I’m going to be honest, Curious Earthers. This article was written for completely selfish reasons. I am exploring the formal education options available to me at this point in my climate-focused career, and I’ve used this article as an excuse to do the research. Hopefully, the rationalisation that if I have a need for an article like this, there are bound to be others with the same need, redeems me.

Here’s where I am at (if you’re here too, welcome). 

I am about 5 years into my career in sustainability. I’ve come this far with just the knowledge and experience I’ve built up along the way; that’s to say, I didn’t study anything relevant to sustainability. I got into it because I hounded my past manager on LinkedIn until he gave me a job (shout out to Mark. Legend). 

Then, I learnt on the job. I leant on the knowledge of the experts I was lucky enough to come into close contact with. I also winged some of it. This combination got me to where I am today, and I’m proud of how much I’ve learnt and grown. But – there’s always more to learn. And recently I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time to get some formal climate-related education under my belt. To help me do my job better and be a better climate activator… To help me advance to the next stage of my career… To silence that imposter syndrome. 

If this is resonating, then this article is as much for you as it is for me. Before we jump into the list of courses I’ve compiled, there are a few criteria I used that you should know about:

  • I’ve focused on courses that can be done part-time, because I don’t want to have to leave my current role and I think that’s the only way I could afford to do it anyway.
  • I’ve chosen ones that can be done completely online or that offer distance learning, because I like the flexibility it affords.
  • I’ve gone broad and specific – some of the courses would give you a good overview of the entire sustainability landscape, some focus on specific aspects of the challenge. I’ve not yet decided which would be more valuable to me, so ‘a wide spread’ it is. 
  • I’ve looked as a UK citizen. Some of these courses require you to prove your knowledge of English, and they cost more if you are not a UK citizen.

Without further ado – I’ve certainly rambled enough – here are the 7 sustainability postgraduate programs and short courses that I think would boost a career in climate.

Open University – MSc in Environmental Management

Examine current local and global concerns in environmental protection, legislation and policy, and resource management. Develop the skills and experience needed to improve environmental performance in any sector.

WhereDistance learning (you can study from anywhere). “Your study will either be entirely online or a combination of online and printed module materials and practice-based learning.”
Length3 years
Commitment16–20 hours per week
Application deadlineRegister by 4 April 2024 for a May 2024 start
Certified/accredited byChartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and Institute of Environmental Management &Assessment (IEMA)
Course convener(s)Not clear
Entry requirementsUK honours degree (or equivalent) in a science or engineering discipline, or appropriate experience.
Key takeawaysBuilds the necessary skills to effectively tackle environmental challenges.
A choice of professional or research routes.
Provides a rigorous approach to solving complex real-world problems
NotesYou can take the first third of this Masters and receive a ‘Postgraduate Certificate in Environmental Management’, which will take 1 year to complete.
Open University (OU) offers access to a database of over 600 non-OU funding bodies offering grants for postgraduate students studying or looking to study, a masters, PGCE or research degree.

MLA College – MSc Global Sustainable Development

MLA has a partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). This course helps you to develop a shared vocabulary and set of ideas around sustainability, as well as the ability to analyse, interrogate and debate an expansive range of relevant topics.

WhereDistance learning (you can study from anywhere).
Length30 months
Application deadlineTerms start in January, May and September each year. The deadline for May 2024 applications is Monday 22nd April 2024 however this can be extended if required.  
Certified/accredited byUniversity of Plymouth
Course convener(s)Dr. Paul Wright
Entry requirementsGCSE English Grade C or above, or equivalent for international students. 
And one of the following: A Higher National Diploma / Foundation Degree (HND/FdSc) in a relevant subject and 2+ years of work experience at a senior officer level. A relevant Bachelor’s degree. Significant work experience at a senior level.
Key takeawaysThe course aims to:
Offer a thorough and critical understanding of sustainable development, with a specific emphasis on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Learn how sustainability is perceived and practiced across the globe and across different sectors.
Evaluate the role of individuals, communities and organisations in delivering sustainable development.
NotesThis course is available for full-time study too, which would take 12 months to complete.

University of Cambridge – Business Sustainability Management Online Short Course 

Broaden your understanding of sustainability by exploring its applications in different organisations, industries, and practices. Develop the skills, confidence, and network to lead change around you.

Length8 weeks
Commitment8 – 12 hours per week
Application deadline23 April 2024 to start 1 May
Certified/accredited byUnited Kingdom CPD Certification Service
Course convenerMartin Roberts, Director of Digital Learning, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
Entry requirementsThey don’t list any specific requirements. This is what they do say: “This online short course is aimed at professionals from all fields, whether you’re in an organisation looking to incorporate sustainability practices, or are an entrepreneur wanting to start a business and understand more about the role and importance of sustainability in your operations.”
Key takeawaysGain insight into how today’s global economic, social, and environmental challenges affect businesses worldwide.
Develop a strategic roadmap to incorporate sustainability throughout your organisation’s’s entire value chain.
Build the skills and knowledge required to implement design, innovation, and leadership strategies effectively within your team or organisation.
NotesSustainable Business and Finance bundle’, ‘Sustainable Business Operations bundle, and ‘Sustainable Marketing and Communication Strategy bundle’ are available. This means you can sign up for two courses at a reduced rate and at dates of your choosing.

Open University – Postgraduate Diploma in Global Development

Develop a foundational understanding of the issues, approaches and key theories that shape modern global development and the challenges faced by society today.

WhereDistance learning
Length2 years
Commitment16 – 18 hours per week
Application deadlineNot clear for 2024, however 2023 deadline for October start was 14 September 
Certified/accredited byChartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and Institute of Environmental Management &Assessment (IEMA)
Course convenerUnclear
Entry requirementsUK bachelors degree (or equivalent) recommended, or have had experience of working in a development-related agency (international or local)
Key takeawaysExplore the global context and nature of modern development issues.
Study a conceptual framework for making sense of development.
Use this framework to examine six major issues: migration, socio-economic security, environmental sustainability, technological innovation, the global politics of development, and the politics of doing development.
NotesOU offers access to a database ofover 600 non-OU funding bodiesoffering grants for postgraduatestudents studying or lookingto study, a masters, PGCE orresearch degree.

Cambridge University – Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (PCSB)

This course offers a broad perspective on integrating sustainability into business practices. It attracts individuals who aspire to deliver system-level change within and beyond their immediate organisational boundaries. 

WhereMostly online, however there are 2 four-day residential workshops in Cambridge
Length9 months
Commitment8 hours per week
Application deadlineApplications open in September 2024 for 2025 entry
Certified/accredited byUniversity of Cambridge
Course convenerUnclear
Entry requirementsThey welcome applications from: mainstream business roles from all business functions, social/environmental/CSR/sustainability specialists, entrepreneurs and founders or managers of SMEs, those working in the not-for-profit and government sectors that are involved with, or interested in gaining exposure to, sustainability in a business context.
Key takeawaysThere are two streams to choose from on this course: organisational stream or value chain stream. Each has different takeaways but the overarching objective is to strengthen leadership skills so that sustainability can be embedded into organisations.
NotesEquivalent to one third of a masters degree

Oxford University’s Various Short Courses

The Future of Sustainable Business: Enterprise and the Environment

Explore the emerging tools to facilitate leadership in the creation of a positive future.

  • Course leads: Dr Caitlin McElroy and Dr Laurence Wainwright
  • Key takeaways:
    • Examine the impacts of unsustainable development and climate change through the lens of different organisations and global perspectives
    • Be exposed to cutting edge thinking on the finance, technologies, economic systems and policies being used to accelerate a green transition.
    • Learn to navigate the numerous conflicting objectives that a sustainable business strategy demands.

Sustainable Finance: ESG and the Future of Finance

Develop a foundational understanding of how financial institutions, capital, equity and debt markets function, and learn about Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and the future of finance. 

  • Course lead: Dr Ben Caldecott
  • Key takeaways:
    • Explore key theories within sustainable finance.
    • Examine the relationship between technological innovation, finance, and the global climate and SDGs.
    • Analyse the role of public policy in sustainable finance and explore how policies, regulations and supervisory expectations surrounding sustainable finance are evolving globally.
    • Explore the challenges, risks and opportunities of striving for positive environmental and social impacts through finance.

Law and Sustainability: Tackling Global Environmental Challenges

Learn to use the law as a tool to catalyse the green transition.

  • Course lead: Dr Aisha Saad
  • Key takeaways
    • Examine how law can be used to address and prevent sustainability challenges.
    • Examine the relationships between science and the law.
    • Gain insight into the legal principles and frameworks governing environmental sustainability, including a comprehensive understanding of key international treaties aimed at tackling sustainability challenges.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Gain the skills and knowledge needed to implement sustainable cooling solutions and drive the transition towards a more positive future for people and the planet.

  • Course leader: Dr Radhika Khosla
  • Key takeaways
    • Learn about the science behind rising temperatures.
    • Examine the links between heat, health and productivity, as well as the social and economic implications of extreme heat.
    • Discover infrastructure design and cooling technologies. 
    • Consider strategies for delivering cooling effectively. 
    • Develop a Heat Resilience Plan suited to your own situation, organisation or location.
Length8 weeks
Commitment3 – 5 hours per week
Application deadline1 day before the start of course. Intakes are February, May, August, October (2024).
Certified/accredited byThe University of Oxford and CPD UK
Entry requirementsNo specific entry requirements for any of these programmes.

Creatives for Climate – The Greenwash Watch

This course helps you spot and address greenwashing, and build and tell the world about credible sustainability strategies. 

WhereOnline (on-demand or live)
Length6 weeks (on demand), 8 weeks (live)
Cost£170 (on demand), £470 (live)
Commitment56 lessons spread over 8 sections
Application deadlineNo application. Cohorts for live course start in July and October
Certified/accredited byCreatives for Climate
Course convener(s)Gill Wilson, Alex Weller, Isabel Crabtree Condor, Ioannis Ioannou, Christian Smith, Lucy Von Strumer, Chacho Puebla, Samuel Gosschalk, Anna Öhrling, Rick Evens
Entry requirementsOpen to all
Key takeawaysWhat is sustainability and why does it matter? The pitch: selling the business case. The pitch: tackling greenwashing. The project: the planet. The project: the people. The project: the profit. Bridging the sustainability gap with clients.
Notes22 scholarships (50% off the live course) are available for EU residents.

That marks the end of my list. There are a lot more courses out there, covering so many interesting topics. This list should be used as a jumping off point for your own research, and nothing more. 

Before I close off, this wouldn’t be a Curious Earth article without sharing a few ‘Be Curious’ ideas. 

Be curious!

  • We once wrote an article on the impact that educating women would have on global warming. If you’re going to invest in furthering your education, consider doing something to support a vulnerable girl or woman to do the same. Check out CAMFED for more.
  • Open University offers free Nature & Environment courses, ranging from 2 – 24hrs. These are a great, low commitment way to boost your eco knowledge.
  • This episode of The Imposter Syndrome Files explores the constant need that so many of us feel to prove ourselves, particularly at work. Have a listen to boost your belief in yourself and how much you already know!

Featured image by Jaeyoung Geoffrey Kang, via Unsplash