Richmond is one of Virginia’s shining stars of sustainability thanks in part to the Office of Sustainability’s innovative RVAgreen Sustainability Initiative, the coming together of the city’s citizens, business leaders, and policymakers to achieve specific environmental, social, and economic goals. In short, the RVAgreen Sustainability Initiative is about providing the residents of Richmond with the highest quality of life while taking into consideration the city’s environmental issues and economic development goals.
This program includes no less than 55 initiatives that are designed to address Richmond’s ‘triple bottom line’ approach to sustainability. Since it was formed in 2010, the RVAgreen Sustainability Initiative has produced a savings of $3.8 million for the city. Going forward, the plan is projected to save Richmond about $1.7 million annually. But, perhaps more importantly, its positive environmental impact has been remarkable, resulting in the reduction of more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon emissions and 30 million kilowatts of energy.
Sustainability Jobs Available in Virginia with the Right Degree
Joining Virginia’s sustainability efforts is easier than ever, thanks to robust programs like Richmond’s RVAgreen Sustainability Initiative. From private industry to nonprofits to governmental agencies, it’s all hands on deck when it comes to sustainability programs and organizations in Virginia, which equates to abundant opportunities for aspiring sustainability professionals like you.
For example, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust is a nonprofit land trust that aims to conserve the area’s land, water and other natural resources. Since it was founded in 1994, the Trust has preserved more than 7,000 acres of land through land purchases, conservation easements, and partnerships with other organizations that identify grant funds to protect land.
The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is another big name in natural resource preservation here. Through its hands-on conservation initiatives and technical expertise, this conservation agency works to prevent pollution and runoff and protect the natural resources of Fairfax County – all of which are vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Since its founding in 1969, the Virginia Conservation Network has served as a major conservation coalition in Virginia. Today, it partners with more than 100 conservation groups throughout the state, helping promote a wide range of issues like stream restoration and sustainability growth. It’s also the state leader for the Choose Clean Water Coalition and is the Virginia state affiliate for the National Wildlife Federation.
Earning potential for Virginia professionals in sustainability is impressive, according to 2018 BLS statistics. For example, environmental scientists here earn an average salary of $85,550, while conservation scientists earn $75,370. Other professionals of sustainability in Virginia include environmental engineers who earn an average salary of $86,330, urban and regional planners who earn $73,770, and forest science technicians who earn $70,290.
Master’s in Sustainability Available Through Schools in Virginia
Master’s degrees in sustainability are your opportunity to take your career to the next level, whether that means pursuing study in a specific area of sustainability or focusing your current profession on this growing field.
The University of Virginia’s acclaimed School of Architecture offers a Master of Urban & Environmental Planning, an in-depth examination into the coming together of community engagement, collaborative planning, and sustainability. This program includes a 10-week internship with an agency, firm, or organization that’s involved in environmental planning research or activities.
Harrisonburg’s James Madison University offers an International Master’s Program in Environmental Management and Sustainability, a one-year accelerated master’s degree that focuses on real-world issues in sustainability, including water resources management, sustainable agriculture, industrial ecology, waste management, and more. Students of this program study at both JMU and the University of Malta, located in the beautiful Maltese Islands.
Virginia Tech University, located in Arlington, offers an Executive Master of Natural Resources in Global Sustainability, which is available both on-campus and online. This robust program examines a number of topics, including energy alternatives, food and agriculture, urbanization and sustainable cities, poverty alleviation and development, and climate change, adaptation, and resilience.
Virginia Tech’s Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering offers master’s programs in environmental and water resources engineering, geotechnical engineering, and civil infrastructure engineering. The Department is ranked among the top ten civil and environmental engineering departments in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report. As one of the largest programs in the nation, it is home to nearly 400 graduate students and 70 faculty members.
Sustainability Bachelor Degree Programs in Virginia
Bachelor’s degree programs in sustainability provide aspiring professionals with a comprehensive course of study in this interdisciplinary field. For example, in Fairfax, George Mason University offers a number of undergraduate degrees in sustainability, including applied global conservation, atmospheric sciences, business and sustainability, civil and infrastructure engineering, earth science, and more.
The University of Virginia offers an undergraduate major in Global Studies with an Environments + Sustainability track, which explores issues related to an increasing population, such as energy shortages, water shortages, the loss of biodiversity, and the depletion of natural resources.
Online Sustainability Degrees Offered Through Schools in Virginia
Many of today’s top sustainability degrees are offered as distance-based programs that are designed to accommodate the needs of busy, working professionals and students with geographical limitations. These programs often feature the same, rigorous curriculum and faculty as their on-campus counterparts, but instead of studying in-person, they allow students to complete all or most of their work through dynamic, online learning platforms.
In Virginia, Old Dominion University in Norfolk offers an online Environmental Engineering Master’s degree that features a blend of online coursework and live, online class meetings.
Virginia Tech’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability features an online Master of Natural Resources, which combines online coursework and a ten-day international field experience for the best in online and hands-on, experiential learning.