Florida Institute of Technology
What is Sustainability?

Sustainability can represent many seemingly different fields and occupations. Core FAQ information is provded below with a focus on Florida Tech programs. 

What do sustainability professionals do?
Sustainability professionals use interdisciplinary skills to create and manage environmental, business, and social systems within dozens of occupational categories.   The most widely used definition of sustainability is: “… development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987; also known as the Brundtland Report).

Sustainability jobs often focus on developing best research and management practices to ensure long-term system resilience.  As it sounds, these can involve interdisciplinary tasks driven by the unique details of many different positions in many fields:  

  • a company that engineers efficent energy systems, or
  • a university/corporate partnership that maps and optimizes complex business supply chains, or
  • an agency developing management plans for protected areas by working with scientists and fishermen, or
  • a NGO or law firm working science-based public policy, or
  • dozens of other research and management titles and occupations, see several lists in Table 1 below.  

For more information on sustainability in general, see What is Sustainability?

What are national college trends in sustainability? 
The steady increase in college student interest nationally is reflected in the rising university bachelor’s degree offerings across the U.S., with over 70 degrees now available in the U.S., the majority appearing since 2000.   

  • A survey of 16,000 college applicants and parents found that 66% expressed an interest in the college’s sustainability efforts and 24% said such information would “very much” impact their decision to apply to or attend the school (Princeton Review, 2011). 
  • National and regional media articles report expanding student interest in sustainability curricula since 2005 (e.g., Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, New York Times).

What is the market for sustainability jobs?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have data on the number of workers involved in sustainability activities but there is evidence of increasing opportunities for those trained in sustainability-related technical positions (USBLS, 2012).  The Economic Policy Institute recently examined private and public sector markets for sustainability-related jobs with these conclusions:  green jobs go far beyond renewable energy, states with more developed sustainability policies fared better in the economic downturn, and manufacturing plays a strong role in the green economy (EPI, 2012).

One of the largest studies on CEO opinions of sustainability has recently been produced (UN Global Compact and Accenture, 2010).  Using a survey of >750 CEOs, the summary includes the following findings:

  • 93% of CEOs believe that sustainability issues will be critical to the future success of their business.
  • 91% of CEOs report that their company will employ new technologies to address sustainability issues over the next five years.
  • 88% of CEOs believe they should integrate sustainability into supply chains.
  • 96% of CEOs believe that sustainability issues should be fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company (72% in 2007).

Why types of jobs are there in sustainability?
Sustainability professionals use well-developed interdisciplinary skills to create and manage complex systems within a wide array of job markets.  From a job-hunter’s perspective, Table 1 at the end of this document has dozens of occupational titles related to sustainability job searches from major sources. 

A considerable number of the position titles in Table 1 and elsewhere represent combinations within various disciplines, a byproduct of the interdisciplinarity of applied sustainability.  One example is the new occupational title often seen as Corporate Social Responsibility Officer/Director/Manager.  Job search engines now pull up many CSR positions, with jobs from engineering to business.  Some of these new-sounding position titles are pretty cool and achievable.   

Other examples include the growing number of university, government or corporate Sustainability Officers/Directors/Managers.  Examples of the number and diversity of these positions for universities alone are at AASHE – Campus Sustainability Positions

Many of the lists of sustainability-related occupations in these and similar sources reflect the four concentrations of the Florida Tech sustainability curriculum:  Environmental Science, Business, Engineering and Technology and Social Sciences.

Sustainability is still emerging as a discipline –the job market is expanding in ways that are difficult to fully predict within existing disciplines and still un-named disciplines that will arise in the near future.  In systems science, these future jobs and occupations are examples of emerging properties, which arise from complex and expanding systems which can spin off new systems in both predictable and unpredictable manners (Meadows, 2008, Thinking in Systems).

What is the Florida Tech Sustainability Studies Major?
The Bachelor of Science in Sustainability Studies is a multi-disciplinary degree designed to rigorously educate those interested in the fields of sustainability.  The program curricula expands on Florida Tech’s well-known science and technology strengths.  Students choose their preferred combination of business and social science concentration courses to produce unusually well-rounded graduates that can operate within multiple disciplines in the 21st century workforce.

Four concentrations are offered: Technology & Engineering, Business & Economics, Environmental Sciences, and Social Sciences. The program emphasizes advanced educational experiences, hands-on projects (individually and in teams), opportunities for research on campus or internships in the community.  Graduates can excel either in the changing job market or graduate research schools, law school, and sustainability MBA programs.  Final capstone projects use a campus classroom model: students address real-world sustainability challenges to generate products and build marketable skills.

What are requirements and concentrations for the Sustainability Studies Major?
Students must meet the minimum course requirements (124 total credits) as outlined in the program planning guide. As a part of the curriculum, 24 credits of restricted electives from the four program concentration areas are required as follows:

  • Environmental Sciences, minimum of 6 cr (ES)
  • Technology & Engineering, minimum of 6 cr (TE)
  • Social Sciences, minimum of 6 cr (SS)
  • Business & Economics, minimum of 6 cr (BE) 

These electives are termed “Concentration Courses” in the program planning guide.  To allow a focus on areas of greatest individual interest, students choose an additional 15 credits from one or more of the concentration courses above in consultation with their advisor. The 15 credits can come from any concentration courses in the list of program electives.

What are the admission requirements?
Students intending to apply should complete at least one year of high school environmental sciences or biology and at least one year of chemistry or physics. Courses in economics or business are encouraged but not required. Additional university admissions requirements apply.

I’m not a Sustainability Major, can I still study sustainability at FIT?
Yes, the program is adaptable to a double-major with other science and engineering degrees across colleges.  Another option is the minor program in sustainability which has graduated >40 students from >15 majors and all colleges on campus since 2010.  In addition, students not in the major or minor can still take any classes they want if they have the pre-requisite courses. 

What is the Sustainability Minor?
Florida Tech also offers an undergraduate Minor Program in Sustainability.  This minor is available to undergraduates from any F.I.T. College  - Science, Business, Engineering, Aviation, and Psychology/Liberal Arts.

The minor consists of 6 courses (2 required, 4 elective) that total 18 credits. With planning, many students easily incorporate these courses into their curriculum. All academic information and planning forms are at academic sustainability

What is happening with sustainability on campus?
Diverse programs directly and indirectly address sustainability at F.I.T. Many students, staff, and faculty in varied academic, administrative, and support offices have started or are evaluating new sustainability initiatives, often with students as drivers. Student projects required for the major and minor also foster sustainability initiatives around the Space Coast. See FIT Sustainability – Campus for more information.  Some but not all student project teams include:

  • Sustainable Buildings
    Students have worked on projects to process required credits on energy, indoor air, water management, and other variables with facilities staff and external contractors. 
  • Recycling
    Messaging tools to improve student and staff recycling habits are in preparation.  Corporate donations of recycling bins for academic department offices and dormitories are being solicited.
  • Land & Water (Grounds)
    An initiative involving staff from 3 offices and >10 students is underway to build a composting system using waste from dining halls.  Rainwater harvesting is being scoped for 2 buildings.  Exotic plant removal in our Botanical Garden is being aided by a growing student team.
  • Sustainability Communications
    Messaging is very important to ensure adoption of best practices among students, faculty and staff.  This team is working with all other groups to ensure their specific messaging needs are provided for and to tell the interesting stories that underlie all of these projects.
  • Dining Services
    Expansion of certified sustainable coffee options, cooking oil to power university vehicles, and composting are among the projects being implemented or scoped. 

This is not a complete list, see FIT Sustainability – Campus for more information.

What undergraduate opportunities exist for student sustainability research?
Academic sustainability programs combine with student research projects to create products that directly benefit students while building innovations on- and off-campus. 

Every student in the major and minor programs develops a capstone research project on- or off-campus within a two course sequence of project classes.    These projects can be adaptable to a double-major with other science, engineering, and education degrees. Some of these projects are at Florida Tech Sustainability - Campus.

There are also interdisciplinary research opportunities across campus within many departments among F.l.T.’s five colleges.   These include the Department of Education and Interdisciplinary Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Marine and Environmental Systems, and The Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. More information is at sustainability research

The virtual Sustainability Research Guide on the Evans Library website at Florida Tech provides direct information to assist research projects and homework assignments on sustainability issues. You can directly access sustainability books, websites, journals, government documents, and videos. The input of many FIT students is shaping this resource. 

Are student clubs and organizations at Florida Tech involved in sustainability?
There are several clubs working directly on sustainability issues including the Student Organization for Sustainability Action, the Florida Tech Environmental Club, Squamish, Alpha Phi Omega and other student organizations.  They dedicated to the promotion of sustainability related educational activities to better our campus and the Space Coast community.  Support from the Student Government Association and other on- and off-campus partners is of great value.  More information on these and other organizations is at FIT Sustainability – Student Organizations. 

Are there graduate opportunities in sustainability at Florida Tech?
The Sustainability Studies undergraduate program is based in the Department of Education and Interdisciplinary Studies (DEIS).  DEIS currently offers a Master’s of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in which students can work directly on sustainability research projects.  In some contexts, “interdisciplinary studies” can be almost synonymous with “sustainability” in terms of research, policy or education. 

Multiple M.S. and Ph.D. programs in other departments on campus also offer sustainability-relevant graduate student degrees including, but not limited to, the Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Marine & Environmental Systems, Aeronautics, Psychology and Business.

Isn’t Sustainability mostly recycling and renewable energy?
These are two components among dozens within the larger realm of sustainability.  Sustainability also includes public policy, corporate social responsibility, and research into very diverse fields and job markets in science and industry, see Tables 1 and 2. 

What are international trends in university sustainability programs? 
In Europe, Asia and Latin America, there is consistent evidence of growing student and employer interest in sustainability degrees.  Dozens of existing or new degree programs at the bachelor’s level exist in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.   The number of such degrees is increasing in most major regions.

Who can I contact for more information on sustainability at F.I.T.?
For more information, please contact:   

Department of Education and Interdisciplinary Studies, 150 F.I.T., W. University Blvd Melbourne, Florida 3290, (321) 674-8126 or email: sustainability@fit.edu

Office of Undergraduate Admission, F.I.T., 150 W. University Blvd Melbourne, Florida 32901, (321) 674-8030, (800) 888-4348 (Toll-free)  Email: admission@fit.edu


Careers in Sustainability, Arizona State Univ. School of Sustainability 
Much of the text and job categories/employers below are from ASU’s sustainability web site, we have annotated and added to several components.  Students with a sustainability degree have skills that apply to virtually any field or profession.  More advanced jobs often correlate with graduate degrees.  A science based sustainability degree is a strong platform for diverse graduate school programs.   Sustainability categories and employers include: 

  • Corporate Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility  (Dell, Nike, Coca-Cola, Intel)
  • Research and Development  (Argonne National Laboratory, NASA, Globescan)
  • NGO  (World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy)
  • Other Nonprofit  & Public Service (Global Reporting Initiative, Americorps, Peace Corps)
  • Certification and Standards Organizations  (UL Environment, LEED, Blue Angel)
  • Marketing/Media  (Greenbiz, Grist, 3BL, earth911, MSM)
  • Event Planning  (Opportunity Green)
  • Socially Responsible Investing  (Vanguard, Fidelity)
  • Consulting  - many specialized categories (Accenture, Green Order, SustainAbility)
  • Policy-makers and Federal Government (United Nations, US EPA, many other agencies)
  • State and Local Governments (many examples from city- through state-scale agencies)
  • Education at all Levels (teaching, research, operations)
  • Waste and Recycling  (Waste Management)
  • Defense and Military  (All services,, e.g., http://www.sustainability.army.mil/)
  • Food and Agriculture  (Roosevelt Row, local farmer’s markets, Whole Foods)
  • Sustainability Entrepreneurship (Carbon Roots, Ollie the Trolley, Beat Streat)

In addition, these broad sectors are often named in sustainability job listings:

  • Energy efficiency design and engineering
  • Energy efficiency financing 
  • Renewable and fossil fuel energy engineering
  • Risk management
  • Social and environmental accounting 
  • Coastal management
  • Carbon markets and trading
  • Greenhouse gas inventories

Table 1.  Lists of sustainability careers and industry positions from leading sources.  Information based on web searches for sustainability-related positions in mid-November, 2012.   


Corporate Social Responsibility Assist. Director Crowe Horwath Oak Brook, IL
Compliance Sustainability Lead Kaiser Permanente Aurora, CO
Corporate Social Responsibility Consultant International Consultancy
Kansas City, KS
Sustainability Manager
Home Depot Atlanta, GA
Corporate Social Responsibility Digital Manager
NBC New York, NY


Green Building Consultant Earth Advantage Institute Bend, OR
Senior Sustainability Specialist
Lululemon Hong Kong, China
Sustainability Analyst Grainger Lake Forest, IL
Program Manager
Partnership for Sustainability Springfield, MO
Environmental Project Manager Southern California Edison San Dimas, CA
Energy Coach Co-op Power
Boston, MA
Director, Sustainable Business Converse North Andover, MA
Environ. Sustainability Analyst
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
San Francisco, CA
Development and Events Manager Land Conservancy of New Jersey Boonton, NJ
Greening Facilitator
Reduction In Motion Baltimore, MD
Solar Operations & Maint. Analyst
Power Stream Vaughan, Ontario
Manager, Renewable Generation Power Stream Vaughan, Ontario
Communications Director US DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency
Washington, D.C.
Energy Specialist Evergreen Consulting Group LLC Eugene, OR
Inspection Representative Verengo Solar Fresno, CA
Senior Network Engineer Conservation Services Group Westborough, MA
Residential Energy Auditor Ecova Seattle, WA
Supervisor: Water Conservation Mile High Youth Corps Denver, CO
Campaigns Director
ForestEthics Advocacy Vancouver, BC


Forbes List of Six-Figure Green Jobs

  1. Chief Sustainability Officer (Chief Environmental Officer/ Chief Green Officer)
  2. Environmental Lawyer
  3. Environmental Engineer
  4. Climatologist/Environmental Meteorologist
  5. Renewable Energy Manager
  6. Environmental Specialist/Scientist
  7. Senior Urban Planner
  8. Commercial/Industrial Designer
  9. Conservation Scientist
  10. Senior Hydrologist

Additional information on careers in sustainability can be found at: LearnHowtoBecome - Green Careers & Sustainability Degrees - Careers