Green & Sustainability Degrees
What is a Green Job or Green Collar Job?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the term Green Jobs has no specific definition. However, generally the term refers to those careers associated with environmental work. Often positions having to do with sustainability are included in the Green Jobs category as well.
"Definitions of green jobs are so broad at this point in time, it is impossible to generate a reliable count of how many green jobs there are in America today."1
Green Jobs can be found in all sectors of the economy from Business to Law to Government. As a result, increasing numbers of people have become interested in pursuing green degrees and/or sustainability degrees to further their education and be eligible for jobs in these fields.
In their report on the Clean Energy Economy, the Pew Foundation stated that "Driven by fiscal interests and concerns about energy and climate change, a growing number of public- and private-sector leaders are seeking to expand their share of the clean energy economy: jobs, businesses and investments that achieve a double bottom line—economic growth and environmental sustainability".2
Green jobs include positions in:
- Government as policy makers and regulators
- Private sector as planners
- Environmental consultants who clean up environmental hazards
- Environmental lawyers
- Sustainability coordinators for businesses
- Clean Energy businesses (especially wind and solar power)
- Water and Waste Water management
- Environmental Health programs
- Environmental Education
- Resource Management
Students in the Masters of Environmental Studies Program design their own unique environmental health degree program to help them achieve their goals in many of these green job sectors and more.
1. Middle Class Task Force, The Vice President of the United States, "Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class," February 28, 2009, page 2.
2. Pew Charitable Trusts, 2009. The Clean Energy Economy.
What is a Degree in Sustainability?
The field of Sustainability is still developing and being defined. Unlike the fields of Biology, Economics, and English, but like the concept of a Green Degree, a degree in Sustainability is not easily defined by a specific set of criteria.
The EPA defines Sustainability as:" balancing a growing economy, protection for the environment, and social responsibility, so they together lead to an improved quality of life for ourselves and future generations."
Because the definition of Sustainability is not well defined and the careers available are found in diverse areas, Penn does not offer a sustainability degree or masters program. Instead, the Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) program offers a wide range of course options that allow students to create a program specific to the requirements of the area of sustainability they are most interested in pursuing. Prospective students interested in a sustainable development degree will find an Individualized concentration in the MES program allows them to choose a course of study that will make them uniquely qualified for the position they seek.
What types of positions might a person with a Sustainability Degree expect to obtain?
Positions such as Sustainability Coordinator are becoming quite common in the corporate, non-profit, academic, and government sectors. These positions typically require that all aspects of a business or group be examined to determine if they are being managed optimally. Areas such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, waste reduction and recycling, storm water runoff, and use of sustainable products all fall under the umbrella of a Sustainability coordinator. A Masters Degree in Sustainability is not required for these types of positions, but a green degree such as the MES is often preferred over non-green degree applicants.
Penn is committed to sustainability issues both academically and in practice, so students seeking a Sustainability degree can benefit from both the rich diversity of MES course offerings and the sustainability programs run by Penn faculty and students on campus, in Philadelphia, and around the world.
What are Green Degrees?
Green Degrees encompass a range of degree programs from sustainability degrees to a sustainable development degree to environmental degrees such as Penn’s MES degree. The term Green Degree has been used to mean any degree in which students learn about environmental work, sustainability, clean energy (solar and air), or resource management. These Green Degrees might include programs in Environmental Policy, Environmental Management, Environmental Health, and/or Environmental Science.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) program is a "green degree" and is designed for students seeking leadership roles in environmentally related fields, in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Receiving a green degree at Penn prepares students for green careers in science, politics, advocacy, and education with the theoretical background and practical skills necessary to succeed – and to make an important and lasting impact in their hosen fields.
Do I need a Sustainability Degree or Green Degree to get a job in the New Green Economy?
Although an undergraduate degree in an environmental related major or an undergraduate sustainability degree will allow a graduate to obtain an entry level position in the new green economy, most higher level and higher paying positions will require a masters degree. Green degrees and sustainability degrees at the masters level can be found at many universities including the University of Pennsylvania where the Masters of Environmental Studies program allows students to pursue green degrees of their choice in fields such as
- Environmental Biology
- Environmental Health
- Environmental Policy
- Resource Management
- Urban Environment
Students interested in a masters level sustainability degree can design their own program by choosing courses from across multiple disciplines in the world-renowned schools and faculties at the University of Pennsylvania including the Wharton School of Business, the School of Engineering, The School of Design, the Law School, and the Fels Institute of Government.
Sustainable Development Degree: What is it and do I need one to work in the field?
There is no universal agreement on what is meant by sustainable development. The weight of the knowledge suggests that sustainable development has to do with discovering a path for growth that maximizes net benefits for society after taking into account the costs of environmental degradation.
Indeed the The Brundtland Report3 states that Sustainable Development is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
The Masters of Environmental Studies fulfills the criteria for a Sustainable Development Degree by allowing students to take courses in environmental Policy, Sustainability, and Planning.
3. UN World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) "Our Common Future"