Will Your Major Impact Your Ability to Get A Career in Sustainability?

career advice education Nov 03, 2022

This may not come as a surprise, but as a sustainability training and education provider, we talk to a lot of college students. Two of the most common questions we get are which major should I choose if I want a career in sustainability?” or “will my major impact my ability to have a career in sustainability?

Our favorite (and yes, predictable) answer - it depends! If you’re a student reading this and asking either of these questions, let's break down how your college major might have an impact on your sustainability career.

Why do we say “it depends?” Your major can impact your ability to get a career in sustainability, to an extent. For example, if you’re really passionate about reducing chemical impacts throughout the supply chain, it would probably serve you well to receive a major in some form of chemistry. If you’re dedicated to accelerating regenerative agriculture, you’ll likely want to explore majors connected to biology, agriculture sciences, or even horticulture. 

You get the drift - if you want to focus on one specific area of sustainability or one key impact area, then you might need to put a little more consideration into which major you choose. However, you can always change your mind too! We’ll get into this more in a sec, but your major doesn’t necessarily lock you into one career path.

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to focus on one impact area, but you want to work on making brands or an industry more sustainable, you have a little more flexibility in which major you choose. Business, Communications, Economics, Marketing, and more are all great majors that can apply to a number of sustainability functions.

In my case, I knew I didn’t want to focus on just one area of sustainability. Instead, I wanted to work with brands to help them better communicate sustainability to customers and other stakeholders. I received my Bachelor’s in Communications and since graduating, I’ve expanded beyond communicating sustainability to customers. Over the past year, I’ve been helping Derek explain a wide variety of sustainability topics to the people who work in the brands we know and love. Sometimes your major can help as a jumping-off point, but as your skills and passion develop, something totally new can come out of it. 

Derek’s sustainability and education journey also didn’t follow one linear path. In fact, Derek thought he wanted to be an architect, but ended up at UC Irvine enrolled in the Civil Engineering program. About 2 years in, after realizing it definitely wasn’t a good fit, he switched his major to Studio Art (I know, right!?). Right out of college, Derek landed his entry job at Volcom (in the apparel industry) and eventually went back for his MBA. His path to a career in sustainability was a bit of a long and winding one :)

As I mentioned above, whatever major you choose doesn’t mean you’re locked into one type of career. If you graduate and find that you’re not interested in that field anymore, you can go a number of different routes. 

One possible way is to go back to school and receive a graduate degree (see above :). This may not be for everyone and we certainly don’t want to encourage anyone to take on a financial burden they may not be prepared for but talk to your current employer or even prospective employers; maybe they’d be willing to help!? The benefit of receiving a graduate degree is that you can try a new area of study that will spark your curiosity and passion. 

Another possible path is to enroll in different certification programs. Ours is one program that offers our own proprietary sustainability certificate of completion, but you can also find sustainability classes through community colleges. These are affordable options that can help you find what area you may be interested in exploring more.

Perhaps most importantly, and the cheapest option of all is to simply keep learning! Watch movies or YouTube videos, read books and articles, and connect with industry experts - there are a ton of free channels, blogs, newsletters, etc. to get great sustainability content, so make sure you dive in. You can always check out our YouTube channel for sustainability must-knows, product reviews, and more.  

Long story short, your education career and sustainability journey don’t have to be fixed. Embrace the rollercoaster and have fun! Things may not turn out how you originally imagined, but they could be so much better than you possibly thought. Whatever path you choose, we’re here to help. Reach out to us at [email protected] with your questions or connect with us on LinkedIn or Instagram.



#keeplearning #students #college #sustainability

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