Resilient Earth: Pursuing a Sustainability Degree
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The impacts of climate change produce economic, political, social, and ecological challenges worldwide, prompting governments and businesses to develop solutions and adopt new technologies that protect both the planet and humankind.
Global warming—a result of human activity and increased carbon dioxide emissions—has increased the earth’s surface temperature by 2° Fahrenheit since the late 1800s. With it, an influx of extreme weather events, droughts, and sea-level rise threaten to displace entire communities and deplete our natural resources.
In recent years, sustainability has become the bedrock of climate change resilience. Yet, the foundation of a resilient Earth begins with experts who possess the innovation and scientific know-how to build and live better.
If you’re wondering how you might become an expert in climate resilience yourself, you may want to consider pursuing a sustainability degree.
What Is a Sustainability Degree?
Sustainability degrees are a somewhat new area of study for environmental majors.
Available in a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), these programs integrate environmental science with various liberal arts disciplines, for example, economics, business, history, policy, urban planning, engineering, etc.
Ultimately, sustainability programs deliver a solutions-based approach to mitigating human-induced ecological impacts while improving future generations’ quality of life and the environment.
For example, agriculture, droughts, and the spread of pathogens contaminate and minimize our groundwater resources. Sustainability students may study ways to improve farming practices and invent efficient water treatment plans to address the situation.
In metropolitan areas, graduates may work to improve energy efficiency within green construction and transit systems, utilizing new technologies that monitor air quality and optimize electricity, water, and waste management.
Beyond the undergraduate level, sustainability majors can pursue a master’s degree or doctorate to further their education.
Fostering Innovation in Sustainability Programs
Students who enroll in a sustainability degree program gain essential skills for contributing solutions to environmental problems. With a versatile curriculum, students can master the following competencies.
Regardless of the learning environment—lab or classroom—sustainability majors will learn to work independently and with a group to develop possible solutions for ecological challenges. The ability to communicate your ideas and mediate disagreements will help everyone reach a decision. You’ll also learn how to best report your findings through research or presentations.
Creativity and Innovation
A huge component of sustainability studies is utilizing creativity to approach complex problems. Since the field is newer and evolving, there isn’t always a correct answer to the problem you’re looking to resolve. Students will learn to outline a project idea and think through the steps to bring their solution to life.
Because sustainability integrates natural sciences with other science, humanities, and social science disciplines, becoming a curious and thorough researcher will be essential throughout your entire career. You’ll learn to ask questions and seek answers to understand how to level up the existing research and draw your own conclusions.
Math and Science
Although you may take courses in history, writing, policy, economics, and other majors, sustainability degrees require a strong comprehension of environmental science and mathematics. Consider that you’ll be entering a field where you’ll need to analyze reports and interpret numerical and scientific data that will grow more complex over time.
Sustainability in the Real World
Once you graduate with a sustainability degree, you’ll have acquired expertise and scientific training to apply your learning in the real world.
Sustainability majors have a breadth of fulfilling career opportunities across wide-ranging industries in the green sector, corporate, nonprofit, education, and government. Examples of sustainability careers include the following:
- Sustainability Coordinator
- Sustainability Officer
- Engineering Project Manager
- Financial Analyst
- Environmental Manager
- Science Teacher
- Supervisor of Production and Operations
- Urban Sustainability Planner
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career outlook for environmental scientists and specialists has a projected growth of 8% between 2020 and 2030. The rise in green careers is spurred by public demands to address population increases and mitigate environmental threats.
Businesses and government bodies, in particular, rely on sustainability graduates to find ways to minimize their environmental impacts and develop greener practices that reduce waste and pollution and conserve resources. Additionally, sustainability experts are needed to help plan and construct city infrastructure with natural resource conservation in mind.
A Path Toward a Greener Future
Technology, manufacturing, and scientific advancements show no indication of slowing down while cities boost building construction and infrastructure to meet population needs. As such, reducing emissions, developing ways to protect the environment, and improving quality of life are necessary. With advanced education in natural science and highly-developed innovative skills, graduates with sustainability degrees are the key to a greener future and resilient earth.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.