and/or Sustainability Managers, But what does that mean? I find that LinkedIn job descriptions are great for this type of information, so I dug in. There were 96,307 jobs listed on LinkedIn under Sustainability in the EU and US combined, many of which fell under these types of positions. In a nutshell, these positions involve helping companies in ways that pertain to sustainability initiatives (the companies own goals or the goals for their clients). This can include the overall operational emissions, specific resources used by the company (such as water, waste, energy), and/or materials used for specific products or packaging. The positions generally involve analyzing the use of these resources and making recommendations and/or implementing strategies to meet the specified goals. These positions may also include educating various departments about their part achieving the goals and sometimes might include outreach to the public about related programs. Companies I saw listing these types of jobs include Ralph Lauren, Nespresso, American Express, Deloitte and-given the large number of job posts-many, many more!

Most of the websites for universities have a section about related careers for the particular programs. Many sustainability programs note that graduates go on to work at NGO’s and think tanks. The jobs at these types of organizations vary, but if you work for an NGO or think tank that focuses on environmental issues, then your work-in some way-will related to sustainability. The website for The World Wildlife Fund puts it in such a great way. They say 

“So whether you’re working at a desk in our D.C. office, attending a climate change meeting in Europe, or relocating rhinos in Nepal, you have the benefit of knowing that everything you do is part of WWF’s global effort to conserve life on Earth.”

The other possibility is to continue with more specialized master’s degree programs, which speak to sustainability in a particular sector or field. Our database has master degree programs that connect sustainability and areas like agriculture, urban planning, tourism, governance, fashion, product design, healthcare, development, law, economics, natural sciences, engineering, and more! Even if the estimates of this being a $12 trillion market by 2030 are a little off, continued growth in this area seems inevitable!

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