Sustainability might as well be California’s middle name.
While the Golden State has always been a trailblazer when it comes to the environment (it was the first state in the nation to develop automotive emissions and energy efficiency standards), the California legislature introduced a policy initiative in late 2018 that will undoubtedly be the state’s most ambitious sustainability effort to date: completely decarbonizing its electric grid by 2045.
With the climate crisis as its impetus, California’s effort to become a world climate leader is in the works. And, fortunately, their largest cities are on board to make this endeavor a reality.
Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti has his own ambitious sustainability plan in place, the Green New Deal, which entails phasing out internal combustion vehicles in lieu of electric or zero-emission fuel vehicles by the mid-2030s, while San Francisco’s reputation as a pioneer of sustainability has been reinforced with its massive fleet of zero-emissions MUNI buses and light rails and plans to transition the remaining fleet to hybrid diesel by 2020.
This massive initiative calls for all hands on deck, and that includes the expertise of sustainability experts from all industries, sectors, and professions. So, whether your sustainability interests and skills lie in engineering, public policy, law, or business, you’ll feel right at home in California.
Sustainability Jobs Available in California with the Right Degree
As you would suspect, sustainability efforts in California are complex and wide-reaching, which means with the right education and training, a multitude of professional opportunities are right around the corner for you.
Governmental agencies focused on the protection of natural resources through sustainable practices are abundant in California. From the California Coastal Commission to the California Urban Waste Conservation Council to the Southern California Watershed Council, conservation is the name of the game in California.
Nonprofits are also plentiful here, with groups like Sustainable Conservation providing solutions to the state’s biggest challenges regarding the preservation of natural resources – some of which are quite ingenious. For example, Sustainable Conservation began employing a biological wastewater treatment that utilizes worms to remove as much as 80% of the total nitrogen from wastewater.
Environment California is another big name among the state’s nonprofit environmental groups. This citizen-based advocacy group works on the state’s most pressing environmental issues, including the protection of California wildlife and wild places and the promotion of 100% renewable energy.
Salaries for California’s sustainability professionals are just as impressive as you’d expect. According to 2018 BLS statistics, environmental engineers here earn an average salary of $105,480 and civil engineers earn an average of $109,680.
In the science field, conservation scientists here earn an average salary of $75,980, while environmental scientists earn an average of $91,890.
Master’s in Sustainability Available Through Schools in California
Master’s degrees in sustainability are focused, in-depth programs designed to meet the specific needs of different industries.
Pomona’s California State Polytechnic University offers the MS in Regenerative Studies, an innovative, interdisciplinary course of study that prepares students to become effective changemakers and problem solvers. This program provides an in-depth study of environmental, economic, and social sustainability topics aimed at restoring, renewing, revitalizing, and regenerating through natural processes, individual actions, and community involvement.
UC Berkeley’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning offers a Master of Landscape Architecture with an emphasis in environmental planning. This program brings together the study of geology, hydrology, soils, plant and wildlife ecology, law, and public policy and how they relate to the use of land and natural resources.
UC Berkeley also offers a Master of Development Practice, a hands-on program that includes study in economics, management and policy, science, technology, public health, and more aimed at addressing real world issues within sustainable development.
UC Santa Barbara’s Masters in Environmental Science and Management focuses on problem-solving in the field of environmental science. Specializations offered in this program include coastal marine resources management, conservation planning, corporate environmental management, economics and politics of the environment, energy and climate, pollution prevention and remediation, and water resources management.
The University of California Irvine offers the innovative Master of Conservation and Restorative Science, an interdisciplinary program offered through the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Center for Environmental Biology. This professional degree is designed to prepare students for leadership positions in fields related to conservation, restoration, and sustainability.
Stanford University’s MS/MA in Sustainability Science and Practice is where theory and conceptual knowledge converge, providing students with a comprehensive course of study that prepares them to understand complex social environmental systems and the decision-making and strategies needed to change things for the better.
LA’s own USC Viterbi offers an MS in Green Technologies, located in the Viterbi School of Engineering. This interdisciplinary course of study focuses on green systems and the environment, along with energy technology and efficiency. Topics of study include conservation efficiency, alternative sourcing, and repurposing, and work includes designing products, processes, and complex systems that promote sustainability.
Sustainability Bachelor Degree Programs in California
Unlike master’s degrees that tend to be quite focused, you’ll find that bachelor’s programs in sustainability are broader, offering a comprehensive overview of natural resources, environmental science, and sustainability.
California State University Monterey Bay’s BS in Environmental Science, Technology & Policy, UCLA’s BS in Environmental Science, and Humboldt University’s bachelor’s programs in environmental resources engineering, environmental science & management, and environmental studies all provide students with an interdisciplinary course of study that serves as an excellent foundation for careers in the sustainability field and for future graduate work.
Online Sustainability Degrees Offered Through Schools in California
Online programs in California and throughout the nation continue to gain steam as colleges and universities recognize the value of appealing to adult learners and nontraditional students. You’ll find both undergraduate and graduate sustainability offerings in California that are delivered either partially or fully online for the best in flexibility and convenience.
Just a few of the universities offering online sustainability master’s programs include California State University, Chico’s MS in Agricultural Education, Anaheim University’s 18-month intensive online Green MBA, and Antioch University’s low-residency MA in Urban Sustainability.
At the undergraduate level, San Diego’s Ashford University offers an online BA in Environmental Studies.