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How a degree in sustainability management launched my career

By Chloe Lane

Updated November 23, 2021 Updated November 23, 2021

How could a degree in sustainability management help you? TopUniversities spoke to Josh Kaplan, a manager with the education program at Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), to find out how the master’s degree helped him in his sustainability career. 

Sponsored by Kogod School of Business 

A sustainability management degree gives students the skills they need to help overcome some of the most challenging environmental issues faced by companies today. Not only will the programme help you build a solid foundation in business, but you’ll also learn how to create change by helping companies implement sustainable practices. 

Josh Kaplan studied his master’s in sustainability management at American University’s Kogod School of Business. 

Today, Josh is a manager of the education program at the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA). In his role, Josh works with energy and sustainability managers from large organisations to help them better understand the clean energy market and how their organisations can utilise clean energy. 

TopUniversities spoke to Josh to find out how he used his master’s degree in sustainability management to leverage his career in renewable energy.  

Building an interest in sustainability 

Josh’s interest in renewable energy began as an undergraduate when he undertook an environmental studies degree at American University in Washington, DC: the US’s first carbon-neutral university. 

While studying, he was offered an internship at American University’s Office of Sustainability—which was later turned into a full-time role. This internship played a key part in developing Josh’s interest in sustainability. 

“I really began to understand what it meant for an organisation to change the way it operates to align with ambitious climate and sustainability targets,” he said. 

While working in the Office of Sustainability, Josh had the chance to contribute to the Capital Partners Solar Project, a 52-megawatt solar project in North Carolina from which American University received 50 percent of their electricity. This project played an integral part in American University becoming completely carbon neutral. 

“This project really opened my eyes to the transformative power that institutions like AU can have and really helped set me on the journey that led to my current role with REBA,” said Josh. 

Enrolling in a master’s in sustainability management 

When Josh later enrolled in the Kogod School of Business’s master’s in sustainability management programme, he continued working as a sustainability outreach specialist at the school’s Office of Sustainability.  

“The degree allowed me to build on what I was doing in my day job and build a strong background in organisational management,” said Josh. 

By studying at a sustainability-focused university, Josh gained the functional business knowledge he needed to expand in his career while also learning how to contribute to the transformational change needed to create a sustainable future.  

It became clear to Josh that sustainability is important across every industry and in every part of business.  

“It seemed natural how Kogod incorporated sustainability into nearly every module: not just ones designed specifically for the MSc program, but also the modules we shared with MBA students and other specialised master’s programs,” said Josh. 

Learning from colleagues and faculty members 

Like Josh, a large number of graduates in the sustainability management programme had prior professional experience working in industry, with the average student in the degree programme having two and a half years’ work experience.  

 “This led to incredible discussions where you could learn something from nearly everyone around you,” said Josh. 

While studying at the Kogod School of Business, Josh enjoyed the small class sizes—no larger than 20 students—and the real-world expertise brought in from faculty members and guest speakers. Kogod’s prime location in Washington, DC, meant that impressive speakers from many different industries would give talks directly to students. 

“I feel like I came out of school not only having learned ideas and concepts, but also having gained practical skills and a deep Rolodex of peers, colleagues, and practitioners. This community is one that I deeply value being a part of even several years and professional roles later,” he said. 

A diverse career path 

Between finishing his master’s degree and starting his current job at REBA, Josh has taken on several different sustainability-focused roles in a variety of companies.  

“As we face unprecedented crises like climate change, every facet of society and every individual has an important role in ensuring that we come out the other side having minimised harm, being better than we were before,” he said. 

Working in the field of sustainability and renewable energy feels like a huge privilege to Josh, who hopes that one day every job will be focused on sustainability.  

He said,“Being able to witness the impact my work has across so many different sectors and organisations is a huge part of what motivates me to work in this field.” 

Josh has used the skills and knowledge from his studies to progress his career in renewable energy, noting that he was particularly grateful for the finance modules. 

He said, “The finance modules helped give me a leg up when trying to understand what makes clean energy projects possible and of the many valuable benefits they can provide.  

“They taught me how organisations communicate that value to internal stakeholders and decision-makers.” 

This article was originally published in November 2021 .

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Written by

As Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Chloe creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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