MS in Sustainability prepares students for a changing world (of work)

By Tufts UEP

Image: Students in UEP’s Socio-Ecological Systems Thinking for Sustainability course take a vote during a climate change adaptation decision making activity that hones negotiation skills.

The rapidly changing climate has increasingly compelled individuals, businesses, municipalities, states, and nations to change how they operate. In response, sustainability careers are in demand. The 2024 LinkedIn ‘Jobs on the Rise’ report revealed that “Sustainability Analyst” ranked 5th out of the top 25 fastest-growing job titles in the US over the past five years – up from 13th place in 2023.  

These rankings reflect how the world of work is changing to meet the unique demands of our time. As organizations shift their focus to embrace sustainability planning, policies, and practices, opportunities emerge for those with transformational insights into topics such as energy use and emissions reductions, waste and supply chain management, and resilience and conservation strategies. Sought after skills often include tracking relevant metrics, accounting for greenhouse gas emissions, or promoting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices.

Dr Kate Davies, Director of the MS in Sustainability (MSS) program at UEP points out that “the field of sustainability needs folks who have specific training in sustainability principles and skills, and who can help guide practices across disciplines. The MS in Sustainability addresses this industry need.” Dr Davies’ assessment of the jobs landscape is backed up by recent research, which shows that there are not enough skilled workers to meet the rapid growth in green and sustainability jobs available. While the acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation may complicate this picture, it has also created new opportunities in the field of sustainability policy and planning. Dr Davies is quick to emphasize that navigating AI inclusive futures underscores “the important role of strong interpersonal skills such as collaboration, negotiation, and conflict management, all of which are central to the MSS program at UEP”.

An interdisciplinary education

The skills needed to thrive in this new world of work are reflected in the interdisciplinary curriculum of UEP’s MSS program. MSS graduates leave the program with knowledge and skills that emphasize integrated and collaborative problem-solving approaches. With core classes that include Socio-Ecological Systems Thinking for Sustainability and Economics for Policy and Planning, students learn to identify and negotiate a wide range of sustainability values, craft future visions and scenarios that account for this diversity, and develop just transition strategies that support the implementation of equitable sustainability measures. Students in the MSS program are supported by a diverse team of faculty members who specialize in sustainability, systems thinking, environmental justice, impact investing, geographic information systems, climate change, food, health, resilience, and water. 

Developing practical skills

Image: Spring 2024 Field Projects students doing a team building exercise in the beginning of the semester.

An important part of the MSS program is engaging students in practical planning, policy, and research experience in a range of settings. For example, in Field Projects, another MSS core course, students learn to navigate the realities of sustainable planning practice by working in teams for and with project partners to produce actionable project deliverables. 

Examples of 2023 field projects include:

All MSS students also complete an internship as part of their program requirements. Students have interned with organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors that drive transformations to build resilient, just, and sustainable worlds. Recent internship titles held by MSS students include Energy Justice Intern, Environment and Sustainability Intern, Research Associate, and Sustainability Intern.

Read more about recent MSS internships:

Graduating change agents

Beyond the program, MS in Sustainability graduates apply their knowledge and skills in diverse sectors, with roles ranging from Resilience Specialist to, of course, Sustainability Analyst. Ultimately, alumni are prepared to be change agents and leaders who work to develop sustainable and just communities embedded in complex socio-ecological systems.