Sustainable Development: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Sustainable Development

"Sustainable Development" can mean many different things. One commonly quoted definition from the World Commission on Environment and Development is "To meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Sustainable Development covers policy, social and cultural issues, planning and development, engineering, architecture, and more. It basically refers to any process or plan that is executed in a way that reduces negative impacts on the environment and communities while still accomplishing intended progress and growth.

The Academic Requirements

A degree program in Sustainable Development will be tailored towards one aspect of the broad field; for example, Environmental Planning or Sustainable Architecture. All students will take classes to help them understand the underlying issues in the field. There are many social, ecological, humanitarian, and smart-growth reasons to adopt sustainable practices. These practices can be applied on the small scale (in an individual's life, in their neighborhood, or in their town) or on the grand scale. Students will learn how and why to apply these practices in their field, as well as how to show or teach others to adopt these practices.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Program Planning and Project Design
  • Policy Advocacy
  • Issues in Sustainable Development
  • Leadership, Community and Coalition Building
  • Training for Social Action
  • Population and Community Ecology
  • Ecological Values
  • Environmental Policy and Management
  • Global Environmental Issues
  • Understanding Society
  • Biodiversity and Ecology
  • Environmental Economics
  • Principles of Conservation
  • Tourism Planning

Professional Outlook

The type of career a graduate of a Sustainable Development program can get is dependent upon the focus of their program. Architects will get architectural and planning jobs in environmentally-conscious firms. Graduates can work with non-profit groups specializing in helping communities grow in sustainable ways. A career in Ecotourism is another option. People with knowledge in sustainable development practices can play an important role in influencing policy through campaigning, joining special interest groups, or mobilizing their community.

Since there are so many different types of jobs, the working conditions will vary. If you want to work outdoors, or even overseas, there are many options available to you. There are opportunities to travel, or you can work with the community you live in. You can work behind a desk, in a school, or in the halls of your nation's capitol.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Sustainable Development:


Related Articles