About the Degree Program

The Master of Arts in Sustainability is a research-oriented degree that culminates with either a thesis or a capstone in the form of a publishable, scientific paper. Although all sustainability graduate programs emphasize the integration of a broad range of expertise in student training, the MA degree (vs. the MS) is best suited to students inclined toward social sciences, humanities, planning or related fields and interested in a career in research or academia.

Students learn how different disciplines view and approach the challenges of sustainability in theory, research and practice. They develop the academic and technical skills as well as the ethical insights that will help them understand, research and provide solutions to complex sustainability challenges at the local, regional, national and global levels. This degree program (vs. MSUS) is geared towards students interested in a career in research or academia.

Learning Outcomes

MA graduates will be able to think in a holistic way about different types of sustainability problems using a dynamic systems framework. They will have the technical skills to formulate and solve problems at the appropriate scale, and the breadth of vision to recognize the interconnectedness of coupled social and environmental systems. They will also be able to produce policy-relevant results. In addition to the common learning outcomes, MA students will have:

  • an understanding of the need for an interdisciplinary approach to solving sustainability challenges
  • the ability to communicate their work to professionals in other disciplines, policymakers and the general public
  • the breadth of vision to recognize the interconnectedness of social, economic, environmental and technical systems
  • the critical thinking skills to approach sustainability challenges from a systems perspective
  • the skills needed to work effectively in interdisciplinary teams
  • the technical skills to formulate and solve problems at the appropriate scale

80% Master’s degree alumni are employed.

20% Master’s degree alumni are pursuing graduate degrees.


A minimum of 40 semester hours is required for an MA in Sustainability.

Requirements and Electives Hours
Core Courses 19
Methods Electives 6
Normative Dimensions of Sustainability Elective 3
General Electives 6
Thesis or Scientific Paper 6
Total Semester Hours Required 40

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Core Courses (19 hours)

Core courses will bring students together in an integrated learning environment to form a cohort of diverse backgrounds. They are designed to provide students with methods and theory appropriate to the study of sustainability. The students will explore the link between concepts of sustainability and systems approaches to knowledge, and will develop the integrative methods needed to work across the disciplines on sustainability problems.

  • SOS 510 – Perspectives on Sustainability
  • SOS 520 – Research Design and Methods for Sustainability
  • SOS 525 – Social-Ecological-Technical Systems: Domains and Interfaces
  • SOS 589 – SOS Community of Graduate Student Scholars
  • SOS 579 – Proposal Writing
  • SOS 581 – Synthesis for Sustainability Research

General Electives (6 hours)

Electives are designed to provide students with a strong substantive foundation (content knowledge, big theory, and big studies) of the main themes of the School.

  • Methods Electives
  • Normative Dimensions of Sustainability Elective
  • General Electives (including but not limited to the following prefixes: SOS, ASB, ART, PAF, SGS, POS, SOC, PSB, PGS, PHI, COM, CPP, CRD, ESS, PGV, NTR, MCO, GCU, SCM, HPS, HST, JHR, JMC, JUS, LAW, LES, PUP, SBS, RTM, STS, TDM, URB)
Optional Master’s International (Peace Corps) Program

Thesis or Scientific Paper (6 hours)

Students will be required to devote six (6) hours to writing either a thesis (SOS 599) or a publishable scientific paper (SOS 596). All Master’s degree candidates must also be enrolled for at least one semester hour of credit within the academic unit (i.e., the School of Sustainability) during the semester or summer session in which the thesis or paper is defended.

  • SOS 596 – Scientific Paper
  • SOS 599 – Thesis