Jul 24, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Sustainability (M.S.)

Program Overview

Sustainability is an interdisciplinary field of study. Sustainability is often described as having three pillars: environmental sustainability, social sustainability, and economic sustainability. USD’s faculty has expertise in all three areas in the Department of Sustainability and Environment and others including environmental sustainability expertise through departments of biology and chemistry; social sustainability expertise through departments of political science, sociology, anthropology and philosophy; and economic sustainability through the Beacom School of Business. USD is the second university in the U.S. to offer sustainability degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. levels. The M.S. in sustainability prepares students for careers in the areas of sustainable practices, natural resource management, renewable energy, community planning and non-governmental organizations focused on sustainable development and education.  Learn more at usd.edu/sustainability.

DELIVERY: On campus

Master of Science, Sustainability (Thesis): Total 30 credit hours

Master of Science, Sustainability (Non-thesis): Total 32 credit hours


Students will select elective courses from existing graduate-level courses with approval from the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Director. At least 50% of the total credits must be at the 700-level or above.

Accelerated Master’s Program: Baccalaureate/M.S.

Up to 12 graduate credits applied toward the baccalaureate degree, may be used toward the M.S. in sustainability. 

The following restrictions apply:

  1. Dual-listed courses taken at the 500-level can be applied to both the B.A./B.S. and M.S. degrees.  Dual-listed courses must be taken at the 500-level.
  2. The student must apply to, and be admitted to, the accelerated program prior to taking courses to be credited toward the accelerated program.
  3. No courses taken prior to admission to the accelerated program may be counted toward an accelerated graduate degree.
  4. Courses that are “double counted” must be approved by the program coordinator for inclusion in the program of study prior to taking the courses or the credits will not be applied toward the accelerated graduate degree.
  5. Only courses taken from USD are eligible for dual credit.

Concurrent Graduate Degrees

Students can undertake concurrent graduate degrees at the University of South Dakota. Up to 12 graduate credits may be shared between two graduate programs, with the approval of Graduate Program Directors/Coordinators and the student’s advisors. In order to undertake concurrent graduate degrees a student must separately apply to, and be admitted to, both programs.   

Concurrent graduate degrees may be particularly valuable for students in an interdisciplinary program like sustainability, and the sustainability program supports this option. Several degree combinations have been pre-approved by the participating programs in order to facilitate students wishing to undertake these degrees concurrently. Students interested in pursuing other concurrent degree combinations should discuss them with the Graduate Program Director and their advisor.   

The pre-approved concurrent degree combinations are: 

General Application Requirements

  1. Completed application
  2. $35 application fee
  3. Official transcripts*
  4. Letters of recommendation*
  5. Statement of purpose
  6. Resume/CV*

*Requirements for admission vary by program and may require different documentation and have different deadlines. This list is not all-inclusive, to view specific program requirements and submission deadlines, follow the “Admissions Information” hyperlink at the top of this page OR visit the specific program/dept. page found here: link.usd.edu/grad-catalog

Location Matters for Non-Licensure Track Programs

This program is not designed or advertised to lead to a professional license or certification required for employment.

USD is permitted to operate under the terms of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) policies and standards in offering online courses/degree programs to residents in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  Online courses/programs may also be offered to residents of California (a non-SARA state) because it does not regulate out-of-state public institutions.

Additionally, this program is authorized to offer supervised field study experiences (internship, externship, clinical, rotation, practicum, independent study, study away, etc.) in South Dakota. Please be aware that there may be some restrictions on your ability to engage in supervised field study outside of South Dakota. Please contact a program representative if you have questions regarding supervised field study.

Distance education courses or programs will not be offered outside of the United States without prior written approval from the University, which may be withheld for any reason. If you are taking distance courses while physically located outside of the United States, it is your responsibility to confirm the following: (a) if the country will recognize an online degree; (b) the availability of supervised field study opportunities in the country; and (c) if the country charges any additional taxes, withholdings or fees associated with online distance education programs.

For more information, please visit USD’s State Authorization page or contact your admissions counselor.


Sustainability Program
605-658-6801 | sustainability@usd.eduusd.edu/sustainability

Graduate Admissions
605-658-6140 | gradadmissions@usd.edu | usd.edu/grad