Sustainable Development Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In simpler terms sustainability is about managing resources without depleting them and improving long-term economic well-being and quality of life in a way that not only leaves resources for future generations but also enhances the resources where possible so that the future may prosper.

Sustainable development aims to balance our economic, environmental, and social needs, allowing prosperity for now and future generations. Sustainable development practices help countries grow in ways that adapt to the challenges posed by global issues such as climate change, which will in turn help to protect important natural resources for our and future generations.

Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem, and preserves natural resources for future generations. Going green and sustainable is not only beneficial for everyone in the present; it also maximizes the benefits from an environmental focus in the long term.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Sustainable Development courses in the following subject areas:

  • Introduction to Sustainable Development (FETAC L5) – Gain an understanding of concepts such as sustainability, sustainable communities, and carrying capacity.
  • Graduate Diploma/MSc in Management for Sustainable Development (MSD) – Develop an understanding of the theoretical, practical, and legal aspects of modern environmental practices.
  • Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture – a science-based course offering practical activities, site visits, and masterclasses from a range of visiting specialists in Horticulture.
  • Diploma in Sustainable Development – Gain the knowledge and skills of sustainable development, economic growth and development, social sustainability, and physical environment sustainability.
  • Sustainable Energy and Construction Technology – The study of environmentally sustainable building and construction technology.
  • Sustainable Energy Engineering – The study of energy use, environmental performance, and sustainability in the design and operation of buildings and their associated facilities and services systems.
  • Innovation: Designing for a Sustainable Future – An in-depth look at how successful innovations emerge, and how innovation can be directed towards ensuring a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable future.
  • Energy for a Sustainable Future – Explore the sustainability problems of current fuel use, and examine more efficient use of energy, including renewables.

Studying Sustainable Development in college

Many Sustainable Development courses take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or volunteering to help with a charity that is active within the environmental sector and offers opportunities to volunteer in conservation work. You may be able to do a relevant work placement as part of your degree course or apply for a summer internship.

Work on any type of eco-project, alternative energy, living-building design, or sustainable community scheme will be useful. Experience in waste management and recycling is also relevant. Roles such as sustainability or energy project officer or assistant can provide an insight into issues around sustainability. Office experience can also help develop your understanding of how businesses operate.

Work Experience will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, but it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Sustainable Development you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of the environment and sustainable practices.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. Working hours are typically Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.30 pm. However, you’ll be expected to work extra hours when project deadlines approach.

You may have to travel and attend site visits, which adds variety, but might mean long days or overnight stays. Depending on the role you choose, you may spend a lot of time on site carrying out environmental assessments and providing advice or you may be more office or laboratory-based.

You’ll typically work as part of a team, liaising with other professionals. You’ll be able to make a genuine difference to communities and to the environment, which is fulfilling.

You could also work for environmental charities, universities, or local and central government. With experience, there are opportunities to work freelance.

With sufficient experience at the senior level, you could progress onto a principal level, where you would take full responsibility for multiple substantial sustainability projects, lead a team of sustainability experts, prepare tenders and grow the business by developing new services and products.

If you’re willing to relocate, you’re likely to increase your chances of progression. There are also opportunities to work on projects abroad.

Related jobs include:

  • Air Quality Engineer
  • Chief Sustainability Officer
  • Conservation Scientists
  • Energy Analyst
  • Energy Engineer
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Environmental Engineers
  • Sustainability Consultant
  • Chief sustainability officer
  • Director of sustainability
  • Sustainability project manager
  • Senior environmental programs specialist
  • Supply chain manager, sustainability and energy
  • Director of sustainable manufacturing innovation

Further study

After completing a course in Sustainable Development you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as the infrastructure and building environment sectors, business, management, environmental, and sustainability consultancies.

A degree in biology, building and construction management, business and management studies, civil engineering, environmental science, estate management, geography, geology, or urban planning may be particularly useful within the sustainable development field.


What are the types of sustainable development?

Sustainable development can be broken down into four distinct areas: human, social, economic, and environmental – known as the four pillars of sustainability.

What are the typical tasks of a Sustainable Developer?

Although tasks vary depending on your area of work, you’ll typically need to:

· Carry out research and ecology surveys and use environmental impact assessments to measure issues such as carbon footprint, energy performance, air quality, and noise pollution.

· Undertake mandatory assessments required by law for commercial and residential properties.

· Collect and analyze data, and produce reports to demonstrate your findings.

· Present your findings to clients.

· Provide advice around how clients can meet regulations laid out in environmental law.

· Recommend technologies and explain the most cost-effective and beneficial routes to sustainability.

· Keep up to date with current research and legislation via specialist publications.

· Manage projects which involve identifying potential clients, preparing bid documents, and managing resources and budgets to a deadline.

Where can I study Sustainable Development?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

· In 2016 many world leaders adopted the United Nation’s 17 global goals/Sustainable Development Goals to improve life all around the world and preserve the earth’s resources and fight climate change.

· Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide need to fall 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero around 2050 to limit climate change catastrophe.

· China is the world’s top polluter emitting 10,357 metric tons of carbon dioxide, followed by the United States, India, Russia, and Japan.

· If people worldwide switched to energy-efficient light bulbs the world would save 105 billion euros annually.

· 70% of the world is covered by water, yet only 2.5% of it is fresh and only 1% of it is easily accessible for human use.


Mariza Halliday

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