Q&A

Lucy Taylor Responds to Frequently Asked Questions About the Sustainability Program

Lucy Taylor supports the Sustainability program at the University of Sydney and responds to some frequently asked questions.

From local government policies to international development, from non-government organisations to social corporate responsibility, from food and water to public health, studying sustainability can equip you with the skills to further your career. The Master of Sustainability Program at the University of Sydney could be the thing for you. You’ll learn about energy technologies, population health, food security, sustainability policy, and sustainability analysis tools.

It’s a multidisciplinary degree with six faculties across the University delivering core content, and nine faculties teaching into the program’s electives. This breadth provides a thorough foundation in sustainability. It also allows graduates to appreciate the complexity of sustainability and understand the effects of change in various sectors.

The program:

  • Comprises three qualifications: the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, Graduate Diploma in Sustainability and Master of Sustainability.
  • Provides a foundation in sustainability, including core aspects of energy and resources, health, food and water security, policy, analysis, society and change.
  • Is multidisciplinary, with core and elective units currently being delivered by ten faculties across the University.
  • Offers some flexibility in the choice of elective units and, for Master of Sustainability students, the design of the capstone research project.

Applications due dates for the Master of Sustainability program are:
Commencing Semester 1 2016: 31 January 2016
Commencing Semester 2 2016: 30 June 2016



Lucy Taylor (pictured above) supports the program and responds to some frequently asked questions.

What sort of jobs can I get after I have a Master in Sustainability?

Sustainability graduates are diverse in that sustainability itself encompasses most fields, so graduates do a huge range of different things. We have a mix of domestic and international students, mature-age students who are changing or refining their careers and students fresh out of their undergraduate degrees.

Here are some examples from completing Sustainability graduates who had different backgrounds, different interests, and took different paths in their degrees:

  • Scott worked for an eco-labelling company and did his capstone project on the sustainability of building materials (PVC and steel) and intends to work on corporate sustainability initiatives when he returns to the US;
  • Preetika transformed her career by initiating a capstone project with her current employer, IKEA, and ended up being employed as the Sustainability Developer, IKEA Australia
  • Amira was inspired by the Business and Leadership core unit (SUST5006) to do more about ‘shared value’ (which is when businesses get value – financial or otherwise – based on initiatives that also have social benefits) and initiated a capstone project with Frasers Property, who employed her for a fixed-term, which provides great experience;
  • And Billi strengthened her career in design by augmenting her undergraduate qualifications with the Master in Sustainability so she could learn about how to break down and recycle furniture and other high-end manufactured pieces. These are just some examples of the varying things you can do in sustainability.

The Sustainability program provides you with tools that you can use to build a new career or transform your existing career. Those tools include a foundational understanding of sustainability, a wide range of electives that you can choose from to hone your primary interest, and a well-supported capstone project that gives you experience working on a sustainability problem with a workplace.

Should I study Environmental Science or Sustainability?

We can’t advise what the right course is for you, but suggest that it does depend on what your career aspirations are. Environmental science typically involves scientific investigation on environmental matters. In contrast, the Master of Sustainability is not a science degree (although you can take some of the same environmental science elective units). As you can see from the above examples from some of last semester’s completing students, sustainability is not only about the environment, either, as there are multiple aspects of sustainability.

Should I apply for the Graduate Diploma or the Masters in Sustainability?

The degree is designed so that students can apply to upgrade to the Graduate Diploma or Master, and downgrade the other way as well (e.g., enrol in the Master, then downgrade to a Graduate Certificate if their plans change). This is something that students can apply for themselves in the Student Administration system, Sydney Student, and is not unusual. Students can apply to downgrade at any time, but in order to apply to upgrade, they must have completed that semester’s units of study first because upgrade applications are considered based on academic progress through units of study.

It is worth mentioning that most students agree that the capstone project was the best part of the degree that enabled them to a) apply what they did in the coursework, b) it enabled them to focus on an area they really wanted to work on, and c) it gave them a safe and supported environment to do something risky – that is, approach a company and pitch a piece of work to them, then complete that piece of work and have the experience on their resume to help them with their career. The Graduate Diploma does not include a capstone project, only the Master in Sustainability includes a capstone project. If you want to do a capstone project, then it would be best to enrol in the Master.

What types of research placements are available for the capstone project?

We encourage students to start thinking about their capstone project from the outset of their degree. The Capstone Coordinator runs an information session in the first or second week of each semester for new students to come and ask her questions about it. As soon as you join the program, you will have access to view all past and current capstone projects. The Capstone Coordinator encourages students to plan their capstone project based on their aspirations and goals; for example, if you want to work in sustainable construction, you are encouraged to negotiate a project with Lend Lease or similar so that you have the opportunity to get real experience and note it in your resume.

While workplaces do come and advertise projects with us, in most cases, we have more projects available than students who take them up because students are encouraged to tailor the capstone to their own aspirations, rather than just accept whatever is on offer.

Is it best to have worked in or studied sustainability prior to taking this course?
Not at all – this is a generalist degree to give students a thorough foundation in multiple aspects of sustainability. Our students have diverse backgrounds spanning Science, Engineering, Economics, Business, Social Science, Arts, Law and Political Studies, to name a few. Even if you have worked in sustainability before, it may only have been one aspect of sustainability. So this program is designed to round out your knowledge and provide a more thorough foundation.