Green Business | September 18, 2011 |
Is an Online Green Degree Worth It?
by Mariana Ashley
Since the start of the environmental revolution in the 1960s, institutions of higher education have been at the forefront of being advocates and innovators for their efforts in green living, business, and policy. In the last decade or so, online sustainability degrees have become a popular academic aspirations for the new generation of movers and shakers, but are they worth it?
What is an Online Sustainability Degree?
Vigorous curriculum focused on multi-disciplinary learning introduces students to the growing discourse surrounding environmental science and activism throughout various disciplines of learning. Sustainability programs offer courses within several academic departments, including science, business, and education. By taking a holistic approach, sustainability degrees are able to better prepare students for the widespread challenges environmental initiatives face within every aspect of the developing world.
With the knowledge gained from these programs, students begin to understand that the world is a series of dynamic, interrelated, and interdependent processes both physical and social. With this knowledge and thinking, young students can begin to identify and articulate the challenges as well as promises of moving forward toward a more environmentally aware world.
The Benefits of Online Sustainability Degrees
Sustainability degree programs lend themselves well to the world of online education for many reasons:
- Online institutions have the ability to connect an array of students from various backgrounds and locations throughout the world. This diversity can particularly benefit students within a sustainability program because they can collaboratively learn about environmental issues pertaining to the many places represented in the class. In order for any truly significant change to occur a sustainable lifestyle must be agreed upon across the world.
- In general, online degree programs pose less of a financial encumbrance than traditional degree programs do. In this way, online learning can be a great option for individuals interested in a gaining an accelerated degree without suffering a significant cost.
- At a very basic level, online degrees in general are a more environmentally conscious endeavor than traditional universities can be. While many brick and mortar higher learning institutions are dedicated to sustainable living, there is no doubt that college campuses and classrooms can be wasteful. Attaining a degree completely through the web means that less paper is wasted, less energy is used to cool and light a classroom, fewer books are printed out and then returned, and fewer cars are driven to campus.
- Also, because the body of knowledge on sustainability and environmental practices is constantly changing and evolving, the speed of an online degree is essential. A student who enters a sustainability program at a traditional college and spends 4 to 5 years achieving their degree may enter the working world with the information they attained already outdated or obsolete. Online programs are commonly completed more quickly and, therefore, the information attained is more current to today’s environmental issues.
Do These Degrees Mean Anything in the Green Job Market?
With the U.S. economy under constant debate, college students are entering the job market with feeble confidence that they may find the job they have spent the last four years (and a significant amount of money) preparing for.
That being said, the green economy could quickly become the nation’s fastest growing job segment. Job hopefuls with degrees in sustainability, environmental policy, environmental science, etc – be it from a traditional or online institution – will be better suited for positions within this booming job sector.
Employers in areas various areas of environmental interest are seeking intelligent, educated, and passionate job hopefuls. Three of the fastest growing jobs in the nation are also three of the fastest growing jobs in the green market. Environmental Engineers, Geoscientists, and Landscape Architects are in high demand among various employers throughout the world.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Environmental Engineering is expected to see a 31 percent employment increase in the next decade, the employment of Geoscientists is expected to increase by 18 percent from 2008 to 2018, and the employment of Landscape Architects is expected to increase by 22 percent in the next decade. These increase in employment are due to the continuing awareness of environmental needs in business.
Each of these positions can be obtained with the education and knowledge gained in sustainability degree programs such as environmental management, environmental science, geosciences, and agricultural science. For example, an individual majoring in environmental management can obtain a career as a Range Manager. A Range Manager is responsible for protecting the natural resources vital to rangelands, such as wildlife, plants, and energy resources. This position aids farmers and ranchers with using their land in the most productive and environmentally sound way. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 the median annual salary of conservations scientists, including range managers, was $58,720.
There are numerous online and traditional universities throughout the nation offering environmental degrees at all levels. Some examples include:
- Ashford University offers an online Bachelor’s of arts degree in Organizational Management with an Environmental Science concentration and a BA in General Environmental Studies.
- Oregon State University offers online Bachelor’s degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Resources, General Horticulture, Environmental Studies, and an online Master’s in Natural Resources.
- Kaplan University offers an online B.S. in Environmental Policy and Management and an M.S. in Environmental Policy.
- Arizona State University offers an online Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Leadership. All of these degree programs offer the education needed to get a leg up in the green job market.
As green initiatives become an even more essential aspect of government, business, education, and more, online sustainability degrees will be increasingly more valuable. With businesses looking to establish more sustainable practices, a certificate of education in Sustainable Studies could prove a viable employment asset in nearly any field.
Furthermore, because sustainability degrees are intrinsically involved in many different disciplines, students can translate their skills to many different sectors of business and they are not limited to employment directly within the green job market. Many employers in different areas of businesses may be drawn to a candidate with knowledge in environmental degree because they know how important sustainability and corporate responsibility is for the future.Reprinted with permission from Green Living Ideas