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Graduate students are always looking for ways to save money on their education, so students considering an environmental and sustainability management master’s degree have reason to look for the most affordable programs. The cost of tuition and books alone can be overwhelming. Finding ways to save money is extremely helpful and will allow students to have the money they need for supplies and other day to day necessities. 

Students who are pursuing a Master’s degree are, in most cases, already working in their chosen field of study, and in most cases, they’re on the hook for their costs – there are no parents paying the bills, and many fewer options for scholarships and grants. Many working adults turn to employer reimbursement, or choose online programs from smaller, regional colleges and universities. No matter how students find an affordable program, saving money now means a higher return on investment later. 

Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Master of Environmental Management and Sustainability

To rank the most affordable master’s degrees in environmental and sustainability management, Great Business Schools editors focused on accredited, legitimate colleges and universities. For the ranking itself, programs are featured in order by their tuition rate, according to current IPEDS data. 

1. California State University, Long Beach

csu long beach

Topping the list of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability degrees is the MS in Sustainability Management and Policy from California State University, Long Beach. This program provides students with highly sought-after advanced expertise in the sustainability management field. Students receive training in how to apply sustainability concepts within an organization. It is a multidisciplinary degree that gives students the problem-solving, managerial, and technical skills they need to make good decisions in the context of sustainability.

California State University, Long Beach is a community of outstanding professors, a diverse student body, and successful alumni. The Long Beach campus is home to the Walter Pyramid, the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens, and the University Art Museum. There are many more attractions in the city of Long Beach, including the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Highlight: The program consists of 10 courses plus a capstone experience at the end.

Degree: MS in Sustainability Management and Policy 

2. University of Illinois-Springfield

u illinois springfield

Next on the list of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability degrees is the MS in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Planning and Management from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Students gain a firm scientific understanding of how to interpret, evaluate, and study environmental situations and their impacts and how to mitigate and manage environmental issues. They become literate in the social and natural sciences and the humanities as they learn to critically analyze environmental situations.

The University of Illinois-Springfield receives approximately $7 million in research funding annually and is home to four colleges: Public Affairs and Administration, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Education and Human Services, and Business and Management. The school was founded in 1969. In 2018, UIS conferred 715 bachelor’s degrees.

Highlight: The school also offers an MS in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in general environmental science or sustainable development and policy.

Degree: MS in Environmental Sciences: Environmental Planning and Management

3. University of Washington

u washington logo

The University of Washington’s Master of Public Affairs with a concentration in environmental policy and management is another of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability degrees. Courses include applied cost-benefit analysis, international organizations and ocean management, communicating climate change, risk assessment for environmental health hazards, environmental policy, resource policy and administration, climate change and energy policy, economic approaches to environmental management, and topics in environmental policy and management.

The Evans School of Public Policy & Governance has been working to build a reputation as a top public policy school for more than 50 years. The school is known for its innovative research, rigorous study, and commitment to public service. Its faculty and graduates provide the leadership, expertise, and ideas that guide private companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies around the world. The school offered its first Master of Public Administration degree in 1947.

Highlight: The Evans School Policy Analysis and Research Group prepares research, statistical data analysis, and technical reports for stakeholders.

Degree: Master of Public Affairs: Environmental Policy and Management

4. Indiana University-Bloomington

indiana university

Another of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability degrees is the Master of Environmental Sustainability offered by Indiana University Bloomington. Students learn how to translate sound environmental policy and science into solutions that encourage sustainable practices in the nonprofit, private, and public sectors. Students gain management skills and technical skills that will prepare them for a variety of “green” jobs around the US. The program emphasizes critical thinking and management skills, including project management.

The Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs is committed to making the world a better place. The school encourages students to work together to create positive change in the world. The O’Neill School is home to the number ranked Master of Public Affairs program in the nation.

Highlight: This 36-hour degree is an accelerated program that takes just one year to complete.

Degree: Master of Environmental Sustainability 

5. California Polytechnic State University

cal poly pomona

Next on the list of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability degrees is the MS in Environmental Sciences and Management from California Polytechnic State University. This program provides advanced study in environmental management and science. Students learn how to manage natural resources and the environment. Studies include communication, qualitative and quantitative analysis, management of the environment, and environmental science. Students have the flexibility to choose electives that suit their professional goals.

Cal Poly focuses on learning by doing. The school understands that people learn better when they do the work. Students at Cal Poly put their heads together to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. The school’s graduates are ready to make a difference in the world. This school is committed to diversity and inclusivity.

Highlight: The thesis option requires two years for completion, but the professional project option can be completed in one year.

Degree: M.S. Environmental Sciences and Management

6. Northern Arizona University

northern arizona u

The MS in Environmental Sciences & Policy from Northern Arizona University is another of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability degrees. The program provides opportunities for students to build their research skills in interdisciplinary policy and science. Students perform research in the area of natural resources, including land, water, and air. The program incorporates required interdisciplinary courses and combines them with specialized classed all across NAU. Graduates are prepared for environmental careers in government, industry, and the nonprofit sector.

The School of Earth and Sustainability at NAU integrates social, biological, and physical perspectives on the changing environment. The school trains graduate and undergraduate students to become leading practitioners and researchers in sustainability, environmental sciences, and geology. Students learn to cooperate with others across interdisciplinary boundaries. They participate in field learning and work with faculty on cutting-edge research.

Highlight: There are two emphases available: paleoenvironmental sciences or environmental sciences and policy.

Degree: MS in Environmental Sciences & Policy

7. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

unc chapel hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise that prepares students for a business career that respects the environment and practices sustainability. Students learn to balance the needs of the environment and society with profitability. Besides coursework in business, students study environmental studies, city and regional planning, social work, international studies, and public policy. Graduates work in sustainability consulting, retail, renewable energy, new ventures, impact investing, global supply chain management, and more.

UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School prepares students to lead the way to a better world. The school has a values-driven culture and is dedicated to offering hands-on learning experiences. Its experience with today’s unpredictable business culture prepares students for long-term success in a dynamic business environment. Kenan-Flagler is dedicated to equality, inclusion, and diversity. Its mission is to train the next generation of leaders in business.

Highlight: Graduates work for companies such as Accenture, BASF, Deloitte Consulting, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, and Amazon.

Degree: MBA in Sustainable Enterprise

8. University of California, Berkeley

uc berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley offers an MS in Range Management. This unique program covers indigenous management and use of woodlands and grasslands, rangeland policy and economics, working landscapes programs, water quality protection and assessment, management for biodiversity, soil science, carbon sequestration, conservation policy, rangeland livestock management and production, rangeland restoration and rehabilitation, native plant restoration and management, plant management and use, and wildlife habitat management.

The Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC-Berkeley is focused on preserving the environment. The ESPM recognizes that challenges that face our planet and seeks to find opportunities to implement positive change. The department has top-notch faculty members in community outreach, land use, environmental policy, biodiversity, and climate science. The department serves as the school’s portal for environmental issues and research.

Highlight: Students who complete the program are qualified to become Associate or Certified Range Managers.

Degree: MS in Range Management

9. University of Hawaii at Manoa

u hawaii manoa

The Master’s in Environmental Management from the University of Hawaii at Manoa is next on the list of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability programs. The program brings social and natural scientists together to offer an interdisciplinary program that helps students understand how to manage subtropical and tropical aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Students learn how island settings are relevant to managing seascapes and landscapes. The curriculum encompasses the social, biological, and physical sciences.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management extends and discovers integrated, innovative solutions for environmental management and sustainable natural resource usage. NREM combines social and natural sciences to provide students with the knowledge they need to successfully manage natural resources for sustainability. Students learn the policy, social, economic, biological, chemical, and physical elements of natural resources management.

Highlight: All students must complete a professional quality capstone project and demonstrate their ability to perform research.

Degree: Master’s in Environmental Management

10. University of California, Davis

uc davis

The MS in Environmental Policy and Management from UC Davis is another of the most affordable master of environmental management and sustainability programs. The program blends training in many professional, management, and social science disciplines with a foundation in scientific preparation. It focuses on interdisciplinary training in the area of environmental management and policy. Students gain negotiation, communication, analysis, and problem-solving skills. Graduates of the Environmental Policy and Management program may find work as environmental consultants, city planners, or environmental scientists.

UC Davis has a huge career and internship program that can help students prepare for their future careers. The school’s academic advisors help students plan their career path all the way through school and beyond graduation. Most UC Davis students work on research projects with a faculty member, which helps them gain skills that could be valuable in the workforce.

Highlight: Students gain the skills and knowledge they need to work in management and policy-making positions.

Degree: MS in Environmental Policy and Management

How Do I Save Money on a Masters’ in Environmental Management and Sustainability?

Employer reimbursement programs are an ideal way for an employee to return to school to earn their next degree program. If they are already employed in their chosen career field, earning the next degree up in their education will open many new doors of opportunity. Increased salary, more responsibility, and becoming a leader are just a few of the benefits a person may enjoy if they ask their employer for help in terms of going back to school. With an employer’s reimbursement program, the student must pay for their classes up front. Once they have passed their course successfully and turned their transcript in to their employer, the employer will reimburse them for their educational expenses.

Grants and scholarships are also food ways for a student to cut the cost of their education. Both grants and scholarships are given as gifts and do not have to paid back. Students must apply for both types of gifts and meet the eligibility requirements before they can be considered. Unless it is otherwise specified, the money received from grants and scholarships can be used for most types of expenses as long as they are related to your education.

Will a Certification in Environmental and Sustainability Management Help My Career?

Individuals who already have earned a degree in Environmental and Sustainability Management can return to school to earn a certificate that will help to advance their careers. This type of certification program is great for individuals who are already employed but still need to keep up with advancements within their industry. Certification programs offer up to date information that may have been released after you completed your degree.

Certification programs are also used to meet continuing education requirements that are needed to maintain a state/federal license or certification. Licenses and certifications require a person to stay on top of their industry. By completing continuing education courses each year, they learn new skills and are taught new concepts and theories that are associated with their industry. The number of continuing education hours needed for each certification program will depend on the license.

Another benefit of enrolling in a certification program is that individuals who completed their degree many years ago can brush up on their skills. It also allows them to earn a certification that will validate their years of experience and knowledge. While nothing can replace several years of hands-on experience, having a certification will give you the credentials you need to back up your expertise. Older employees who take the initiative to enroll in a certification program can use it to their aadvantage and become a consultant or an advisor to upper management positions who need the beneft of having someone with years of experience.

How Much Can I Make as a Sustainability Manager?

The amount of money you can earn as a sustainability manager will depend on the years of experience a person has and how much education you have or are willing to have in the future. A sustainability manager can earn as much as $64,000 a year on average if they have less than five years of experience in their field. The more experience they gain over the years will open the door to multiple opportunities to get ahead in the workplace.

Individuals who have over five years of experience may be able to earn as much as $76,000 a year. If they choose to return to school, whether it be for a full-degree program or a certification program, they may be able to surpass these salary expectations and move on to being a consultant or advisor. Individuals who have proven themselves through years of experience can use their expertise to assist upper management and high level decision makers. Many times advisors can earn more offering advice than they can working as a sustainability manager.

Sustainability managers who have years of experience as well as a Masters’ in Environmental and Sustainability Management can expect to advance to the highest level of their field. Sustainability managers who have advanced to this level can earn in excess of $82,000 or more each year. Returning to school to upgrade their information by taking a certification program, can provide them with even more opportunities and the potential for additional raises. Opportuniteis can be found almost anywhere if the student knows where to look and is willing to go the extra mile to find them. 

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