Sustainability Educator

Sustainability Educators are university or college professors who research and teach specialized topics in sustainability. In order to qualify for this role, Sustainability Educators must demonstrate high levels of education and experience: the vast majority of these professionals have post-graduate degrees and at least eight years of professional experience. Similar to Sustainability Researchers, Sustainability Educators act as thought-leaders and innovators for the theory, practice and research behind sustainability. These practitioners spend many years learning about key sustainability factors, including environmental, social, cultural, political, economic and ethical issues. While Sustainability Educators must develop extensive knowledge about diverse sustainability topics, they also need to communicate this expertise clearly and effectively to post-secondary students. In fact, this opportunity to educate the next generation of sustainability professionals is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of a career as a Sustainability Educator.

At a Glance

Imagine yourself standing at the front of a lecture hall, facing a room full of third-year students in an Environmental Studies program. During the past few weeks of this new semester, you’ve been teaching a course on the different factors associated with sustainable development in developed and developing countries, such as resource allocation, political systems and economic growth. In today’s class, you’re presenting a case study of a rural Canadian community in which connecting with diverse community stakeholders was critical to the success of a new recycling program.

The class listens attentively as you talk excitedly about the topic – your enthusiasm and passion for sustainable development is clearly contagious. Later this afternoon, you’ll finish marking last week’s term papers. For the assignment, students needed to identify a successful sustainability project in a specific country and outline the key factors for the project’s success. Once the marking is done, you’ll continue reading through a new research report about incorporating indigenous perspectives in sustainable development planning. You finish your day with a deep sense of satisfaction. The work you do ensures that the next generation of sustainability practitioners have the skills and knowledge they’ll need to make a positive difference for communities, businesses, and governments.

Job Duties

For many Sustainability Educators, a typical day might involve:

  • Developing lesson plans, assignments and course schedules for post-secondary classes.
  • Teaching college, university or continuing education students.
  • Monitoring and supervising graduate students as they conduct sustainability-related research projects.
  • Serving on a faculty committee to review program objectives, plans and budgets.
  • Providing expert advice to the media, governments and businesses on sustainability issues.
  • Conducting literature reviews of relevant research in journals, reports, books and industry magazines.
  • Writing research reports and articles for publication in academic journals, books and magazines.
  • Leading your own research projects on specific sustainability topics, such as case-studies of sustainable development in particular regions or communities.

Work Environment

In their day-to-day work, Sustainability Educators spend their time:

In the classroom and office:

  • Teaching courses.
  • Preparing lesson plans.
  • Reading online and print resources of recent research on sustainability issues.
  • Performing administrative duties related to managing faculties, departments and committees.

In the field:

  • Meeting industry and government stakeholders.
  • Conducting research on the ecological or environmental aspects of sustainability, such as site assessments or monitoring.
  • Supervising graduate students as they conduct research projects in the field.

Where to Work

Most Sustainability Educators work in these settings:

  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Technical schools
  • Federal, provincial/territorial or municipal governments
  • Private businesses (as consultants)

Education and Skills

The minimum educational requirement for a career as a post-secondary Sustainability Educator is usually a Ph.D. In addition to this degree, Sustainability Educators must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and the capacity to contribute important innovations to their field. For tenured (permanent) positions, Sustainability Educators need a minimum of five years of full-time work experience. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a Sustainability Educator, consider taking classes related to:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Public Policy Development and Administration (with a focus on sustainability)
  • Ethics (with a focus on environmental ethics)
  • Political Science
  • Economics
  • Urban Planning
  • Development Studies
  • International Relations

Role Models

Your Impact

Occupational Classification

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