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Degrees in Sustainability Science and Practice

The Sustainability Science and Practice coterminal  master’s program welcomes and integrates students with diverse experiences and viewpoints, as we believe this is essential to solving the complex, interdisciplinary sustainability challenges of our time. Stanford students from a broad range of undergraduate disciplines– from computer science to sociology, and Earth systems to public policy – are encouraged to apply.


Students should have:

  • Demonstrated interest in sustainability challenges
  • GPA of 3.4 or higher in their undergraduate work
  • Completed 120 units towards their undergraduate degree

The Sustainability Science and Practice program is structured as a coterminal master’s program, meaning that only current Stanford undergraduates are eligible to apply.

Choose an M.S. or M.A. 

Students have the option to pursue either an M.S or an M.A. in Sustainability Science and Practice. The type of degree earned will depend on whether the student takes a majority of natural science and engineering units or social sciences and humanities units. The M.S. and M.A. are designed to be accessible to students from any undergraduate major, once certain pre-requisites are satisfied.


Students who wish to earn an M.S. in Sustainability Science and Practice must fulfill the following mathematics and statistics requirements prior to or during the master’s program.

If the math and statistics requirements are fulfilled during the master’s program, the units for the course work may not be counted toward the 45 units required for master's degree completion.

Required Courses 


Courses required for all SUST coterms:

SUST 210: Pursuing Sustainability: Managing Complex Social Environmental Systems 
SUST 220: Case Studies in Leading Change for Sustainability 
SUST 297: Introduction to Systems Transformation
SUST 240: Sustainability Leadership Practicum 
EARTHSYS 111: Biology and Global Change 
EARTHSYS 212: Human Society and Environmental Change 

Psychology / Understanding Behavior  

One of the following, or an approved alternative:

PSYCH 215: Mind, Culture, and Society 
PSYCH 216: Public Policy and Social Psychology: Implications and Applications 
PSYCH 265: Social Psychology and Social Change 

Decision Making 

One of the following, or an approved alternative:

LAW 7508: Problem Solving and Decision Making for Public Policy and Social Change 
SUST 261: Art and Science of Decision Making 
ENVRES 240: Environmental Decision-Making and Risk Perception 
GSBGEN 367: Problem Solving for Social Change 

Design Thinking

Two of the following, or an approved alternative:

SUST 230: Innovating Large Scale Sustainable Transformations / Collaborating for the Future 
SUST 231 / EARTHSYS 289A FEED Lab: Food System Design & Innovation
ME 206A & ME 206B: Design for Extreme Affordability 
ME 377: Design Thinking Studio 
MS&E 177: Creativity Rules: Inventing the Future 


One of the following ethics courses, or an approved alternative, must be taken if the student has not completed an ethics course in their undergraduate career:

ETHICSOC 234R / PUBPOL 234R: Ethics on the Edge: Business, Non-Profit Organizations, Government, and Individuals
ETHICSOC 136R: Introduction to Global Justice
ETHICSOC 278M: Introduction to Environmental Ethics
EARTHSYS 136/236: The Ethics of Stewardship

If the ethics requirement is fulfilled during the master’s program, the course can be treated as a master’s program elective and the units counted toward the 45 units required for degree completion.


Students can choose from a wide range of elective courses to complement the required coursework described above. The program’s Master Course List includes more than 100 pre-approved electives spanning a variety of disciplines. If a student wishes to earn credit toward the master’s degree for an elective course that is not on the program list, the student can submit a SUST COURSE PETITION FORM to seek approval. 


Degree Requirements

The following are required of all Sustainability Science and Practice master’s students:

  • A minimum of 45 units of course work.
  • At least 34 units of the student’s course work for the master's program must be at the 200 level or above.
  • All remaining course work must be at the 100 level or above.
  • All courses for the master’s program must be taken for a letter grade; courses not taken for a letter grade must be approved by the program director. 
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.

For students pursuing the M.A. degree, the majority of the student’s 45 units must be designated as “arts” units. For those pursuing the M.S. degree, the majority of the student’s 45 units must be designated as “science” units. Arts and science designations for courses can be viewed on the program’s Master Course List.

How to Apply

1) Review eligibility - see above

2) Prepare the required materials:

  • The online Stanford coterminal application
  • A statement of purpose – about one page in length – that describes why this program is meaningful to the applicant, what experiences and education have prepared the applicant for the program, and provides a clear picture of who the applicant is and what matters to him or her. 
  • A resume.
  • A current Stanford unofficial transcript.
  • Two letters of recommendation, including one from the applicant’s master’s advisor (who must be an Academic Council member) and one from another Stanford faculty member who knows the student well and can speak to the student’s qualifications and fit for the program. An optional third letter of recommendation may also be submitted for consideration.
  • Master's Program Proposal completed to include a list of courses that the student proposes to take to fulfill degree requirements.

Please note that we do not require GRE scores.

3) Submit the online application by the deadline. Applications close at 11.59pm on the 7th Tuesday of each quarter. For the 2019/2020 academic year, applications are due as follows:

  • Autumn quarter: Novermber 5, 2019
  • Winter quarter: February 18, 2020 
  • Spring quarter: May 12, 2020

4) Decisions and acceptances:

Applications will be reviewed each quarter after the application deadline, and applicants can expect to be notified of admissions decisions via email within approximately 5 business days. If an offer of admission is extended, students will have one week to accept or decline that offer. Instructions for this will be in the offer email.

Please also see our Explore Degrees listing in the Bulletin.

University Coterminal Requirements

University requirements for the coterminal master’s degree are described in the Coterminal Master’s Program section. After accepting admission to this coterminal master’s degree program, students may request transfer of courses from the undergraduate to the graduate career to satisfy requirements for the master’s degree. Transfer of courses to the graduate career requires review and approval of both the undergraduate and graduate programs on a case by case basis. 

In this master’s program, courses taken during or after the first quarter of the sophomore year are eligible for consideration for transfer to the graduate career; the timing of the first graduate quarter is not a factor. No courses taken prior to the first quarter of the sophomore year may be used to meet master’s degree requirements.

Course transfers are not possible after the bachelor’s degree has been conferred.

The University requires that the graduate adviser be assigned in the student’s first graduate quarter even though the undergraduate career may still be open. The University also requires that the Master’s Degree Program Proposal be completed by the student and approved by the department by the end of the student’s first graduate quarter.