Sustainable—or green—business is one of the largest, fastest growing sectors in the economy presently, and only expected to expand further in the coming years with increased environmental issues and concerns proliferating by the day. In 2010, 3.1 million jobs in the U.S. involved green goods and services, or 2.4% of total employment. Professionals looking to capitalize on this burgeoning economy have the advantage of not only getting in early on a lucrative business, but also making real-world changes that could affect future generations and protect distressed ecosystems: human or otherwise.
Though strictly environmental advocates are helpful in contributing to the discussion, the most effective green leaders will be those that can synthesize practical business concerns with occasionally fractious environmental ones. In other words, leaders who can speak and act with authority from the vantage of both perspectives. An MBA in Sustainability is a first step toward that goal. Here are our top online programs.
MBA Programs in Sustainability Methodology:
Affordability (1/3): the estimated average out-of-state tuition per credit hour.
Flexibility (1/3): if the program offers additional specializations and/or an accelerated track.
Academic Reputation (1/3): the rank of the school’s parent institution according to other prominent rankings such asUS News.
Euclid University offers an MBA in Sustainable Development consisting of 36-40 credit hours, focusing on practical application of theory in order to support and engage serious sustainable development. Though mostly asynchronous, students are divided periodically into groups to exchange coursework and ideas. The curriculum is tailored particularly to train current government employees already in the field, but it is also suitable to prepare other professionals for careers with national governmental bodies, NGOs, multinational corporations, and international organizations. Euclid’s program is unique in that it is the only Master’s program in Sustainable Development offered by an intergovernmental organization with a specialized institute dedicated to this field of study (the International Organization for Sustainable Development).
2University of Saint Francis
The University of Saint Francis’s program is a unique combination of USF’s MBA and and Master of Environmental Health. The degree consists of 36 credit hours, 21 devoted to the Business core and 15 devoted to the Sustainability core. To maximize flexibility, accelerated tracks are available, allowing students to graduate in as little as 12 months. In particular, USF’s program seeks to teach students how to implement green business initiatives to protect the environment, increase productivity, save money, and increase net revenue in an ethical manner consistent with the university’s Catholic background. Applicants who have not earned a 2.75 undergraduate GPA or had five years of work experience must submit GMAT scores.
Wilmington University’s online program offers a 36-credit curriculum. For interested students looking to further enhance their resume, there is also a Certificate of Advanced Study in Sustainability available for an additional 15 credit-hours. In addition to the business core, the green concentration addresses strategic planning for sustainable organizations, environmental regulations and ethics, and management of green technology, among other areas. Courses are offered in accelerated, seven-week formats and designed to meet the needs of students who must meet full-time job requirements as well.
4San Francisco Institute of Architecture
The San Francisco Institute of Architecture is 16-course, 51-unit program that consists of a 4-track curriculum based on Sustainability, Business Skills, Administrative Action, and Strategic Planning. For maximum flexibility particularly helpful for full-time professionals, the program is entirely self-paced and self-managed, allowing students to finish their degrees on their own time. In addition, for design professionals requiring continuing education units, you can simultaneously earn the necessary CE units while earning academic units toward the degree.
5University of Colorado—Denver
The University of Colorado Denver requires 48 credit hours, including 30 core credits, 3 international business credits, and 15 devoted to the sustainability concentration. Available for both part- and full-time students, UC-Denver allows students to take classes tailored to fit their schedule, and also offers an accelerated 11-month track. Among the elective classes available for the program are Managing for Sustainability, Social Entrepreneurship in the Developing World, Accounting and Finance for Sustainability, and Global Climate Change, among many others.
6Western Kentucky University
Western Kentucky University is a 33 credit hour program available to both full- and part-time students. For those interested, an accelerated track consists of bi-term, 7-week courses designed to adhere with “adult learning theory,” which emphasizes focusing on one course at a time (though students may further accelerate their coursework by taking an additional class). In either case, WKU provides extremely flex schedule options, allowing students to graduate in as little as 18 months, or take up to 5 years if they choose. In addition, the MBA in Sustainability will soon offer a graduate certificate in Business Sustainability.
7University of Cumbria
The University of Cumbria, partnered alongside The Robert Kennedy College, Switzerland, offers the first MBA in Leadership and Sustainability in the World. For maximum schedule flexibility there are six entry points throughout the year, and students may pursue an accelerated track to graduate in as little as 18 months, or take up to five years if they choose. Though the courses is mostly online, it also includes a mandatory one-week summer residency at The University of Cumbria in Ambleside. Note also that 93% of Cumbria’s alumni are either employed or pursuing further study six months after graduating.
UMass Dartmouth offers a 30-credit track, with 9 credits devoted to the Sustainable Development concentration. Note that a generous transfer policy is also in place to accelerate coursework. In particular, the program focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Law, Sustainable Development Theory and Practice, and Strategic Sustainability Leadership. For interested students, UMass Dartmough also offers a joint MBA/JD program, which might be of interest to students looking to combine an in-depth green business education with the practical uses of a law degree.
Marylhurst University’s MBA in Sustainability is composed of twelve 5-week courses and one 10-week course. The program offers several concentrations, including Renewable Energy, Green Development, and Food Systems Management, in addition to a capstone course. The capstone is required coursework, in which students establish a link between their studies, their interests, and the real-world business issues; included in the capstone is the opportunity for students to create a detailed sustainability plan and project. For those interested, an accelerated track is available to complete in as little as 18 months.
Anaheim University’s MBA in Global Sustainable Management is run through the Kisho Kurokawa Green Institute. The program consists of 10 intensive 6-week courses, followed by an individualized capstone project that is completed over two 6-week terms. The program is available for full- and part-time students, and can be completed in 18 months on an accelerated, intensive track. Moreover, for maximum flexibility, a new program begins every six weeks, allowing students to schedule their studies around their own timeframe. Among the focuses of the sustainability curriculum are Green Marketing andCorporate Social Responsibility and Ethics Environmental Product Design/Recycling, and Triple Bottom Line Accountability and Management.
11Franklin Pierce University
Franklin Pierce University offers an MBA in Energy and Sustainability Studies designed to be completed between 18-24 months. For students looking to further accelerate the track, a 12-month, customized MBA is also available. For full- or part-time students, Franklin Pierce’s curriculum consists of 39 total credit hours, with course options tailored to specific interests, traditionally completed over four, 12-week terms. In particular, the program focuses on corporate social responsibility, building sustainable enterprises, and renewable energy as well as fossil fuel production and consumption issues. Neither GMAT nor GRE scores are required.
South University’s online MBA with a Concentration in Sustainability prepares students for product regulation in the green marketplace as well as maintaining productive and profitable energy requirements, while considering green business ethics. Stress is placed on the legal issues surrounding sustainability and basic business principals and strategies in emerging and developing markets. Applicants must submit GMAT scores, in addition to demonstrating a background in micro and macroeconomic theory, in addition to accounting and statistics.
Edgewood College’s online program is a 37-credit track, designed to be completed in approximately two years. That said, select classes are available in accelerated, 8-week blocks. A final capstone course in Strategic Management is also required. Ideal for working professionals, Edgewood classes are offered year-round and typically only consist of 15 students per class, allowing for students to have one-on-one time with professors and study in an intimate, collaborative environment. Moreover, international faculty from Slovakia, China, Greece, England, and Iran provide students with a global business perspective.
14Green Mountain College
Green Mountain College consists a 37-credit curriculum track. Courses are taught in six-week blocks, with a week-long break in between, and students traditionally graduate in two years (though an intensive program is available that graduates full-time students in 21 months). In addition, Green Mountain offers a generous MBA transfer policy, which may accelerate coursework, and also allows part-time students with full-time job commitments to complete the degree on their own time. Classes are small and intimate, typically ranging from 10-18 students, allowing for individualized attention and healthy collaboration.
15Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University’s online MBA in Sustainability and Environmental Compliance is a 39-credit course load, focusing in particular on energy and society, and environmental/economic complex relationships. The faculty at SNHU provides students with a broad background to learn from, with professors as varied as business executives, environmental advocates, and activities, all of which bring extensive experience and knowledge. Upon graduation, students will be able to engage in current energy-related debates and practices, advocate on behalf of both business and environmental concerns, and help organizations comply with ever-shifting environmental laws.
16University of North Carolina
University of North Carolina’s online MBA in Sustainable Enterprises program is a four-module track at the Kenan-Flager School of Business, ranked #7 in the world by Bloomberg Businessweek. Students may choose from an exceptionally large pool of electives within the concentration, including Alternative Energy, Innovations in Green Building, Corporate Environmental Strategy, and New Urbanism, Smart Growth and Sustainable Community Development, among many others. In addition to its prestige, UNC has an alumni network of over 33,000 in 81 countries around the world, giving students excellent career placement opportunities.
Northeastern University’s online program can be completed in as little as two years, classes are limited to fewer than twenty students, and no GRE or GMAT is required for admission. A prestigious, world-renowned university with over 200,000 alumni, the Financial Times ranked Northeastern’s online MBA #1 in the US and #3 globally. 56 percent of the program’s graduates report having received a salary increase, 48 percent report more managerial responsibility, and 46 percent report acquiring a new job title. For interested students, a dual Finance/MBA degree is also available.
18Sustainability Management School Switzerland
The Sustainability Management School’s online program is a 9 core course, 6 concentration, and 1 elective curriculum that can be completed as little as 18 months in accelerated format, and as many as 5 years for part-time students. The program is aimed at working professionals n corporations, nonprofits and governmental agencies demanding sustainability knowledge and practice, and therefore allows for maximum schedule and coursework flexibility, with students choosing their coursework and workload on a by-need basis. There are four points of entry throughout the year. In particular, students learn how to apply real-world solutions to develop a sustainable economy and environment.
19City University of Seattle
The City University of Seattle offers a 48-credit track MBA with a Sustainable Business Emphasis. Interested students may opt to take on additional class—The Responsibilities of Global Citizenship—to earn a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business. Typical graduation time is two years. Coursework may be accelerated through weekend intensives, but note that these can only be completed on-campus. The program in particular focuses on shifting business trends, application of theory, strategy implementation, and utilizing the diversity of global economy.
Chatham University’s program is a hybrid, with all core coursework available online (27 credits). The online core adheres to a flexible schedule for working adults, and includes a generous transfer policy, which may accelerate graduation time. (The remaining 9 credits toward an MBA in Sustainable Business must be fulfilled on-campus.) Full-time students can complete the program in one year, and part-time students or working professionals can finish in two years. All students complete a final capstone project which will give students the opportunity to engage in a complex consulting project facilitated by the Executive in Residence of Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship.
Bard College’s MBA in Sustainability is a 30-credit hybrid, online/low-residency program. Online instruction is coupled with 5 residencies per term: four in New York City and one in the Hudson Valley. Full-time students can expect to complete the program in 2 years, while part-time students can expect to finish in 3 years. In either case, students can maintain at least a part-time job while completing their studies. A dual MBA in Sustainability and MS in Environmental Policy or MS in Climate Science and Policy is also available, though again only partially in an online/low-residency format. In particular, Bard’s philosophy focuses on economic success, environmental integrity, and social equity.
Walden University’s online MBA program is a 36-37 credit track with a final capstone course built in. The sustainability specialization follows Individual and Organizational Commitment to Social Responsibility and Social/Environmental Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development. In particular, students explore the economic and environmental relationship between large organizations, corporations, and organizations and their communities, and how to address the complex issues raised in these areas. For students’ convenience, graduate certificates are embedded in the coursework, allowing students to earn valuable resume boosts while still in school.
23Presidio Graduate School
Presidio offers 60-credit, hybrid curriculum with 15 required courses and one elective. Each semester, students attend on-campus four-day residences once-a-month for five months. The remainder of students’ coursework is completed online. Full-time students can complete their degrees in two years, and part-time students in four. In addition, for interested students, a Sustainable Energy Management Certificate is also available to earn with just two more classes. Presidio’s program focuses on the complex defining issues of sustainability, including climate change, green technology, engagement, and social responsibility.