Guide to an Online MBA Sustainability

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Are you passionate about the environment? Do you feel like businesses not only can but should use their power and influence to make the world a better place? The good news is many businesses are striving to increase sustainability efforts. Many focus on minimizing their carbon footprint on the world and improving their company’s reputation. These corporations need someone who can take the reins of these efforts and lead in a business environment. Someone to research and implement modern, clean and renewable energy practices. If you are interested in helping businesses make a positive impact, a Sustainability Online MBA is your key to a successful, meaningful future.

What is an Online MBA in Sustainability?

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A Sustainability Online MBA is a graduate-level degree. It blends business administration and corporate social responsibility. Courses in this program are offered online. This allows students to continue working full-time while earning their advanced business degree. It is a common misconception that an Online MBA Sustainability is all about being green. Students will learn sustainability management in the triple bottom line framework. This framework consists of three components: social, environmental, and financial. It is used as a measurement tool for corporations to evaluate their sustainability practices.

Curriculum

The core curriculum for an Online MBA Sustainability will feature traditional business courses. These courses can include accounting, business law, entrepreneurship, ethics, corporate finance, managerial decision making, marketing, and statistics. Content-specific courses in sustainability may include

  • Corporate Sustainability,
  • Environmental Science,
  • Environmental Compliance,
  • Environmental Law,
  • Environmental Risk Management, and
  • Sustainable Investing.

Some programs may also require a thesis or capstone project. This is a great opportunity to expand on a topic introduced in class or delve into an untouched area of sustainability that interests you. Internships and experiential learning courses may be featured within the scope of the curriculum.

History of Sustainability

In December of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established. President Richard Nixon established it due to concerns about the deteriorating quality of water, air, and land. After the EPA was created, the government enforced stricter laws to protect the environment. Sustainability initiatives really took off in the 1980s and referred to what humans were doing to help our planet. In 2005, the World Summit on Social Development identified three goals related to sustainability: economic development, social development, and environmental protection.

Although the EPA was established over 50 years ago, sustainability is a fairly recent, albeit popular, contender for online MBA concentration options. Increasing costs, global shortages, and climate change have propelled businesses to think outside the box. Some are forced to make sustainable decisions that will help their businesses and communities flourish for the long term. Sustainable businesses are focused on preserving natural resources, so future generations will have access to them.

Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco offered the first MBA in Sustainable Management in 2003. This higher education institution has been offering sustainability courses since 1993. They also offer a Bachelor of Arts program in Sustainable, Ethical, Enterprise Design. Over the past decade, more universities have begun offering sustainability courses and degrees. Programs focus on various facets of sustainability, including management and entrepreneurship.

How Do I Choose the Right Online MBA Sustainability?

First, when choosing Sustainability Online MBA Programs, closely examine the curriculum and see if it meets your needs. You will find that the number of sustainability courses varies greatly from program to program. Envision yourself in your future career. Do you primarily want to take business courses with a few courses in sustainability? This will allow you gain a general understanding of how to implement a sustainability policy or two at work. Or do you want a program that heavily focuses on sustainability so you can pursue a management career in sustainability? Beyond the curriculum, you will want to make your decision based on factors such as accreditation, tuition, and program format.

Accreditations and Distinctions

Students can identify high-quality online MBA programs by their accreditation. The AACSB accreditation is the most prestigious accreditation. It is only awarded to less than five percent of business schools in the world. The Princeton Review also ranks the “Best Green MBA” programs. This may be of particular interest to students pursuing a sustainability concentration. This ranking is based on how well each of these programs prepares students to manage issues related to the environment, social responsibility, and sustainability. Additionally, The Princeton Review features profiles for 420 Green Colleges and ranks the Top 50 Green Colleges. Many of these colleges feature Sustainability Online MBA Programs. The criteria this ranking is based upon includes healthy and sustainable quality of life for students, career preparation for a green economy, and the school’s environmental policies.

Affordability of Online MBA Programs

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Money is likely on your mind as you contemplate starting your MBA. So it’s important to find out the tuition for programs you are considering. It’s true that graduate school can be expensive, but there are also sources of funding available. Speak with your manager or HR department at your job to find out if they offer educational benefits. Many positions do if the degree is related to your work responsibilities. Businesses want to cut expenses. So if you present how your degree in sustainability can actually save the company money, you may be able to convince the higher-ups to provide tuition reimbursement.

If you are currently in the military or a veteran, you may also be eligible for tuition benefits. Check with the financial aid office at the institution you plan on applying. Many have scholarship opportunities available. But, apply early, as the number of these scholarships tend to be limited.

Faculty in Online MBA Programs

It’s important for your professors to work in sustainable careers so that they can share their on-the-job experiences. Their industry expertise will bring your classes to a whole new level. They can give practical advice on how to obtain a sustainability career and even help you expand your professional network.

EMBA Programs

An Executive MBA is designed for accomplished professionals who are looking to refine their skills. Executives may be interested in returning to school to pursue an EMBA in Sustainability as companies evolve and update their policies. Students in these programs will complete the majority of their coursework online. Although, some programs may required attendance at weekend residencies throughout the program. Weekend residencies will feature sustainability lectures, discussions, and networking events.

Completion Time

Online MBA Sustainability time frames can vary greatly. Some might strive to complete a degree within one year. Whereas, some want to have a few years to chip away at a degree without feeling overwhelmed. Either way, there’s an option that’s right for you.

Accelerated programs can be completed in as few as ten months. But you should be prepared to treat this program as if it’s a full-time job. Due to the significant time commitment, it may be challenging to work.

Most programs are about two years for full-time students and three years for part-time students. Some programs allow students to take only one course at a time, or even sit out semesters, as long as they complete their degree in a specific timeframe, usually within six years. Meet with an advisor early in your MBA program. Discuss your goals with them and create a plan to match your unique timeline.

Synchronous v. Asynchronous

Business schools may offer degrees that are entirely synchronous, asynchronous, or feature courses in both formats. Synchronous courses feel more like traditional classes. In these courses, you meet with your professor and peers at a set time each week, just online. This format works well if real-time interaction is important to you. But one drawback is you will need to arrange your schedule to accommodate your class times.

Asynchronous classes offer a greater range of flexibility. These courses allow students to choose when to complete the coursework. Coursework is generally loaded on a digital platform on a weekly basis. Students will complete modules consisting of video recordings, reading assignments, and/or discussion board posts. This option may be more restrictive in building business connections with peers and professors.

How Do I Apply for Sustainability Online MBA Programs?

The application process for a Sustainability Online MBA is the same as an on-campus MBA. Applicants are required to submit an official college transcript conferring a bachelor’s degree. Applicants also submit an online graduate school application and an application fee. Some programs may require additional components, such as letters of recommendation or a resume. Most online programs offer a GRE/GMAT waiver, but some may require a score report. Students may also be required to write a personal statement. These programs might ask about why sustainability is important to them and how an online MBA Sustainability will affect their careers.

What Career Prospects Will I Have After Earning a Sustainability Online MBA?

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The career landscape for the 21st century is increasing roles that are environmentally friendly. Sustainability professionals can work in many settings and take on a multitude of tasks. For example, corporations may employ sustainability directors to implement company-wide recycling programs. Government agencies may have an entire environmental department. You can also be a consultant focused on sustainable development. These consultants provide professional services to companies. This is especially helpful for companies without a full-time sustainability manager on staff.

Senior-level sustainability job titles can include sustainability director or director of corporate responsibility. These managers may research, develop, and oversee sustainability programs. They also lead teams and train others on sustainability practices. Communication is an essential skill because delivering speeches during company meetings and presenting new ideas to upper management is frequently involved. Sustainability managers may also represent the company at environmental conferences. They might also meet with the public to discuss their concerns.

Eco-Friendly Companies

Top companies across all industries are adopting environmental-friendly policies, sustainable business practices, and sustainable green technologies. This creates great opportunities for future job seekers upon receiving their online MBA in Sustainability. Goldman Sachs has made commitments to lead clients through climate transitions and inclusive growth. By 2030, this leading financial institution plans to invest $750 billion towards these two issues. They want to focus on clean energy, sustainable agriculture, accessible healthcare, and affordable education.

Google plans to be carbon-free by 2030. Other companies that have developed a reputation for being socially responsible include Johnson and Johnson, Ikea, Microsoft, and Nike. There are also several influential non-profit agencies that are involved in sustainability initiatives, environmental management, and environmental regulations. Some of the most well-known include Doctors without Borders, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and the World Wildlife Fund.

When interviewing with a company, you can also ask

  • if they have a sustainability plan,
  • what goals are part of the plan, and
  • what action steps they are currently taking to accomplish this goal

This will help you identify if you will be stepping into a position with a well-organized plan in place or if you will need to create systems from the ground up.

If you’re interested in starting your own business, Nerdwallet has brainstormed 39 green start-up ideas. This vast list of ideas offers suggestions that will appeal to professionals from all business sectors. Are interested in marketing? You could start an advertising firm that specializes in promoting green businesses. Are you a Finance professional? You can help other entrepreneurs get their businesses going by becoming a green venture capitalist. You could also offer economic and financial analysis of sustainability initiatives. Freelancers can write grants for environmental organizations or start an energy auditing side hustle.

Salary

The salary for sustainability business professionals can be quite lucrative. According to Glassdoor, the average national salary for an environmental sustainability manager is $78,994. Sustainability managers report earning an average annual salary of $90,548. Payscale reports similar statistics, with an average base salary of $79,496 for a sustainability manager. Some sustainability managers may also earn a bonus, which can range between $2,000 and $18,000 per year. Profit-sharing may also be added to your compensation and can be up to $27,000. With bonuses and profit-sharing, some sustainability managers earn six-figure incomes.

Innovation experience is the greatest determinant of earning a higher salary. Other skills that can increase salary include

  • project management,
  • business strategy,
  • change management, and
  • program development.

So, if you have the opportunity to take these electives, it could boost your earning potential.

Sustainability managers commonly advance to sustainability directors, with a median salary of $106,887. The top 10% of sustainability managers earn roughly $154,000 per year before bonuses and profit-sharing and up to $171,000 annually in total pay.

How Do I Succeed in a Sustainability Online MBA?

Many students who have been out of school for a while delay their MBA. The thought of returning to school can be a bit daunting. Have confidence in yourself! The simple fact that you are interested in continuing your education shows that you have a growth mindset, and mindset is half the battle. With a solid game plan and an extra dose of self-discipline, you’ll be ready to succeed!

Time Management

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As an undergraduate, school may have been your sole responsibility, or at least your main focus. Now, you likely have a full-time demanding career and perhaps a family to care for. While it can be challenging to juggle both, it is definitely doable with impeccable time management skills. Find short bursts of time throughout the day that can be utilized for school work. Use your commute to work to listen to podcasts or audiobooks for class. While you’re waiting for an appointment with a client, type your discussion board post. Make sure any apps you need for grad school are on your phone, so they are easier to access when you only have a few spare minutes.

Of course, you will also need to dedicate specific times for studying too. You may want to break assignments into small chunks and work 30 minutes each evening after work. Or you might want to dedicate a full afternoon one day of the weekend. Some might feel like it is challenging to complete work at home because of young children or other distractions. If so, consider staying at work for an extra hour each day to study in a quiet environment. It can be easy to procrastinate, but this will only build more stress later in the semester. If possible, try scheduling one day of vacation each month. You can use this day to catch up on any school work you may be behind on or to get ahead on future readings.

Study Groups

Create online study communities with your classmates; bonus points if they live close enough that you can meet up. These groups can serve as a great accountability system. There may be times throughout grad school when you wonder if earning your degree is really worth it. If your connections with your peers are strong enough, they can encourage you through these challenging times. Set goals together for various steps in your thesis process, such as selecting a topic, writing an outline, and the number of pages you’d like to write by a certain date. Each member of the group can share the progress they’ve made since the last meeting and online resources that were helpful for them.

Student Services

Grad school consists of research, research, and you guessed it… more research! Luckily, colleges offer a wide array of student services that can help. For example, there are online library resources available so that you can work on research from the convenience of your home. When you are ready to submit your term papers or thesis, you can have the writing center review it first. The tutoring center can help students via online tutorials.

Graduate course tutorials may be limited, but professors should be able to point you in the right direction for getting additional academic support. Webinars are also offered on various topics related to graduate students. If needed, look for one on balancing work and life in graduate school, staying on track for graduation, and managing stress. Students who need a bit more help with stress management can also turn to the school’s guidance center for an online counseling session.

Career Services

Career services can be a powerful tool throughout your MBA program in preparation for your future career. Counselors in the career services office offer specialized one-on-one support from setting goals to finding internships. They have access to databases of internships, part-time, and full-time opportunities that are currently available. Career fairs are usually offered at least twice per year and feature interview opportunities. Students who live far from campus can also usually join virtual career fairs, career panels and participate in Zoom interviews. The business school at your campus may have its own career services department.

Student Organizations

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Most Online MBA students have a schedule is already busy. But there are many benefits to making time to participate in co-curricular activities. Membership in a professional sustainability organization can build your resume and help you meet contacts within the industry. Students can get involved in sustainability projects at their college campus. You can also explore starting one. You can plant a community garden, host a clothing swap, or start a recycling program.

There are also alternative spring break programs for students to do beach clean-ups. Earth Day also offers numerous sustainability activities. If there aren’t any plans at your workplace, you can also organize a program, such as a park clean-up, planting trees, or bike-to-work day. These will help you stand out, so when you’re applying for that sustainability manager role, you’ll be the first one HR will think of.

There are also sustainability conferences offered in-person and virtually. These can give you great ideas for your thesis. If you are currently working in sustainability, admission to these events may even be paid for by your company. You may even receive a paid day off to attend. MBA programs may also have some funds set aside for students to attend conferences.

Action Plan

Carefully review each application’s requirements and deadlines for programs you are interested in applying for. Attend a virtual information session about the Online Sustainability MBA program. Ask if you can attend an online class. Email any questions you might have about the program to the graduate department. Gather all required documents, and submit them in a timely manner. If you are in need of recommendation letters, reach out to supervisors and former professors who know you best. If test scores are required, schedule tests and create a study plan. Update your resume, and ask a colleague to proofread it. These are small hurdles to jump through that will be well worth it when your acceptance letters arrive.

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