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Frequently Asked Questions - Graduate Students

Graduate Student FAQs

School and Programs

What makes the School of Sustainability graduate programs different from other disciplinary-based graduate programs?

The School’s programs are problem-based rather than disciplined-based and students with different interests, skills, and disciplinary backgrounds get to learn and work together to solve real-world problems. Students will be exposed to different ways of thinking in our programs and will also have the opportunity to help shape the new, groundbreaking field as it evolves. We also work very closely with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability . The Institute is involved in collaborative research projects and hosts top scholars and professionals working in the field of sustainability. As far as the curriculum is concerned, our program equips students with comprehensive knowledge of current issues in the field of sustainability at local, national, and global levels and provides them with quantitative skill sets and exposure to different research methodologies. Our program also allows each student to focus on a particular area of study to gain depth in that area through coursework and research.

Are the School of Sustainability graduate programs accredited?

ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which is a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. However, accreditation by a national body or board that oversees academic degree programs in Sustainability does not currently exist. In fact, formal education in Sustainability is so new that we are one of the first schools in the nation to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in Sustainability. It is possible that an accreditation process for programs in Sustainability will be developed in the future, but one does not exist at this time.

What is the difference between the Master of Arts in Sustainability and the Master of Science in Sustainability?

The Master of Arts in Sustainability is best suited to students inclined towards social sciences, planning, and related fields. The Master of Science in Sustainability is best suited to those inclined towards natural sciences or engineering. The core courses are the same for both programs, but the student’s background experience, area of study being pursued, and/or electives may help determine which program is more appropriate.

Do I have to finish the program within a certain number of years? How long will it take me to finish the program?

There are time limits enforced by the Graduate College for each program, so please refer to the ASU Catalog . Time-to-degree varies, but the typical time-to-degree for a Master’s program is two years. Typical time-to-degree for the doctoral program is two to four years for students entering with a master’s degree and four to six years for students entering with a bachelor’s degree.

Do you have any online or distance-learning degree programs in Sustainability?

At this point in time we do not have any degree programs that are available online or through distance learning. There are a limited number of courses that have online options, but students admitted to our graduate programs must be able to attend most of their courses in person. Most courses are held during the day. We are considering online options and a professional master’s program for the future.

Can I attend a graduate program part-time?

Yes, you may attend part-time. Please keep in mind that your time-to-degree will be extended and that we expect that students in our programs will finish their degrees in a timely manner.

Can I take graduate courses in Sustainability without applying to one of the programs?

Students wishing to take graduate courses at ASU without applying to a program may do so by applying to the ASU Graduate College as a non-degree student. Please note that taking courses before admission into a program does not guarantee admission into a graduate program at ASU and does not guarantee that the courses taken while in non-degree status can be transferred into a degree program at ASU. Note that the Graduate College has very specific policies on the amount of non-degree hours that can potentially be brought into a graduate program. Please refer to the ASU Catalog for specific policies. Please also note that most graduate courses in Sustainability are restricted to allow our current students priority registration. Some courses may be opened up to registration outside of our program approximately one month prior the start of the semester, depending on availability.

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Application Process

What is the application deadline for the graduate programs?

For fall admission, applications must be received by December 15th of the preceding year. Application process details can be found here. The School only admits students for a fall start and does not admit students in the spring.

How long will it take to receive my admission decision after I submit my application?

Application review begins after all application materials are received and immediately after the application deadline. Decisions will usually be sent out starting in February, but not all applicants will receive a response at that time. Some applicants may not receive a decision on their application until May.

Can I check the status of my application?

Yes, you can check the status of your application by logging into My ASU with the ASURITE ID and password you received in the Application Acknowledgement letter from the Graduate College. Under the section titled “My Programs & Advising” click on the link titled “View Your Admissions Application Status.” You may also check the status of your application by sending an email to

Can international students apply for the degree programs in Sustainability?

Yes, we accept applications from international students. Please visit the Graduate College website for information on additional requirements for international students.

Are you looking for students with certain undergraduate degrees? Will I need to fulfill certain prerequisites before I apply to the program or after I am accepted into the program?

We currently do not require a specific undergraduate degree or major to apply to our graduate program. We encourage applications from individuals with diverse educational backgrounds and experience that are relevant to the School’s core goals and challenge areas. No prerequisites have been established at this time; however, if applicable, deficiencies for each applicant may be determined at time of admission.

Is it competitive to get into a graduate program in Sustainability?

Yes, admission is competitive because there is a strong interest in our graduate programs and we usually receive a large number of applications. Although we do look at each individual applicant’s qualifications, we also base our admissions decisions on creating a cohort of students with diverse educational backgrounds and experiences.

Application process details can be found here. You can also view our 2010-2011 Graduate Student Profile to get sense of who has been admitted into the graduate programs in the past.

What makes a competitive application to the graduate program in Sustainability?

There are several ways applicants can make their applications competitive:

  • Make sure that all application materials have been received by the Graduate College by the application deadline.
  • Maintain a strong undergraduate and graduate (if applicable) GPA – it should be at least a 3.25 on a 4.0 scale, but preferably higher.
  • Earn strong scores on the GRE. The most competitive candidates will have scores in the 70th percentile or higher in all three test areas (quantitative, analytical, and verbal).
  • Obtain strong academic letters of recommendation from faculty speaking to your ability to do graduate work. While we do accept professional letters, strong recommendations from professors will help your application.
  • Write a clear and focused statement of intent and include the criteria listed in the application procedures. It is especially important to identify potential faculty advisors and areas of research/study in your application.

Do you require recommendations? Is there a format for recommendation?

Three recommendations are required. Applicants will be asked to provide contact information for their recommenders through the online application and will be asked whether or not they would like to waive the right to view the recommendations submitted. Upon completion and submission of the application, the recommendation form and instructions will automatically be sent to the recommender and they will be asked to submit their recommendations online. References should be from educators (preferred) or professionals familiar with the applicant’s experience and capability for graduate work. It is highly recommended that the recommendations are academic in nature and address the applicant’s experience and potential for success in a graduate program; however, we will also accept professional recommendations. If possible, at least one recommendation should be academic in nature. Applicants will be able to check the status of their recommendations online at My ASU .

Applicants will be rated on their writing ability, formal-speaking ability, reasoning and analysis, mathematics and statistics, and overall intellectual ability. Recommenders are asked to describe how they know the applicant and provide their opinion on the quality of the applicant’s academic achievements, intellectual ability and capability to complete advanced work in a graduate program; aspects of the applicant’s personality and character significant to graduate work; and special skills and experience as demonstrated in a vocation or profession.

Should I submit a resume/CV with my application?

A resume or CV is not required, but we highly recommend submitting one as part of your application to highlight your accomplishments as well as your educational background and professional experience. A resume or CV is also a good way to highlight special skills, affiliations, and experiences that aren’t evident in other parts of your application.

Is the GRE required?

Yes, the general GRE test is required of all applicants regardless of previous undergraduate or graduate degrees. We do not require any GRE subject tests.

Can I substitute the GMAT for the GRE requirement?

We will accept GMAT scores in place of GRE scores.

Can I pursue a graduate degree in Sustainability concurrently with another graduate degree?

Applicants must submit a separate online application for each program they are interested in applying for. If admitted to more than one program, applicants will be required by the Graduate College to select one program; or, applicants can receive approval from each academic unit to pursue two degrees concurrently. Note that there are specific Graduate College policies on if/how credit hours can be shared between two programs. The School of Sustainability does not currently have any officially established dual or concurrent degree programs.

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Tuition and Financial Aid

How much does it cost to complete a graduate program?

The full cost of completing a graduate degree at ASU will depend on several factors:

  • The student’s residency status (Arizona or Non-Arizona resident)
  • Whether the student receives an offer of financial support from the School
  • How many credit hours a student takes each semester
  • How long the student takes to complete the program
  • Any new state-mandated tuition increases while the student is in the program.

See current ASU tuition rates and fees . For on-line course tuition information, please go to the ASU Online.

How do I establish Arizona residency?

For information on how to establish Arizona residency, please visit Residency Classification.

Do all of your graduate students receive financial support?

No. We only have a limited number of Fellowships and Research/Teaching Assistantships available,for which we automatically consider applicants. We strongly encourage students to seek funding from outside sources as well.

How are Teaching Assistantship (TA) and Research Assistantship (RA) positions awarded?

The School of Sustainability awards teaching assistantships and helps match candidates with research assistantships available through faculty members. Students admitted to our graduate programs who do not receive an offer of financial support from the School may seek and accept a TA or RA position within another academic unit at ASU.

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Career Opportunities

What types of careers will be available to students with a Master’s or Doctorate in Sustainability?

Sustainability graduates are prepared for admission into strong graduate and professional schools or may assume positions in higher education, industry, consultancy, utilities, regulatory agencies, non-profits, non-governmental organizations, or local, state or federal government. Recent interest in sustainability within business and government has created new employment opportunities in the field. By engaging a breadth of knowledge and experience, and by acquiring the skills to integrate various domains of knowledge, sustainability students prepare themselves for a variety of careers focused on finding solutions to challenges dealing with biodiversity and habitats, climate, social transformations, energy, materials and technology, governance and policy, international development, urbanization, and water. Learn more about careers in sustainability by visiting our careers section.

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Student Life

Are there any programs, activities, or student groups at ASU that I can get involved with that are related to Sustainability?

There are several student groups involved in sustainability efforts and initiatives on campus. We encourage you to contact these groups and get involved in making a difference right here at ASU. Learn more about student initiatives in sustainability by visiting our student experience section.

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