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Study abroad : Subject Guides

What degrees focus on sustainable energy?

Sustainability and sustainable energy have become central when talking about climate change. We take you through some of the degrees you could study that focus on sustainable energy.

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With the need for sustainability and to safeguard the planet from climate change, studying a degree that can make a difference has become increasingly popular. This is especially true for degrees and courses that focus on sustainable energy as the world tries to end its dependence on fossil fuels and power generation that pollutes the planet. We’re here to take you through some of the top degrees and subjects to pursue if you’re interested in working in sustainable energy.


Environmental engineering


Environmental engineering is a specialisation focusing on the development, implementation and maintenance of technology or infrastructure aimed at safeguarding the environment. This includes the creation of efficient energy solutions utilising natural sources such as wind, water and solar.


As an environmental engineer, you could work on the environmental impact assessment of energy generation projects, the management of infrastructure, and effective recycling implementation. Some of the core topics you’ll cover in an environmental engineering degree include:


  • Chemistry and microbiology
  • Environmental fluid mechanics
  • Environmental project design
  • Sustainable resource management
  • Water treatment
  • Water supply and management


Environmental engineers can work in several sectors and different roles. It’s a much-coveted skill set for many employers. Some of the areas where you may work are:


  • Energy and utility companies
  • Environmental consultancies
  • Government
  • Property development
  • Construction
  • Engineering companies


Environmental engineering is a flexible qualification that allows you to influence crucial issues wherever you apply your skills.


Find out where you could study for a degree in environmental engineering.


Urban planning 


A degree in urban planning and development prepares you with the skills and knowledge needed to design and develop the physical and built environment in which people live and work. This can be everything from cities to villages and office parks to schools. Urban planning actively integrates the latest technology and developments in sustainable energy into design practices.


As an urban planner, you have the chance to positively shape the way people live and contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of development at the same time. You could be responsible for striking the right balance between housing developments and green space and making them have the lowest environmental impact possible.


Some of the topics and themes that you will study during your degree BSc or MSc are:


  • Urban economy
  • Society and diversity
  • Urban and property development
  • Site planning
  • Sustainable theory and practice
  • Planning theory
  • Project management


Urban planning requires excellent organisational, logistical and communication skills. It is also a degree in which you may need to undertake a work placement as part of your curriculum or work several internships to gain experience. As a qualified urban planner, you could work for:


  • Government
  • Local authorities
  • Architectural practices
  • Environment consultancies
  • Property development companies


Discover where you could study a degree in urban planning.


Renewable energy technology


In recent years, new specialist qualifications have been developed focusing exclusively on renewable and sustainable energy. Degrees include renewable energy and clean technology, renewable energy systems and renewable energy engineering. All have slightly different focuses, but the core remains developing and maintaining renewable energy technology.


If you decided to pursue a degree in renewable energy and clean technology, some of the topics you’d cover include:


  • Marine energy
  • Solar energy
  • Smart energy grids
  • Zero carbon infrastructure
  • Power systems
  • Engineering mechanics
  • Energy engineering
  • Energy management


Many of these courses are offered at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Make sure to check with your prospective university what’s available. Studying a degree in renewable energy sets you up to work in the field and other related areas, including:


  • Utility provision
  • Energy sector
  • Engineering
  • Environmental consulting
  • Policy and law


Explore some of the universities offering courses in renewable energy.


Environmental law


Environmental law is a specialisation that gives you the chance to influence energy policy and sustainability. Not only will you safeguard existing environmental laws to prevent pollution or ecological degradation, but you can also contribute to setting the standards for energy providers and industries going forward.


A degree in environmental law usually follows the completion of an undergraduate law degree, sometimes known as an LLB. It is also possible to study an LLM, which is a master’s degree, in the subject. An LLM is designed for both law and non-law graduates. Some topics you may cover during your studies include:


  • International environmental law
  • Sustainable development
  • Human rights law
  • Civil liability
  • Climate change protection
  • Marine environment protection
  • Energy economics
  • Water law
  • Renewable energy law


As a qualified legal professional in environmental law, you can expect to have the chance to work in several sectors or fields and different roles:


  • Attorney/barrister/lawyer
  • Government agency
  • Consultant
  • NGOs
  • Charities
  • Advocacy


If you’ve been thinking about studying environmental law, check out some of the universities you could choose from.


If you’re interested in reading more on the topic of sustainability, why not check out our guide to degrees to save the planet? There's also our take on studying for an environmental science degree, and the world’s most sustainable universities.

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