2024 Best Online PhD in Sustainability [Doctorate Guide]

By Claudia Amendola Alzraa
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on May 6, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Explore the best online PhD in Sustainability programs. Develop skills in environmental research and policy-making to lead the way toward a sustainable future.

An online PhD in Sustainability is an interdisciplinary degree that prepares individuals to become innovative researchers in environmental sustainability and Earth sciences.

Best Online PhD in Sustainability

Countries and governments are putting the environment and climate change at the forefront.

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In a sustainability PhD program, you can develop advanced knowledge and skills that can be integrated in a way that influences policymaking regarding environmental issues.

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Sustainability Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Antioch University

Antioch University offers a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies. To graduate, students must complete 69 semester hours, including a dissertation.

Those interested in the program must submit an online portfolio with an application, an essay, a resume, official transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. Applicants must also complete an admissions interview.

Antioch University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Prescott College

Prescott College offers a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education. Students must complete 72 credit hours through three different phases and a final dissertation to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must submit a list of references, a current resume, official transcripts, and a personal statement.

Prescott College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Saybrook University

Saybrook University offers a Sustainable Social Impact Doctor of Business Administration. Students must complete 51 credit hours to graduate. The program can be completed online and usually takes 3 years to complete. Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website. Admission counselors are available to help applicants.

Saybrook University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

University of Maryland Global Campus

The University of Maryland Global Campus offers an online Doctor of Business Administration program that focuses on sustainability. Students must complete a dissertation to graduate. Those interested in the program must submit official transcripts, a resume, 2 professional references, and a personal statement. A writing sample is optional but encouraged by the program’s admissions department.

The University of Maryland Global Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point

The University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point offers a Doctorate in Education in Educational Sustainability. Students must complete 54 credit hours to graduate. The program can typically be completed in 3 years. Applicants may apply online with all post-secondary transcripts, a letter of intent, a resume, and 3 references.

UW-Stevens Point is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Online PhD in Sustainability Programs

Online PhD in Sustainability Programs

When pursuing an online doctoral program in sustainability, there are a number of specializations within the sustainability scope you may encounter. Specializing your studies can allow you to develop more technical skills within your area of interest and may help you prepare for specific career goals.

Following a particular sustainability program involves research and in-depth comprehension of the topic on a global scale. Here are some sustainability PhD programs that you may want to pursue, depending on your personal interests and professional goals.

PhD in Sustainable Development

Sustainable development involves the advanced study of social, environmental, and economic sustainability and how critical policy can influence natural science issues. If you wish to be involved in challenging policies that concern and influence the future success of our planet, you might want to consider earning a PhD in Sustainable Development.

Studies in this specialization include economics, natural and social sciences, and sustainable development research. This specialization could be applicable to roles in academia, government, finance, or the private sector. Professionals in this area may work in logistics, in storage and distribution, or as sustainability managers.

PhD in Environmental Sustainability

PhD in Environmental Sustainability

A PhD in Environmental Sustainability trains you on how to develop, implement, and frequently assess policies related to sustainability.

You can learn how to properly address environmental challenges through applied research that looks across a variety of disciplines. Course topics can include environmental justice, urban systems, consumption, social cohesion and inequality, and sustainable enterprise and development.

This program often leads into a wide range of green careers in academia or in private or public sectors. Many professionals work with environmental science, environmental engineering, or policy management.

PhD in Sustainability Education

PhD in Sustainability Education

PhD candidates in sustainability education research the impact and benefits of educating people on sustainable practices.

You can learn how to encourage others to ask the fundamental questions that lead to addressing environmental and sustainability issues that concern our communities and our planet. This program encourages the development of global citizenship in students.

In a sustainability education program, you can study course topics related to educational administration, community development, advocacy, public relations, and politics. Professionals with this specialized training generally work in NGOs or charities. They may also work as environmental specialists, conservation scientists, or academic leaders.

Environmental Science and Sustainability Careers & Salaries

Environmental Science and Sustainability Careers & Salaries

With environmental impact becoming an essential focus for both public and private organizations, jobs in sustainability have become ever more important as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rapid employment growth is expected for eco-friendly occupations over the next ten years. In addition, median averages for those working in sustainability occupations are also higher than the average for all occupations.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Natural Sciences Managers $137,940
General and Operations Managers $103,650
Environmental Engineers $92,120
Postsecondary Forestry and Conservation Science Teachers $87,400
Postsecondary Environmental Sciences Teachers $84,740
Project Management Specialists and Business Operations Specialists $77,420
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $73,230
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists $66,350
Conservation Scientists $64,020

Sustainability roles are extremely diverse, and sustainability professionals can be found in nearly every sector. Your PhD program specialization can be defined around your specific career goals. Organizations are facing many sustainability issues today, and online doctorate programs in sustainability can train leaders to address the environmental responsibilities of individual companies.

Sustainability Doctorate Curriculum & Courses

Sustainability Doctorate Curriculum

A PhD in Sustainability is heavily research focused and often requires a dissertation. Depending on the specialization you choose to pursue, you may be enrolled in a variety of diverse courses in humanities, science, business, and engineering.

Here are some courses you may encounter:

  • Fundamentals of Sustainability Science: You’ll learn how to conduct advanced, individual research on sustainable production, distribution, and consumption. Ecological economics is a primary focus in this course.
  • Industrial Ecology: You’ll study the relationship between ecological and industrial systems and how they impact one another.
  • Risk Analysis: This course helps you develop advanced skills in risk identification. You can also learn about the management of risk through a sustainability lens, including economic, social, and environmental impact.
  • Economics of Sustainability: You’ll study the advanced micro and macroeconomics of sustainable systems and learn to use rigorous economic reasoning in your analysis and problem-solving of various topics.
  • Sustainable Development: This course develops your knowledge of resource management, energy planning, and recycling for more efficient and sustainable community and cooperation development. This course develops your leadership skills for sustainable development roles.
  • Policy Mechanisms: In this advanced course, you’ll learn how to properly address government and market failures that endanger sustainability. Using scientific evidence, you can learn to adjust and implement appropriate policy to help reduce global impact of problems.
  • Professional Skills for Environmental Sustainability: Doctoral candidates develop advanced oral and written communication skills in this course, which prepares them for management, leadership, and lecture roles. They also learn how to compose and present professional reports.
  • Research Design: In preparation for a dissertation, you’ll learn advanced research methods under the sustainability lens.
  • Sustainable Water: Water purification and water preservation are essential for global environmental sustainability. You’ll use this focus and an engineering lens to present solutions for real-world case studies.
  • International Development and Sustainability: You’ll learn about global development and industrial advancement that does not compromise the environment, and you’ll learn how to create innovative solutions to reach sustainability goals for development projects.

If your PhD requires a dissertation, the later years of your program would likely focus on your research development.

Sustainability PhD Admissions Requirements

Sustainability PhD Admissions

When applying for a PhD program, there are often strict guidelines and requirements that accompany the application packet. It’s beneficial to thoroughly research the particular admission requirements of the school you are interested in.

Here are some admission requirements you may encounter:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0, on average
  • Letters of professional recommendation
  • Writing sample that includes your educational objectives

Some schools also recommend that you include a CV that demonstrates your work or research experience in sustainability.

Doctoral Degrees in Sustainability Accreditation

Doctoral Degrees in Sustainability Accreditation

Accreditation for your doctoral degree is essential. Not only is it often necessary for employment after graduation, but it’s also vital when it comes to receiving financial aid or being able to transfer your credits to change programs or schools.

Online programs are especially at risk of being falsely accredited by fraudulent institutions. You can visit the website for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to verify the registered status of your program or school of interest.

Regional accreditation ensures you are attending a school with high academic standards, and it can also protect you when it comes to any employment requests for accreditation.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Doctoral Degrees in Sustainability financial aid

Doctorate programs can be an expensive venture, but there are many financial assistance opportunities that you may have the chance to qualify for.

You may find funding through scholarships, research councils, charities or foundations related to sustainability, or even grants given to you by your employer. Some schools even fully fund doctoral studies through their research budget.

You can begin your search for government aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal loans for doctorate students can be immense, and FAFSA simplifies the process, enabling you to see how much aid you qualify for.

What Is a PhD in Sustainability?

PhD in Sustainability

A PhD in Sustainability is a doctoral program that helps you develop an advanced understanding of sustainability practices and your global citizenship responsibilities. It also allows you to find an area of focus related to your environmental education passions.

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Sustainability is a research-based program that uses scientific evidence to develop sustainability solutions on a nationwide and global scale. This doctoral degree can help prepare you for leadership and sustainability management roles in the green sector of various industries.

What Can I Do with a PhD in Sustainability?

doctorate degree in sustainability

A doctorate degree in sustainability can help you develop advanced qualifications for leadership and management roles in the green sector.

Sustainability is necessary in nearly every industry. Many sustainability experts work as natural sciences managers, environmental engineers, postsecondary teachers, environmental scientists, and conservation scientists, among other roles.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that wages related to environmental protection are well above the average wage for all occupations. Holding a doctorate can often increase your earning potential as well.

Can You Get a PhD in Sustainability Online?

PhD in Sustainability Online

Yes, you can get a PhD in Sustainability online. Online sustainability degree programs allow for flexible enrollment and can minimize the financial burden of residency or commuting.

Online programming can also offer more convenient scheduling for working professionals. So, completing your doctoral degree online may enable you to pursue your degree while continuing your employment. Credible online degrees, such as an online masters in sustainability or an online PhD in Sustainability, can be earned at accredited universities and institutions.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctoral Degree in Sustainability Online?

In general, a PhD often takes 3 to 5 years to complete. This timeframe can vary depending on the number of credit hours required and how long it takes you to complete your dissertation.

Doctorate in Sustainability

If there is no dissertation requirement, a doctoral program can generally be completed in 3 years with full-time study. Attending part-time can lengthen the amount of time it takes to obtain your PhD.

Is a Doctorate in Sustainability Worth It?

Yes, a doctorate in sustainability is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment in the environmental protection sector is seeing significant growth as sustainability becomes a concern across nearly every industry.

For instance, both natural science managers and conversation scientists are projected to see 6% job growth over the next ten years. Environmental scientists and specialists are expected to experience 8% job growth (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Employment for postsecondary teachers is projected to increase 12% over the same time period. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that individuals with a doctorate see the lowest unemployment rate.

Getting Your PhD in Sustainability Online

Getting Your PhD in Sustainability Online

Sustainability practices and strategies have become a central focus across nearly every industry. Getting your PhD in Sustainability online can help you develop advanced skills and expertise in the field, and doctoral qualifications can help you pursue leadership roles in the green sector.

Pursuing your doctorate online through an accredited university allows you the flexibility to further your educational career alongside your personal and professional obligations. You can begin exploring online doctoral degrees today to find the sustainability program and specialization that best align with your professional goals.

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