Sustainable Systems Master of Science Degree

Develop a comprehensive understanding of the many facets of sustainability. In as little as one year, this sustainability degree will teach to you apply sustainability science principles to any field to help solve the world’s grand challenges—including pollution, food scarcity, public health crises, and more.


100%

Outcome Rate of RIT Graduates


Overview

The sustainable systems MS degree accepts students from any academic background and encompasses a wide range of interdisciplinary studies in sustainability science. Here, you won’t be restricted to one sustainability topic or methodology. You will comprehensively learn and experience the methods that lead to environmental, social, technological, and business success, working one-on-one with a faculty advisor to tailor the degree to your sustainability interests.

RIT's Sustainable Degree

In the sustainable systems MS, you will start with a broad foundation of knowledge in environmental life cycle assessment, sustainable decision making, economic and policy strategies, and more. Then, you will have the opportunity to customize your degree in areas that suit your interests and career goals—such as renewable energy or mobility—as well as get the hands-on experience that employers are seeking. In as little as one year of study, you will be prepared to make sustainability decisions that you can apply to any career.

Not only will you be able to focus on an area that interests you, but you will be able to get hands-on in your projects with the use of one of our many labs or through design modeling tools. This degree allows you the flexibility to adapt your career over time and in response to the ever-changing developments in sustainability. The Golisano Institute for Sustainability is dedicated to groundbreaking sustainability research and its business applications. Our research facilities are second to none, and include a number of green buildings including Sustainability Institute Hall, a 75,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum-certified research building and multiple state-of-the-art research centers.

You don’t need a background in sustainability to apply to this program; just a desire to create positive change in the world. We accept applicants of all ages, from all backgrounds—from mechanical engineering to political science—and from all over the world. This ensures your learning experience comes from the classroom as well as from the perspectives of students with diverse experiences.

Sustainability Curriculum

Through a flexible and interdisciplinary curriculum, you’ll begin your degree in sustainable systems with core courses in industrial ecology, risk assessment, the economics of sustainability, and more. Several electives from across the university–in areas as diverse as from sustainable craft brewing and distilling to corporate social responsibility–allow you to tailor your degree around your talents and career goals.

Your degree culminates with a research thesis or a capstone project. Recent thesis examples include:

Sustainability Topics/Tracks

Sustainable Energy

  • Sustainable Energy Systems
  • Food-Energy-Water Nexus
  • Energy Policy

Example research project: Inspection of wind turbine blades with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Circular Economy

  • Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Data Analysis for Sustainability
  • Innovation Policy
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Example research project: Assessing a baseline case for reaching carbon neutrality in Monroe County by 2027

Sustainable Urban Systems

  • Sustainable Mobility Systems
  • Graduate Sustainable Communities
  • Sustainable Building Metrics

Example research project: Evaluating strategies for sustainable renovation of RIT campus buildings

Careers in Sustainability

Graduates of the sustainable systems MS have a 100 percent placement rate, in part because of RIT’s dedication to career counseling and ongoing relationships with employers. This means that all of our graduates gain employment or choose to further their education shortly after graduating. And If you’re interested in pursuing a career more focused on academia or research, the master’s degree is also an excellent stepping stone to a doctoral program, such as RIT’s Ph.D. in sustainability, if you take the route of completing a thesis while here.

Sustainability Resources: RIT Advances Global Sustainability

Partnering locally and internationally with the communities in which we are engaged, RIT is continuing to advance sustainability efforts and build resiliency at home and around the world. Rochester, NY, is a hub for sustainability professionals and home to rich natural resources, such as fertile farmland and the nearby Finger Lakes. Many of our students share their passion for sustainability with the local community by volunteering on projects connected to K-12 education, community gardens, farmer’s markets, and more. In addition, you will connect with the global sustainability community by attending and presenting at professional conferences all over the world.

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Careers and Salary Info

Typical Job Titles

Associate Engineer - Energy Efficiency Clean Power and Industrial Efficiency Project Engineer
Energy and Sustainability Engineer Health Care Information Analyst
Solutions Engineer Sustainability Analyst
US Power Analyst

Salary and Career Information for Sustainable Systems MS

Curriculum for Sustainable Systems MS

Sustainable Systems (capstone option), MS degree, typical course sequence (semesters)

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
ISUS-702
Fundamentals of Sustainability Science
This course prepares students to conduct original research related to sustainable production and consumption systems and apply the scientific method in an integrative, team-based approach to graduate research. This course introduces the fundamental concepts of industrial ecology, ecological economics, ecosystem health and social ecology that are essential to understanding the interaction of industrial and ecological systems. Successful students will understand multiple perspectives on sustainability such as strong and weak formulations, the importance of sustainability as an ethical concept and a life-cycle approach to organizing research related to sustainability. It is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-704
Industrial Ecology
Industrial ecology is the study of the interaction between industrial and ecological systems. Students in this course learn to assess the impact and interrelations of production systems on the natural environment by mastering fundamental concepts of ecology as a metaphor for industrial systems and the resultant tools from industrial ecology, including life cycle assessment, material flow analysis, and energy and greenhouse gas accounting. This is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-706
Economics of Sustainable Systems
The goal of this course is to introduce students to economic concepts and analysis pertaining to sustainable systems. This course offers a nontechnical introduction, but based on rigorous economic reasoning. Additionally, a thorough treatment of models relevant to each topic is provided. The over-arching goal is for students to gain an appreciation for the logic of economic reasoning while teaching economics as it pertains to sustainable systems. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-780
Capstone
An independent project in sustainability serving as a capstone experience for students completing the non-thesis option. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor. Lecture (Fall, Spring, Summer).
6
ISUS-806
Risk Analysis
This course examines risk identification, quantification, and management from the standpoint of the three key components of sustainability science (economics, environment, and society). Economic subjects include cost-benefit analysis, value of information, time value of money, basic decision analysis, value functions, monetizing challenges for ecosystem services, and sustainability risk management. Environmental subjects include toxicological perspectives such as fate and transport and dose-response relationships including an overview of EPA's current practice. Policy and societal subjects include utility theory and lotteries, risk perception, ethical issues in risk quantification, and impact statements. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-808
Multicriteria Sustainable Systems
This class will explore how decisions are made when confronted with multiple, often conflicting, criteria or constraints. The focus will be on the following analytical methods: linear and stochastic programming, optimization, and Monte Carlo simulation. Case studies will focus on sustainability multi-criteria problems such as energy planning, sustainable development, resource management, and recycling. Students will apply methods learned to a project involving their dissertation research. Lecture 3 (Spring).
3
PUBL-810
Technology, Policy and Sustainability (or approved substitute)
This course introduces students to public policy and its role in building a sustainable society. The course places particular emphasis on the policy process; the relationship among technology, policy, and the environment; and policy mechanisms for addressing market and government failures that threaten sustainability. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
3
 
Electives
6
Total Semester Credit Hours
30

 

Sustainable Systems (thesis option), MS degree, typical course sequence (semesters)

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
ISUS-702
Fundamentals of Sustainability Science
This course prepares students to conduct original research related to sustainable production and consumption systems and apply the scientific method in an integrative, team-based approach to graduate research. This course introduces the fundamental concepts of industrial ecology, ecological economics, ecosystem health and social ecology that are essential to understanding the interaction of industrial and ecological systems. Successful students will understand multiple perspectives on sustainability such as strong and weak formulations, the importance of sustainability as an ethical concept and a life-cycle approach to organizing research related to sustainability. It is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-704
Industrial Ecology
Industrial ecology is the study of the interaction between industrial and ecological systems. Students in this course learn to assess the impact and interrelations of production systems on the natural environment by mastering fundamental concepts of ecology as a metaphor for industrial systems and the resultant tools from industrial ecology, including life cycle assessment, material flow analysis, and energy and greenhouse gas accounting. This is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-706
Economics of Sustainable Systems
The goal of this course is to introduce students to economic concepts and analysis pertaining to sustainable systems. This course offers a nontechnical introduction, but based on rigorous economic reasoning. Additionally, a thorough treatment of models relevant to each topic is provided. The over-arching goal is for students to gain an appreciation for the logic of economic reasoning while teaching economics as it pertains to sustainable systems. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-806
Risk Analysis
This course examines risk identification, quantification, and management from the standpoint of the three key components of sustainability science (economics, environment, and society). Economic subjects include cost-benefit analysis, value of information, time value of money, basic decision analysis, value functions, monetizing challenges for ecosystem services, and sustainability risk management. Environmental subjects include toxicological perspectives such as fate and transport and dose-response relationships including an overview of EPA's current practice. Policy and societal subjects include utility theory and lotteries, risk perception, ethical issues in risk quantification, and impact statements. Lecture 3 (Fall).
3
ISUS-808
Multicriteria Sustainable Systems
This class will explore how decisions are made when confronted with multiple, often conflicting, criteria or constraints. The focus will be on the following analytical methods: linear and stochastic programming, optimization, and Monte Carlo simulation. Case studies will focus on sustainability multi-criteria problems such as energy planning, sustainable development, resource management, and recycling. Students will apply methods learned to a project involving their dissertation research. Lecture 3 (Spring).
3
 
Elective
3
Second Year
ISUS-790
Thesis
Independent research in sustainability leading to the completion of the MS thesis. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor. Thesis (Fall, Spring, Summer).
6
PUBL-810
Technology, Policy and Sustainability (or approved substitute)
This course introduces students to public policy and its role in building a sustainable society. The course places particular emphasis on the policy process; the relationship among technology, policy, and the environment; and policy mechanisms for addressing market and government failures that threaten sustainability. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
3
 
Elective
3
Total Semester Credit Hours
30

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in sustainable systems, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete an online graduate application. Refer to Graduate Admission Deadlines and Requirements for information on application deadlines, entry terms, and more.
  • Submit copies of official transcript(s) (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work, including any transfer credit earned.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or US equivalent) from an accredited university or college.
  • Recommended minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent).
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Two letters of recommendation are required. Refer to Application Instructions and Requirements for additional information.
  • Not all programs require the submission of scores from entrance exams (GMAT or GRE). Please refer to the Graduate Admission Deadlines and Requirements page for more information.
  • Submit a writing sample, of which you are the sole author, which should be a report or paper from previous academic or professional work that reflects your critical thinking and writing abilities.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives. Refer to Application Instructions and Requirements for additional information.
  • Have completed at least two science courses, one calculus course, and one statistics course.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit official test scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. Students below the minimum requirement may be considered for conditional admission. Refer to Graduate Admission Deadlines and Requirements for additional information on English language requirements. International applicants may be considered for an English test requirement waiver. Refer to the English Language Test Scores section within Graduate Application Materials to review waiver eligibility.

Non-matriculated Students

An applicant with a bachelor’s degree from an approved undergraduate institution and the appropriate background is permitted to take graduate courses as a non-matriculated student. If the student is subsequently admitted to the graduate program, a limited number of credit hours from courses taken at RIT as a non-matriculated student can be transferred to the degree program. Any applicant who wishes to register for a graduate course as a non-matriculated student must obtain permission from the chair of the graduate program and the course instructor.

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