Those who study sustainability seek to solve the challenges of the present without compromising the resources and well-being of future generations. Within the sustainability field, there is a large emphasis on balancing economic growth and environmental preservation. Associate degrees in sustainability often focus on specific topics of interest such as green technology, renewable energy, or sustainable agriculture. There are also more general paths of study such as environmental management and environmental studies.
Why an Associate Degree?
An associate degree in sustainability prepares students to meet challenges within professional fields, such as technology, agriculture, and business. Because sustainability is a widely interdisciplinary field, there are many different variations among associate degrees in the subject. Some are designed to give students an edge in the workforce, while other programs prepare students for a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university.
Getting Into an Associate Degree Program
One of the benefits of earning an associate degree is that many two-year colleges offer open enrollment, which allows any student with a high school diploma or GED to enroll. Open enrollment grants access to higher education for students who may not otherwise be able to attend. There are, however, limits to the number of students who can enroll in these programs. In competitive colleges and universities, there are a few other requirements that must be met. Here are a few of the common requirements one should expect when applying to an associate degree program:
- A high school diploma or its equivalent
- Desired GPA as evidenced by transcripts
- Desired ACT or SAT scores
- Supplementary documents such as letters of recommendation and a personal essay
Inside a Sustainability Associate Degree Program
The curriculum of an associate degree is comprised of approximately 60 credit hours, which takes a full-time student about two years to complete. Online sustainability degree programs are created to suit the needs of working professionals. Some online programs allow part-time students to take condensed classes throughout the year to graduate in a more traditional timeframe. Online learning formats engage students through video lectures, online quizzes, and class discussion forums. In some cases, students may be required to travel to take an exam or participate in a discussion, but many programs are completely online and can be completed largely at the convenience of the student.
Many associate degrees are designed to prepare students for a specific career goal, and because there are so many different avenues of study within the field of sustainability, the information in each degree program will inevitably vary. Two-year degree programs in sustainability can focus on renewable energy, green technology, sustainable architecture, environmental conservation, sustainable business management, and agriculture. Despite the many variations within this field, sustainability requires students to demonstrate an understanding in all related subjects, including physical and biological sciences, social and behavioral sciences, economics, ecosystems, and community development.
What’s Next for Sustainability Associate Degree Holders?
Sustainability is a new and growing field in today’s eco-conscious economy. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that 57% of businesses in the U.S. used green technologies and/or practices within their offices to improve energy efficiency. This bodes well for recent graduates who hold an associate degree in sustainability.
For those with more academic plans after graduating, there are a plethora of higher degrees available in this subject. Bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates are all available, and it’s only a matter of time before colleges expand their offerings to include vocational and graduate certificates as well.