Can you hear the eco?

A beginner’s guide to master-level sustainability programs

by Josh Dehaas

Walmart Stores/Flickr

From the Maclean’s Professional Schools Issue.

Many will tell you that they have their M.E.S., but pay close attention because those three letters can mean master of environment and sustainability or master of environmental studies, by which they likely don’t mean master of environmental science, which tends to be denoted by the letters M.Sc. Adding to the confusion are programs with a special focus, such as business, IT or energy. Even degrees with the same name can be very different, so it’s best to research each one. Here’s a sampling to get you started:

Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)
University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

This is a one-year interdisciplinary program that is course-based. Students get an overview of management, ecosystems and engineering before doing co-op terms at government agencies, consulting firms and at companies like Magna and Bank of Nova Scotia. Most graduates go straight to industry.

Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

This is an interdisciplinary two-year program, including summers. It’s thesis-based, and students do research instead of work terms. Some graduates go on to doctorate programs; others find jobs in industry.

Master of Environmental Studies (M.E.S.)
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.

There’s a thesis-based option (24 months) and a course-based option (20 months). Students get a stipend and work as research and teaching assistants, including during summers. Of 24 recent graduates, 12 landed in the public sector, seven in private industry and five back at school.

Master of Environment And Business (M.E.B.)
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont.

This is a part-time program over three years that’s like an M.B.A. but with a sustainability focus. It requires three years of industry experience (co-op jobs count). Most of its 10 courses are delivered online after a two-week residency in Waterloo at the outset.

Master of Environmental assessment (M.Env.)
Concordia University, Montreal

This is a course-based program with an internship (most are paid) that prepares students to do assessments for government or industry. It typically takes 1½ or two years. Applicants are required to have a strong background in physical geography, biology and geographical information systems.

Master of Resource and Environmental management (M.R.E.M.)
Dalhousie University, Halifax

This 16-month program includes an internship. It trains graduates in the biophysical and socio-political aspects of environmental management. Those planning to work in information management for environmental agencies can combine it with a master of library and information studies.

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