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Students choosing an online doctorate in sustainability program want to make a positive and powerful impact on current issues in sustainability. While sustainability cannot be considered a relatively new discussion – the initial ideas for sustainable development were first developed in the early 1970s – sustainability studies are even more urgent now with climate change.
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Sustainability’s importance in society cannot be overemphasized – after all, there’s only one Earth that we can live on! Doctoral degree programs in sustainability usually require prospective students to possess a master’s degree in a relevant field, among other admission requirements. Most, if not all, students are working professionals who benefit from the convenience, affordability, and flexibility of online education, with time to completion varying between three and five years.
Graduates of sustainability programs possess an advanced understanding of sustainability and its challenges and concerns, as well as the research knowledge and skills to contribute to its advancement.
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We selected these online programs in sustainability studies based on the following aspects:
- Delivered via distance learning or online learning with low to little residency requirements but with the same academic quality as their on-campus counterparts;
- Students are provided with the opportunity to choose a theoretical research specialization and successfully complete research projects for the advancement of sustainability studies;
- Students develop technical and transferable skills that contribute to their success as sustainability professionals;
- Students access their learning materials and activities via an effective learning management system;
- Students benefit from the expertise of credentialed professors; and
- Programs are offered by accredited and/or recognized institutions of higher education.
Check out our Methodology section for more information.
Best Online Doctorate in Sustainability Programs
Capitol Technology University
CTU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainability program emphasizes the use of science and technology in providing solutions for resource scarcity. The 60-credit online Ph.D. program features research-centric courses like Sustainability Research Background, Sustainability Research Methodologies, and Sustainability Research Proposal. Students in the Ph.D. program also study Sustainability for Future Demands and Strategies for Sustainability.
The Ph.D. program allows students to choose from two options – the publication option and the dissertation option.
University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
Students in UWSP’s Doctor of Education in Educational Sustainability program learn the knowledge and skills to build sustainable communities and transform leadership and learning. Students complete 54 credits and can complete the online program in three years (i.e., six credits per semester). Their courses cover the philosophical, historical and theoretical foundations of educational sustainability, systems thinking, and diversity and social justice.
This is a cohort-based program with rigorous coursework and a yearly four-day mandatory residency. Graduates are well-prepared for successful careers in the higher education, business, government and nonprofit sectors.
Euclid University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Climate Change and Sustainability program designed for working professionals looking for an affordable and flexible option. The fully online Ph.D. program focuses on international development in relation to climate-related issues based on a policymaker’s viewpoint.
This is the only doctoral degree program offered by an intergovernmental organization for civil servants and diplomats across four continents. This is also offered as a USA Gambia online program.
Students in the nonresident study program develop their knowledge and skills in the educational and professional aspects of sustainability studies. These include academic and grant writing, research methodologies, and communication technologies, among others. Students can choose from several suggested focus areas, including sustainable development and climate change diplomacy.
University of North Dakota
The Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Engineering program at UND requires students to submit an approved doctoral thesis on their chosen topic. Ph.D. students can tackle topics like urban sustainability, sustainable agriculture, and engineering and farm management. Depending on the thesis topic and other relevant factors, the entire program can be completed online or in a hybrid model.
Students must complete asynchronous engineering courses and take proctored exams. UND provides excellent student support services, including tech support, a digital library, and online tutoring.
Auream Phoenix University for Women
We featured Auream Phoenix University for Women’s online PhD program because of its excellent academic quality, multilingual availability – it has an Italian PhD – and choice between full-time and part-time study. The online PhD in Sustainable Agriculture program has a research step that covers alternative production systems, plant sciences, engineering and farm management, and agricultural technology. The research results are useful in finding solutions for issues in the developed and undeveloped world.
Students in the 65-credit PhD program can choose from three dissertation defense options – written, oral, and in-person.
APUW is known as Selinus University of Science and Literature in Panama. There’s also a Selinus University of Science and Literature London location. (To browse thousands of doctorate degree programs, try the Keystone Education Group Family website).
Common Courses and Learning Experiences
Students in doctoral degree programs tackle several courses that strengthen their hard and soft skills in sustainability, including:
- Theoretical foundations of sustainability
- Research literature and methodologies
- Sustainability strategies
Students usually complete a doctoral thesis to earn a doctoral degree.
Popular Career Paths
Graduates of these online doctorate programs can look forward to a wide range of careers in sustainability, from business managers to sustainability scientists, researchers, and even engineers. Regardless of their specific occupations, sustainability professionals are passionate about environmental protection, conservation, and justice.
Environmental Scientists and Specialists
These sustainability professionals possess advanced knowledge of interrelated disciplines including natural sciences, social sciences, and even human and population health.
Natural Sciences Managers
These sustainability professionals are known for their managerial and scientific skills in providing solutions for sustainability issues.
These sustainability professionals use their interdisciplinary knowledge in chemistry, biology and engineering to develop solutions for ecological issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there differences between online and on-campus Doctorate in Sustainability programs?
Except for the distance learning aspect, there are little to no differences in the curriculum, academic quality, and student learning outcomes between online and on-campus doctoral degrees in sustainability programs.
Is there a specific career path for Sustainability professionals?
No, there’s no one-size-fits-all career path for professionals with a doctoral degree in sustainability. Many even have unrelated bachelor’s and master’s degrees, such as in business administration, before venturing into sustainability studies.
What are the best reasons to pursue a doctorate degree in sustainability?
Being a sustainability professional is an incredibly rewarding endeavor because you have meaningful opportunities to transform organizations, promote environmental and social development, and enjoy a lucrative career.
- Pursuing a Ph.D. online degree in sustainability is a stepping stone toward career advancement as a sustainability professional.
- Being a sustainability professional means promoting a good balance between environmental protection, social development, and profitable operations.