Getting a Green Master’s Degree: Best Online Programs for an Environmentally Friendly Career

Want to make a difference in our environment? Discover the top master’s degrees aimed at environmental protection and find out which green careers are most in-demand.

We hear the term “green” everywhere. From green clothing brands that repurpose recycled materials to green car companies that manufacture environmentally friendly vehicles, there’s a green option for nearly everything these days. But what is a green master’s degree? No, it’s not a diploma made out of bamboo.

Simply put, a green degree is any degree that prepares students for work in the green technology and sustainability market. A market that was valued at $8.7 billion in 2019 and that is expected to grow to nearly $30 billion by 2024. With that in mind, there’s never been a better time to break into the green market with a master’s degree designed to give you the skills needed to work on behalf of Mother Earth. Whether you’re interested in engineering, architecture, public health, or education, there’s a green degree that aligns with your interests. Discover the top green master’s degrees available now, learn why an environmentally friendly career could be the right move for you, and hear from an expert in conservation strategy.

10 Top Green Master’s Degrees You Can Pursue Online Now

If you want to use your career to make the world a greener place, you can find plenty of environmentally focused master’s degrees available online and in-person. From engineering and health sciences to law and architecture, check out these top green master’s degrees.

Top Green Master’s Degree

Environmental Science Master’s

Interdisciplinary in nature, master’s degrees in environmental science bring together studies in biology, hydrology, engineering, and ecology to help graduate students gain a well-rounded knowledge of how to preserve existing resources and use them in sustainable ways. Choose from thesis or nonthesis routes, depending on whether your interests lean toward academic or professional settings. Most online master’s in environmental science programs take approximately two years and are comprised of around 30 credits.

Environmental Scientist

These professionals use their advanced knowledge to protect both the natural environment and the humans who interact with it. Environmental scientists conduct research studies, compile data, analyze samples, and create prevention and control protocols to address environmental issues.


Median Salary

$71,360

Projected Growth

8% (2019-2029)

Natural Sciences Manager

Working both in labs and in the field, natural sciences managers oversee the work done by biologists, chemists, physicists, and other professionals. They set research goals, manage budgets, hire and evaluate staff, manage ongoing projects, and ensure that researchers have the required equipment and materials to carry out their work.


Median Salary

$129,100

Projected Growth

5% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

MBA in Sustainability

Pursuing an MBA in sustainability provides the skills and knowledge to look beyond profits and help companies become greener in their practices and goals. Students take a mix of business and sustainable management courses. Anaheim University, which prides itself on being a sustainable university, provides an online MBA in global sustainable management that takes 18 months to complete and features a green capstone course. The school offers new start dates every six weeks to meet the needs of busy professionals.

Logistician

Logisticians spend their days helping companies coordinate and improve their supply chains. When approaching this topic from a green perspective, logisticians can help companies find ways of making greener products and buying from suppliers who use green principles.


Median Salary

$74,750

Projected Growth

4% (2019-2029)

Management Analyst

Whether working in-house or as a consultant, management analysts look for ways to help organizations improve their efficiency. From a green career perspective, these professionals use their skills to set policies that encourage sustainable business practices and make appropriate organizational changes.


Median Salary

$85,260

Projected Growth

11% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Sustainable Design Master’s

For centuries, designers created buildings with little thought to how or if the materials led to short- or long-term damage to the environment. By pursuing a sustainable design master’s, you’ll learn about the cutting-edge technologies and design approaches to the built environment. Besides studying about LEED-certification, you will also learn about ecological issues in sustainability, ways to make new construction more green, and building sustainable renovations. The University of Florida offers an online master’s in architectural studies with a sustainable design concentration that takes three semesters to complete.

Architect

Architects use their knowledge of building materials and design to develop plans for houses, skyscrapers, factories, and other types of buildings. From a green perspective, architects can choose to work with sustainably sourced materials, find ways of reducing dependency on natural resources.


Median Salary

$80,750

Projected Growth

1% (2019-2029)

Architectural Manager

These seasoned professionals possess the managerial and leadership skills needed to oversee architects in their firm. Common responsibilities include working with junior architects to provide feedback and approve projects, developing large-scale budgets, planning continuing education, introducing new projects and design processes, and ensuring accuracy.


Median Salary

$144,830

Projected Growth

3% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Environmental Engineering Master’s

If you want to spend your time analyzing, inventing, building, and testing possible solutions to the world’s environmental issues, a master’s in environmental engineering could be a great fit. These programs usually take 18-24 months and introduce topics such as engineering dynamics, civil and environmental computations, and soil mechanics to address air pollution, waste disposal, and water reclamation. Graduates work in local, state, and federal government and in private organizations. Old Dominion University in Virginia offers an online master’s in environmental engineering consisting of 30 credits. You can also expect most online civil engineering master’s degrees to consist of around 30 credits.

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers bring together their knowledge of biology, chemistry, engineering, and other sciences to address environmental protection issues. They conduct studies, prepare reports, design projects, and ensure that regulatory guidelines are followed. They may also oversee teams of environmental engineering technicians and other professionals.


Median Salary

$88,860

Projected Growth

3% (2019-2029)

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers use their skills in both public and private sectors to address infrastructure projects. From a green perspective, these professionals are important in designing and maintaining bridges, roads, airports, and water treatment facilities in ways that don’t harm the environment.


Median Salary

$87,060

Projected Growth

2% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems Master’s

Rather than relying on finite natural resources, renewable energy allows for more green options when powering our world. Pursuing a renewable energy master’s degree puts you on the front lines of this quickly evolving industry. Some of the topics you might explore include renewable energy markets, technologies for sustainability systems, solar project development and finance, and alternative fuels from biomass sources. Most of these programs require 30-36 credits and take approximately two years to complete. Penn State University’s World Campus offers an online master’s in renewable energy and sustainability systems.

Solar Energy Systems Engineer

These scientists design the best possible solar hot water and heating systems for specific residential, commercial, or industrial customers. They factor in the local climate and requirements to develop the most efficient systems.


Median Salary

$99,040

Projected Growth

2% (2019-2029)

Sustainability Specialist

Stepping back to look at organizational sustainability issues, sustainability specialists work with other sustainability professionals to implement and evaluate sustainability projects. A sustainability specialist might work on improving energy usage, natural resource usage, waste generation, or recycling.


Median Salary

$73,570

Projected Growth

6% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Environmental Health Sciences Master’s

If you’re interested in understanding how humans interact with their environments and, in turn, how to create safer environments that promote healthier living, an environmental health sciences master’s degree could be a great fit. Environmental health sciences combine public health and environmental science to create an interdisciplinary program. Understanding how oil spills, climate change, and the coronavirus affect humans creates the research needed to improve our environment for ourselves and for the health of the world. The University of Arizona offers an online MS in environmental health sciences.

Environmental Health Scientist

With a focus on keeping both the planet and professionals safe, environmental health scientists address issues around air, soil, water, and food. They may consult on emergency situations such as oil spills or coral bleaching or work in conservation to save individuals, animals, or specific habitats.


Median Salary

$71,360

Projected Growth

1.8% (2019-2029)

Health and Safety Engineer

These professionals combine their engineering and safety knowledge to ensure workers don’t face injuries on the job. They look for ways to bring in green approaches with fewer potential health issues. For instance, a health and safety engineer working in the energy field may research how working in a coal mine compares with working in renewable energy.


Median Salary

$91,410

Projected Growth

4% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Sustainable Agriculture Master’s

Pursuing a sustainable agriculture degree gives you the skills and knowledge to meet our world’s need for food and fabrics without ruining the land for future generations. Sustainable agriculture professionals look for ways to maximize soil health, minimize the need for water, and grow crops that both provide health benefits and can be produced in the volume needed to feed the world. These programs also frequently look at waste management, cover crops, and food insecurity. A master’s in sustainable agriculture typically requires approximately 36 credits and takes two years to complete. Sam Houston State University offers an online master’s in sustainable agriculture and food environment.

Agricultural Engineer

These professionals use their advanced knowledge to protect both the natural environment and the humans who interact with it. Environmental scientists conduct research studies, compile data, analyze samples, and create prevention and control protocols to address environmental issues.


Median Salary

$80,720

Projected Growth

2% (2019-2029)

Postsecondary Agricultural Sciences Teacher

After working in the field for some time, you may decide to take your skills back to the classroom. Working as an agricultural sciences professor involves lecturing, selecting reading materials and assignments, providing guidance and mentoring students, and conducting independent research.


Median Salary

$83,260

Projected Growth

2% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Master’s

Completing a master’s degree in fish, wildlife, and conservation biology provides the qualifications needed to sustainably manage animal populations and provide safe environments as humans encroach on wild spaces. Students consider questions around the built environment, humane population control, managing animal-borne diseases, and finding innovative ways of conserving fish and wildlife. Colorado State University offers a master’s in fish, wildlife, and conservation biology online which requires 30 credits and a culminating project.

Wildlife Biologist

In addition to understanding the habits and characteristics of animals and wildlife, these professionals look for ways to create harmonious living between creatures and humans. They conduct studies and experiments, collect data, and look for ways to lessen the environmental impact of humans inhabiting previously undeveloped lands.


Median Salary

$63,270

Projected Growth

4% (2019-2029)

Range Manager

These professionals typically manage large swaths of land, either for public or private entities, to provide sustainable stewardship for the animals, land, and natural resources. For example, a range manager ensures that any fertilizers applied to the land aren’t harmful to the animals, oversees grazing, tests soil levels, and oversees revegetation projects.


Median Salary

$62,660

Projected Growth

6% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Marine Sciences Master’s

If you’re drawn to helping animals living underwater, a master’s in marine sciences offers many different professional paths. These programs look at ways of conserving oceanic diversity, protecting endangered species, and developing sustainable and responsible fishery programs. Classes include the dynamics of marine ecosystems, sustainable management of marine resources, and coral ecology and conservation. Maine’s Unity College offers an online master’s in marine science with concentrations in conservation of marine predators, coral reef biodiversity and conservation, and conservation of marine mammals.

Marine Biologist

Marine biologists enjoy fascinating careers spent observing marine organisms and animals in their natural habitats. Whether collecting samples of reefs, assessing how habitats affect animals, or conducting tests in a laboratory, these professionals work to create and maintain safe environments for marine plants and animals.


Median Salary

$82,220

Projected Growth

2% (2019-2029)

Marine Sciences Postsecondary Teacher

Marine sciences professors use their knowledge of marine biology, oceanography, environmental science, and sustainable production to educate the next generation of professionals. They may teach in person or online classes and devote their time outside the classroom to research and study.


Median Salary

$92,040

Projected Growth

2% (2019-2029)

Top Green Master’s Degree

Water Resource Management Master’s

As questions about water scarcity become more common, understanding how to formulate water resource management solutions becomes more important. Pursuing a master’s degree in this topic provides advanced knowledge of the hydrologic cycle and global water distribution, river and reservoir routing, rainfall runoff collection and use, and the ethics of water resource management. Fresno State University offers an online Master of Science in water resource management consisting of 30 credits.

Hydrologist

Hydrologists study how water moves, accumulates, and flows across the earth’s surface. They look at how environmental factors influence both the quantity and quality of water sources and how to address growing water shortages. Many focus on preventing water pollution and mitigating the effects of natural disasters on water supplies.


Median Salary

$81,270

Projected Growth

5% (2019-2029)

Water Resource Specialist

These professionals design systems to improve the supply and quality of available water resources. They may create new watershed and rainwater collection systems, address issues around water storage or wastewater management, test for pollutants, or set conservation goals for local water sources.


Median Salary

$129,100

Projected Growth

6% (2019-2029)

Why Earn a Green Degree?

Earning a green master’s degree offers benefits both while in school and once you enter the professional world. Whether you’re looking to earn a good salary, make a difference in conservation efforts, or both, pursuing this type of advanced study is both challenging and rewarding. Here are other benefits of earning green master’s degree.

  • Exciting degree offerings

    Whether saving endangered oceanic species, designing green office buildings, or ensuring future generations have access to safe drinking water, a wide variety of green master’s degrees can help you leave your mark. Some programs, such as environmental engineering or sustainable agriculture, focus on the professional application of your environmental knowledge and skills. Others, such as environmental science or marine sciences, can be used in both professional and academic fields.

  • Growth potential

    As demonstrated by the 20 jobs highlighted in the previous section, many jobs for graduates of green master’s programs are expected to grow in the coming years. The more individuals, governments, and companies emphasize green practices, the more professionals who can help make the necessary changes will be in demand. Careers discussed in this guide lend themselves to both in-house and consulting work, making them a great fit if you want flexibility in your work environment.

  • Workplace variety

    Unlike many other master’s degrees that focus on a single industry or topic, green master’s programs translate across disciplines. Earning a master’s in environmental science, for instance, could lead to working in a courtroom as an environmental lawyer or on a boat in the Indian Ocean as a conservation scientist. If you don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed into a single type of job or setting, green master’s degrees can help keep your workplace options open.

  • Positive global impact

    Failing to integrate greener practices and institute sustainable laws and regulations could result in a catastrophe in the future. By using your career to encourage green practices, teach others how to make environmentally friendly decisions, and protect endangered animals and resources, you’ll make a lasting impact. Whether working on a local or international level, your work will make a difference for millions of people, both now and in the future.

  • Cutting-edge involvement

    Many of the green degrees discussed throughout this guide employ cutting-edge research and practices to create greener processes and industries. Rather than feeling like you’re stuck in an industry going the way of the dodo, you’ll work on modern, ever-evolving problems that require innovative thought, emerging technologies, and an eye toward creating a world that will exist into the future.

Expert Insight: Earning a Green Master’s Degree

Mark Aspelin helps companies develop conservation strategies that are good for biodiversity and good for business. He’s the founder and CEO of Profitable Conservation LLC and author of Profitable Conservation: Business Strategies That Boost Your Bottom Line, Protect Wildlife, and Conserve Biodiversity. Mark has a BS in biology from the University of Notre Dame, an MS in Biology from Creighton University, and an MBA with concentrations in natural resource and environmental management and operations management from the University of Texas at Austin. He has worked with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, The Coca-Cola Company, Intel Corporation, United HealthGroup, and companies in the oil, gas, and transportation industries.

Q. What should prospective green master’s degree students keep in mind when looking at their options?

A: I found that it was helpful to pick a secondary specialty—not just sustainability. For example, my initial plan was to get an MBA and pick the natural resource and environmental management concentration. However, my advisor strongly recommended choosing a second concentration such as operations, finance, marketing, IT, etc., and I am very glad that I followed that advice. This gives you more versatility and a better appreciation for a key functional area of the business, as sustainability is not considered a key functional area of many businesses.

Q. How do you see the field of sustainability/environmental jobs evolving in the coming years?

A: Clean tech will be a major focus in the coming years, requiring an understanding of energy technology, policy, and law. Students pursuing a green master’s also will benefit from an understanding of financial strategies and investment theories within the context of energy technology options. In the longer term, I also see biodiversity issues entering into the discussion as biodiversity declines continue while businesses want to expand their operations, particularly in developing countries. The intersection of business and biodiversity is the area where I focus in my business, Profitable Conservation LLC. I help businesses develop profitable conservation strategies so they can be part of the solution to the biodiversity crisis while continuing to grow their business.

Q. What’s the biggest mistake students make when first entering this field?

A: Not realizing that sustainability often falls lower on the list of priorities, even for progressive companies. Some new hires get discouraged about the pace and scope of change (small, incremental improvements over time and extended periods when things can be stagnant). Some companies are also much more focused on compliance, rather than driving innovation in sustainability. It’s also very important to be able to articulate the value proposition, along with financial numbers to back it up, in order to drive changes within an organization. “It’s the right thing to do” won’t always cut it.

Q. What advice would you give to interested students who aren’t sure how to get started in this area?

A: Interview people in your “dream job” before taking the plunge to better understand how they got there and what education/skills you should develop. I also believe that many of the greatest environmental gains come from nonenvironmental jobs. The best improvement ideas often come from teammates with job descriptions that don’t mention the word “environment.” Projects that are framed from the perspective of improving efficiency, reducing costs, and minimizing waste also happen to be good for the environment.