How To Earn a Master of Sustainable Energy in 4 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With growing interest in environmentally friendly practices across many industries, sustainability experts are in demand in both the public and private sectors. If you're interested in using research, quantitative analysis and innovation to solve some of the complex issues facing our environment, you might earn a master of sustainable energy. This graduate degree equips students with some of the key skills needed to develop new technologies and help organizations implement and maintain energy-efficient infrastructure.

In this article, we define what a master of sustainable energy is, outline how to earn this degree in four steps and list some jobs in the sustainable energy industry that you could pursue after finishing your studies.

What is a master of sustainable energy?

A master of sustainable energy is a graduate degree that focuses on the creation of clean energy solutions to address climate change. These programs typically combine courses in government, business, science and finance to understand how to develop new technologies, influence public policy, analyze complex environmental issues and address the demand for renewable energy and clean energy. Most master's degree programs in sustainable energy blend coursework with research, group projects and residencies to offer practical experience, and studies may culminate in a thesis project focusing on a problem at the national, state or local level.

Curriculums vary between institutions, but students may take classes in topics like:

  • Environmental policy analysis

  • Electricity systems

  • Energy law

  • Energy technologies

  • Carbon removal and use

  • Sustainable branding

  • Water and waste

  • Sustainable urban development

Related: What Is Green Engineering? (With Benefits and Examples)

How to earn your master's in sustainable energy

Here are four steps you could follow to get a master's in sustainable energy:

1. Complete a high school education

Earning a high school diploma is an important step in your academic journey if you plan to attend graduate school. Plan to complete your schooling or earn an equivalent General Educational Development (GED) certificate. While you're in high school, you could focus on taking classes like environmental or earth science to learn more about water, emissions and climate change. You could also consider getting involved with volunteer groups who fight for climate policy or green technology.

2. Get a bachelor's degree

Most sustainable energy master's programs expect candidates to hold at least a bachelor's degree. It might be beneficial to choose a relevant major, like sustainability, natural sciences, engineering, public policy or economics. Experience with academic research, qualitative analysis and complex problem-solving may strengthen your candidacy for sustainable energy graduate programs. Consider pursuing an internship in the sustainable energy industry to gain practical experience and get exposure to this growing field. Aim to maintain a high grade point average (GPA), as some institutions have minimum requirements for graduate school candidates.

Related: FAQ: What Can You Do With a Natural Resources Degree?

3. Research schools that interest you

After you graduate with a bachelor's degree, you can start learning about different master's programs to find one that fits your qualifications and goals. Programs may offer different specializations, like technology, public policy or finance, so reflecting on your ambitions may help you choose a school that aligns with the job you want in the future. Some programs may prefer candidates with years of career experience, so learning about application expectations could help you narrow your search, too. Make a list of schools you plan to apply to and note their application deadlines and unique requirements.

Related: How To Get Into Grad School (Plus 8 Benefits of Attending Grad School)

4. Submit your application materials

When you've chosen schools to target, you can start preparing your applications. Review the submission guidelines for each school and send your application. Most institutions allow you to apply online. Each university may have a unique set of requirements, but you can expect to submit some of the following documents:

  • Academic transcript: This is a report of your grades during your undergraduate studies which you can request from your school.

  • Letters of recommendation: These are letters from professors who know you well and can vouch for your capabilities and character.

  • Writing sample: Some schools ask for an analytical essay, typically discussing a current issue in the field of energy and the environment.

  • Any required test scores: Some schools might require you to take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), which tests your writing, reasoning and quantitative analysis skills.

Read more: What Is a Good GRE Score? A Guide to Test Sections and Range

Types of jobs to consider with a master's in sustainable energy

Here are some jobs you could pursue after graduating with a master's degree in sustainable energy. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link(s) provided.

1. Policy analyst

National average salary: $79,181 per year

Primary duties: Policy analysts work with government entities, private businesses, nonprofit groups and lobbying organizations to interpret existing policies and recommend policy changes to meet public needs. A policy analyst might be responsible for performing quantitative and qualitative research to understand the impacts of policies, write proposals for new policies, estimate the costs of proposed changes and present their findings and recommendations to government representatives. Policy analysts focusing on sustainability may investigate potential solutions to environmental issues impacting local, state, national and global populations.

2. Sustainability consultant

National average salary: $79,302 per year

Primary duties: A sustainability consultant works with a business, nonprofit organization or government agency to identify environmentally taxing activity and implement sustainable practices in its place. These professionals may advise organizations on projects like real estate development, industrial operations and mining and drilling. A sustainability consultants' responsibilities can include gathering and analyzing environmental data, educating internal teams on best practices for energy conservation, researching energy-efficient technology and assisting in sustainable branding efforts.

3. Program officer

National average salary: $84,831 per year

Primary duties: A program officer is a nonprofit professional who works with a foundation or organization to organize and execute initiatives that align with their mission. The key tasks these professionals perform may include establishing project guidelines and goals, managing a budget and allocating resources to projects, overseeing grant proposals to gain funding and reporting on program progress regularly. Program officers may also hire and supervise junior program and development staff, partner with other organizations and government groups and lead public education efforts.

4. Energy engineer

National average salary: $92,013 per year

Primary duties: An energy engineer designs and implements energy-efficient technology and tools utilizing sources like wind and solar power. Their duties may include investigating current machinery and devices to learn its environmental impact, researching new developments in clean energy, preparing project proposals and budget estimates, designing blueprints and schematics using computer-aided design (CAD) software, conduct energy audits to determine an organization's expenditure and document their efforts clearly. Energy engineers may also collaborate with safety and compliance professionals to establish compliance guidelines and perform inspections.

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