Graduation caps in the air.

In my two and a half years as a Sustainability Specialist here at USF, I have come to realize how interdisciplinary the field of sustainability and environmentalism truly is. Although a majority of the student interns within the Office of Sustainability have academic backgrounds in Environmental Studies or Environmental Science, I have learned that sustainability extends to all fields and all majors. Sustainability is not limited to just the environmental field; it extends to business, marketing, education, policy, and so much more. Now, as I am gearing up to graduate this May and am exploring post-graduate work, I would like to encourage students from all academic backgrounds to pursue opportunities pertaining to sustainability.

You may ask yourself: why sustainability? In our current day and age, in the midst of climate change, sustainable use of the Earth’s resources is of utmost importance. These circumstances are understood well across the globe, where even if you do not personally feel the pressure of sustainability, big businesses, corporations, and employers do. With that being said, the market of sustainability related careers is on the rise, and the unique part about it is these careers extend across so many different fields, which can be understood with the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic.

The division of sustainability into three pillars itself shows how interdisciplinary this field is, with so many opportunities across disciplines. Environmental sustainability is defined as “the ability to preserve and protect the natural environment over time through appropriate practices and policies, meeting present needs without compromising the availability of resources in the future.” Careers in environmental sustainability implore students from backgrounds such as Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Biology, and more. Social sustainability involves a strong focus on the well-being of individuals and communities, promoting social justice, equity, human rights, and access to resources such as education and health care. Social sustainability aims to support communities over time. Students with social science backgrounds or even those who simply possess a passion for uplifting their community can find a career in the social sustainability scene. Lastly, economic sustainability is described as “the approach whereby economic activities are conducted in such a way as to preserve and promote long-term economic well-being. In practice, it aims to create a balance between economic growth, resource efficiency, social equity and financial stability.” Students with a background in business, management, economics, finance, and other similar fields would thrive in a position focused on this pillar. Not only do these three different pillars of sustainability yield great post-graduate opportunities for students, but they also keep our planet in mind.

As a soon-to-be graduate, one thing that has been often on my mind is the fact that once I graduate and find a job, I will essentially be working for the rest of my life. I know it’s not as cut-and-dry as I make it seem, but that is something that scares me a little bit. I want to be sure that when I begin to grow my career, I do so in a field that I genuinely enjoy and thrive in. With that being said, one reason why I encourage others to explore a career in sustainability is because at the end of the day, you know you are making a positive difference to build a better world. So if you have the same concerns as I do and perhaps a little bit of reluctance to start your career, I implore you to explore sustainability. I feel strongly that this field offers great opportunities as well as an environment with a positive mission.

While careers in sustainability are great to explore after graduation, they are not the only opportunities in this field. Some students may continue their academic career and pursue graduate school. There are many great master’s degree programs pertaining to sustainability, such as Columbia University’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management, whose program is “designed for current and aspiring leaders who wish to pursue a career in management at the intersection of business and the environment.” Arizona State University’s Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems program guides students to “explore food and agricultural trends, build relationships with farmers and learn from influential policy leaders…to create and lead policy initiatives that pioneer innovative pathways” for the future. If you’d like to stay in the Bay, consider University of San Francisco’s Master of Science in Environmental Management program, which offers concentrations in “Ecology, Water Management, Environmental Health & Hazards, or Energy and Climate, as well as the option for a GIS certificate.” Finally, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor offers a Master of Science in Environment and Sustainability with six specializations: Conservation Ecology; Environmental Informatics; Environmental Justice; Environment Policy and Planning; Sustainable Systems; and Behaviour, Education, and Communication. This program, especially, shows how interdisciplinary the realm of sustainability truly is. These are a few of many graduate programs in sustainability, with many more unique programs designed to match student interests and pave the way for a more sustainable future. If interested, I highly encourage students to explore the idea of continuing their education as well as similar programs.

Even if beginning your career or continuing your education straight out of undergrad is not for you, there are plenty of other opportunities to stay involved, such as volunteering. From an environmental and social sustainability standpoint, volunteering in nature or with your community upholds the mission of what sustainability is all about. Also, the semester is not done yet! While you are still on campus, consider attending events hosted by the Office of Sustainability. Our events promote environmental sustainability on campus, sharing information on how to implement sustainability in one’s daily life. So no matter what you plan on doing post-graduation, I strongly encourage you to learn more about this field and stay involved. I, for one, am exploring opportunities in sustainability as I begin to plan for life after graduation. While the search and application process may be daunting, I’m certain that this field will have many opportunities as sustainability becomes more of a priority around the world and in everyone’s daily life.