This is a ranking of the 22 Best Sustainable and Renewable Energy Colleges in the United States. On a finite planet we will never have infinite resources. Thus, the need to efficiently utilize the resources that our environment affords us is vital for the future of not just our own way of life, but also the broader ecosystem. Not surprisingly, sustainable and renewable energy is a blossoming field of study with a vibrant future.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a green job is defined as a career which ‘produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources’. Careers in Wind Energy, Solar Power, or Green Construction fall into this category. In fact, the BLS has ranked Wind Turbine Service Technician as the fastest growing career from now until the year 2024, with an expected growth rate of 108%. The schools and programs listed below are on the cutting edge of education in renewable/sustainable energy. As usual at Successful Student, programs were ranked from the student’s point of view, and factored in the degree types (Certificates, Diplomas, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorates), the variety in the coursework, breadth of instruction in sustainable energy, and academic reputation.
Featured Online Degrees in Renewable and Sustainable Energy
1. Penn State World Campus (University Park, PA)
With over 100 years of experience providing distance education, the online programs through Penn State World Campus have the reputation of being as dynamic and beneficial as any on campus class. The online Bachelor of Arts degree in Energy and Sustainability Policy program is no exception. The comprehensive curriculum, designed by an advisory board of energy industry experts and Penn State faculty members, requires a total of 120 credits for graduation.
The credit break down includes 68 for the major, 24 for the bachelor of arts, 45 for general education (25 of which are included in the requirements for the major), and eight for electives. Major course topics include Energy Conservation for Environmental Protection, Oil: International Revolution, Energy and Sustainability in Contemporary Culture, and Human Dimensions of Global Warming. The Sloan Consortium recognized the Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy as the Outstanding Online Program in 2012.
2. University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
At Berkeley University, oldest of the ten University of California schools, the Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Environmental Design is offered through the College of Environmental Design. This interdisciplinary, culturally relevant program prepares students to face the sustainability challenges not only of urban California, but also on a more globally minded level. Through expert teaching students will gain the understanding of urban technologies and design strategies, be able to evaluate the current state and future potential of an area or situation, and then apply physical, biological, and social science in the design of sustainable cities.
Additionally available as a minor, some of the class requirements of the program include Critical Debates in Sustainable Urbanism, Geographic Information Systems, and Environmental Design for Sustainable Development. The final Capstone workshop before graduation expects students to apply classroom theories to real scenarios, working in conjunction with an external client organization. Students must complete a total of 120 units before graduation.
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
MIT is a leader in innovation and technological advancement studies in the United States. Under the Energy Initiative at MIT, the Energy Studies minor is an interdisciplinary program that studies energy across energy sciences, technology, and social sciences. This program is ideal for students who are interested in learning about energy without needing a major in the subject. Students will study courses within three core curriculum subjects: Science Foundations, Social Science Foundations, and Technology/Engineering in Context. 24 Elective units are required.
In addition to this minor program in energy, MIT offers the Energy Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). This is a full-time summer research program, which is 40 hours per week for 10 to 12 weeks. This is open to all students of any major.
4. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
Since 1891 Stanford University has been providing quality education and cutting edge research to the world. While there are multiple options open to the traditional student, Stanford also caters to the non-traditional student through a variety of channels. For professionals already working in the field, but looking to advance in their careers, flexible online classes can be taken through Stanford’s Center for Professional Development. Programs include Professional or Graduate Certificates, Master’s degrees, Corporate Education, or individual courses.
Courses in Renewable Energy can be found through the Energies Technology program leading to a Professional or Graduate Certificate. The Professional Certificate offers a series of courses of approximately three to four hours in length and available for up to 60 days after the date of enrollment. On the other hand, the Graduate Certificate requires the completion of 12 units, which may take an average of two years to finish. Students may learn material in either track pertaining to subjects such as Bioenergy, Catalysis, Solar Cells, and Electrochemical Conversion.
5. University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
With the experience of serving more than 37,000 students, the University of Maryland prides itself on the quality curriculum of each program. Being the largest institution for higher education in the state, there are more than 100 undergraduate majors and over 120 graduate programs available. The James Clark School of Engineering, Office of Advanced Engineering Education provides students with the opportunity to participate in the Master of Sustainable Energy program.
A total of 30 credits are required to complete this degree. There are five core courses and five technical electives. Four of the electives should be from the Energy Systems courses or the Reliability Engineering courses. Class topics include Wind Energy Engineering, Sustainable Energy Conversion and the Environment, and Solar Thermal Energy Systems. For students unable to participate in the full Master’s degree, a graduate Certificate in Sustainable Energy is also available, requiring only 12 credits for completion.
Granting its first degree in 1897, Marylhurst University is a nonprofit, private school in Portland, Oregon. Marylhurst is a liberal arts and business school, offering degrees on campus and online. Marylhurst offers the online Master of Business Administration in Sustainable Business, with elective coursework in Renewable Energy, Sustainable Marketing, and Environmental Law.
The online MBA in Sustainable Business consists of 12 five week courses, and 1 ten week course. The MBA focuses on sustainability in business, and the elective courses mentioned above also look at their respective laws and regulations. The Sustainability core courses include Organizational Behavior, Principles of Sustainability, Research Methods for Sustainable Business, and Alternative and Renewable Energies. There is a final Integrated Capstone Project, in which students will demonstrate their knowledge of sustainability in business management. This MBA is unique in that it is designed to teach sustainability-minded students to be business leaders.
7. Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls, OR)
Founded in 1947, Oregon Tech specialized in applied degrees in the fields of technology, engineering, health, science, and management. Hands on experience and professional education are critical to the Oregon Tech curriculum. There are a total of 42 majors and other degree options available, all of which are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Part of the Oregon Tech experience is the Oregon Renewable Energy Center. The focus of the Center is to accelerate the acceptance of clean energy technology and to integrate renewable energy resources with current power systems. The Center works closely with industries both locally and throughout the state in an effort to advance these green practices. Two major current projects for the Center are Wind Turbine Modeling and Hybrid Vehicle Controls.
8. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
The Energy Institute at UM offers the Master of Engineering and Energy Systems, and the Master of Engineering Sustainable Systems.
The Master of Engineering and Energy Systems is the first in the nation, and is designed to teach engineers to handle changing energy needs on a global scale. This degree teaches engineering of energy systems, which involves using technology to supply energy needs. This 30 hour Master’s degree is interdisciplinary, and includes courses in business, engineering, natural and social sciences, environmental science, and public policy. This Master’s degree is available on campus and online.
The Master of Engineering Sustainable Systems is a dual degree, which confers a Master of Science degree from the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and a Master of Science in Engineering from the College of Engineering. This program offers three specializations: Sustainable Water Systems, Sustainable Energy Systems, and Sustainable Design & Manufacturing Systems. This dual degree requires 54 credits, and incorporates the Master of Science in Engineering program with the Master of Science program. The degree is designed to train students to create, restore and protect economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable engineered and natural.
9. University of Texas (Austin, TX)
The University of Texas at Austin offers the Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies degree. This degree is under the Department of Geography & the Environment, but it is an interdisciplinary program, since the degree includes classes from different departments across the university. This is a Liberal Arts degree, which requires the core liberal arts courses and 39 hours in the major. This degree has no requirement for a minor, and can be completed in four years.
Students choose one concentration among these three: Trajectories in Sustainability, Sustainable Choice in a Diverse World, or Natural Resource Management. There is a an Experiential Learning course, which gives students an opportunity to work in the field or in an internship position to gain hands-on experience in sustainability projects in the real world. Given the interdisciplinary approach, students can learn about varied subjects relevant to sustainability, such as Humanities, Geography, Communication, Economics, and the Environment.
Founded in 1965, Colorado Technical University specializes in the educational fields of Business, Management, and Technology. Online education was introduced at the University in 1995 which exponentially grew the school’s outreach and student body. Today there are more than 23,000 students enrolled within the institutions six academic colleges.
Offering a variety of degree programs, from Bachelor through Doctorate, Colorado Tech’s Doctor of Management in Environmental and Social Sustainability (Executive Format) offers students a deeper understanding of energy conservation, will prepare students to predict future trends in sustainability, and will provide students with the credentials to guide organizational policy in an environmentally friendly direction. The program requires 96 total credits which include ten core instructional courses, five concentration instructional courses, and nine doctoral research courses. Class topics may include System Thinking and Transformative Social Systems in Sustainability, Trans-Organizational Policy and Governance Related to Sustainability, and Current Topics in Environmental and Social Sustainability.
Colorado Technical University Doctor of Management – Environmental and Social Sustainability (Executive Format) Doctorate Science & Engineering Environmental Management http://schools.collegedegrees.com/forms/colorado-technical-university?program=10229
11. Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA)
Santa Clara University offers two tracks within the Sustainable Energy Program, the Renewable Energy Graduate Certificate or the Master of Science degree. Both programs require students to have an undergraduate degree within the field of Engineering from an accredited school. The Certificate program offers a more introductory level to the field with a minimal requirement of 17 quarter units. Nine of these units are in Power Systems, four units are in Renewable Energy, with the remaining four units in Sustainability. Class topics include: Introduction to the Smart Grid, Photovoltaic Devices and Systems, and Sustainable Energy and Ethics.
For the full Master of Science degree, students will complete a total of 45 units, with up to 12 units for electives. Classes include Energy Conservation, Power Electronics, Energy-Efficient Computing, and Sustainable Structural Engineering. The academic adviser for both programs is Dr. Samiha Mourad who works with students to develop a Sustainable Energy Program of Studies.
12. Appalachian State University (Boone, NC)
Located among the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian State University was established in 1899. With more than 18,000 students in attendance, the University offers a diverse 150 undergraduate and graduate level majors.
The Sustainable Development Department offers four programs: a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, an undergraduate minor, or a concentration. To complete the Bachelor of Arts degree in Sustainable Development, students must take a total of 122 credits, including 44 for General Education, 6-12 for Languages/Literature and Cultures, and 45-46 for the major.
Faculty members of the department include Dr. Brian Burke, Laura England, and Dr. Dinesh Paudel. Additional facilities of the department include the Teaching and Research Farm and Agroecology Laboratory. All programs at the University are accredited by the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
13. Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
First known as the Lynchburg Baptist College, Liberty University gained full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was granted university status by 1984. The more than 500 academic degree programs from certificate to Doctorate are organized into 16 schools and colleges. Of the 500 programs, 247 can be taken completely online. One example is the online Bachelor of Arts in Business.
The BA in Business provides students with 16 specializations to select from. Each concentration requires a total of 120 credit hours for graduation and easily become a stepping stone for the online Master of Business Administration degree. The Bachelor of Science in Business Administration: Green and Sustainable Management Cognate degree requires 120 hours total, which include 30 hours of upper level courses. Courses include Environment and Sustainability, Energy Resources and Efficiency, and Environmental Science and Policy. In addition to the regular Business courses, students may choose to integrate these courses on managing environmental resources in order to navigate the sustainability challenges in today’s business world.
14. University of Wisconsin (Madison WI)
The University of Wisconsin offers the Sustainable Management Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate degrees. These programs combine instruction in business, the natural sciences, and social systems, to train sustainable-minded managers. The degrees are taken entirely online, with flexible course schedules, making them manageable for the working adult.
The Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Management is a 21 course, 63 credit degree. This is an interdisciplinary degree, and includes courses such as Systems Thinking, Environmental Science and Sustainability, and Triple Bottom Line Accounting for Managers. This degree has no electives, and includes a hands-on capstone course solving a real-world sustainability problem with an existing organization.
The Master of Science in Sustainable Management is a 12 course, 34 credit degree. The program includes core classes, a specialty track, and a capstone experience. Core Classes include Cultural and Historical Foundations of Sustainability, The Natural Environment, Economics of Sustainability, and The Built Environment. This degree is also interdisciplinary.
The Sustainable Management Science Certificate is a four course, 12 credit degree. The courses are Ecology for Sustainable Management, Global Environmental Chemistry, Energy for Sustainable Management, and Natural Resource Management.
The Sustainable Enterprise Management Certificate is a five course, 15 credit degree. There are six courses available, but students choose only five. The four required courses are Triple Bottom Line Accounting for Managers, Economics in Society and Sustainability, Sustainable Organizational Finance, International Management for a Sustainable World. Students will choose one of these two courses: Management and Environmental Information Systems, and Operations Management and Sustainability.
These Certificate programs consist of courses from the Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Management degree. Courses taken in these Certificates will go towards the Bachelor’s in Sustainable Management.
Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges as a private, nonprofit institution. The school has been conferring degrees of associates through Master’s since 1963. The Masters of Business Administration program was introduced in 1974 and in 1995 launched the Internet-based distance learning program, now known as SNHU Online.
Southern New Hampshire’s MBA in Sustainability can be completed in just over one year. This program combines the traditional MBA classes with specialized courses covering ecological and energy-related challenges in order to prepare students to tackle current environmental issues with practical and efficient solutions. Class topics may include Government Impact on Business, Human Behavior in Organizations, and Energy and Society. The degree concludes with a cumulative capstone course where students apply theories and integrate ideas into real life scenarios.
SNHU also offers the online Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology: Environmental Sustainability degree. This degree takes a unique approach to sustainability studies by looking at anthropology, and what role human nature plays in sustainability. This degree is a degree in Anthropology that’s taken completely online, and offers concentrations in Environmental Sustainability or Geospatial Technologies. The course is six 9-week terms per year, and is 120 total credits, 30 of which are electives. Topics include World Geography, Religions of the World, Earth System Science, Anthropology in the Contemporary World, and a Capstone in Anthropology.
16. University of Massachusetts Lowell (Lowell, MA)
Founded in 1894 as a teaching college, UMASS is now a leading public research university, with over 17,000 students, and consists of six colleges that offer Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral degrees and Certificates. The Renewable Energy Engineering Program (REEP) offers Master’s and Doctoral degrees, a Graduate Certificate, and a minor for undergrads in Energy Engineering. This Renewable Energy Engineering Program focuses on green combustion, solar energy, fuel cells, and wind turbines.
The Master’s in Renewable Energy Engineering has three tracks from which to choose: Thesis, Project, and Course Only. Each track requires 30 credits to graduate. Courses include Energy Engineering Workshop, Fundamentals of Solar Utilization, Transfer Processes in Energy Systems, and Alternative Energy Systems. Students will defend their thesis in an oral examination.
The PhD’s renewable energy (solar) concentration is through the Mechanical Engineering Department. This degree is 63 credit hours, culminating in a dissertation. A Master’s degree in engineering (or equivalent) is required to be accepted to the program. 12 credits in the core classes must be taken. Core courses include Power Electronics, Alternative Energy Systems, Energy Systems Design Workshop, and Solar Engineering Fundamentals. The PhD student must be in full time residency at the university for a year minimum.
The Certificate is 12 credits, and is an interdisciplinary graduate degree focusing on research, design, development and manufacturing of renewable energy systems.
17. Ecotech Institute (Aurora, CO)
Ecotech is the first career school in the nation dedicated to education in renewable, sustainable, and efficient energy industries. The institute offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Electrical Engineering, Power Plant and Lineman Operation, Business Administration in Sustainability, and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Sustainability and Green Energy.
The Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Sustainability and Green Energy in an online degree only, and the Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration in Sustainability is available online and on campus. For the Associate’s in Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Electrical Engineering, and Power Plant and Lineman Operations, the first two semesters are available online. All Associate’s degrees consist of 96 quarter credits.
The online Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Sustainability and Green Energy is taught through Virginia College, an affiliate of Ecotech. The Associate’s in Business Administration in Sustainability (or equivalent) is a prerequisite. The Bachelor’s degree usually takes two academic years.
Ecotech’s Career Services assists students in finding employment after graduating. National accreditation is granted by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
18. North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
The Clean Energy Center at North Carolina State University offers the Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series. This Diploma is a continuing education program. There are seven week-long, 40-hour workshops from which to choose, and students are required to complete three workshops for a Diploma (which is 120 hours of study total). These workshops study subjects such as the Certificate in Renewable Energy Management, Fundamentals of Solar Thermal Systems Design and Installation, and Advanced Design and Installation of Photovoltaic Systems.
19. San Juan College (Farmington, NM)
Originating in 2003, San Juan College has one of the nation’s earliest programs in renewable energy. The Associate of Applied Science Degree and/or a Certificate are offered in Photovoltaic or Solar Thermal Systems. Both degrees have the same core courses, and both include electrical training in a lab, emphasizing the National Electrical Code. Analysis of Solar systems and their design is also covered.
The Certificate is ideal for students who already have a degree, and for those who already work in renewable energy. The Associate’s degree adds general education courses to the core courses that are in the Certificate. The curriculum is offered in the semester format, and include hands-on courses such as PV Installation and the NEC I & II.
Founded in 1970 by Rita and Bernie Turner, Walden University was created for working adults who wanted to pursue doctoral studies. Today, Walden has a large variety of online degrees ranging from Bachelor’s and Master’s to Doctorates. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1990, all degree programs offer cutting-edge curriculum taught by field experienced professors.
For students interested in a local government leadership role there are still innumerable ways to be a positive influence within the Green movement. The Master of Public Policy with a specialization in Local Government Management for Sustainable Communities will prepare students to learn the fundamentals of community planning and to address societal issues such as urban sprawl and transportation. The 61 total quarter credits include a one credit foundation course, 40 credits of core courses, 15 credits of specialization courses, and a five credit capstone course.
21. Kaplan University (Davenport, IA)
At Kaplan University there are two tracks available in the Master of Science in Environmental Policy program: students can choose from either the Research program or the Exam program. Both tracks require a total of 55 program credits before graduation, with 40 core credits and five elective credits for the Research program or 35 core credits and five elective credits for the Exam program. Classes may include Environmental Policy Analysis, Applied Research in Legal Studies, and Leadership in the Public Sector.
In both tracks the curriculum focuses on giving students the necessary experience in all aspects of Green Industry, from the legal issues and social implications to the business and economic impact. Courses are taught by experienced industry professionals. The University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
22. DeVry University (Downers Grove, IL)
Since 1931 DeVry has provided quality educational services through professional staff members and field experienced professors. The University has conveniently organized its academic programs into five main colleges: Business and Management, Engineering and Information Sciences, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Media Arts and Technology. Most programs consists of six eight-week sessions and are available at both the associate’s and bachelor’s level. All degree programs have been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Through the College of Engineering and Information Sciences students will find the graduate level Renewable Energy specialization. This program provides a strong background in technology and emphasizes green energy systems such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass power. Courses may include Conservation Principles in Engineering and Technology, Electric Machines and Power Systems, Instrumentation for Energy Technologies, and Environmental Sociology.