Master’s Degree
10 min

What you need to know about “green” education abroad

After the speech Greta Thunberg gave at the UN Climate Action Summit, the academia revisited the topic of approaching ecological crisis, triggering growth in demand for “green” industry specialists.

We prepared a guide to ecology educational programs and asked Margarita Zaritskaya to comment on it. Margarita studied ecology science in Germany, and currency works as a consultant with KPMG Russia.

What can you study in the “green” field?

“Green” education programs deal with the analysis of the natural environment condition (Environmental Sciences) and sustainable development. Sustainable development means reducing the negative imprint of human activity upon nature. 

Environmental Sciences programs include:

  •  soil ecology;
  • marine biology;
  • Earth ecosystems;
  • environmental and biological safety;
  • energy and climate changes;
  • water resources management;
  • countering pollution and restoring polluted areas.

Sustainable Development programs include:

  • sustainable agriculture;
  • climate/ecosystems change;
  • energy and sustainable development;
  • “green” economy.

Margarita Zaritskaya:

“I studied geology in a Russian university. I’m concerned with environmental problems, so I went on to further study the “green” area. 

I chose one of the top German universities, Technische Universität München: its Forest Departments offers a Sustainable Resource Management program in English. In Germany, higher education is free, and there are many programs for Science students. At admission, I wrote an essay and a motivation letter, and proved my Bachelor’s degree in geology“.

Chemistry and biology are not among my fortes, what program should I take? 

If your knowledge of chemistry and biology is insufficient, pure “green” programs may present serious difficulty. Instead, you may pursue cross-disciplinary professions. 

For example, economy and ecology overlap to form specialties like Sustainable finance and Eco-entrepreneurship. Erasmus Mundus, a generous Masters’ scholarship allowing to study in several countries, offers the following programs:

Margarita Zaritskaya:

“My program consisted of three terms of lectures, internship, and writing a graduation paper. In the first term, we got acquainted with the sustainable development ideas, analyzed main environmental problems, economic aspect,s and goals of sustainable development. After that, each student got to choose core and optional courses. I studied renewable energy technology, climate change, forest resources management, sustainable land management and agriculture, and environmental economics. 

During the second and the third terms all students do at least six weeks’ internship. I found two, in Leipzig and in Heidelberg. In Leipzig, I joined a company designing waste incineration plants implementing the “waste-to-energy” principle. 

In Heidelberg, I was an intern with a sustainable development department of a top-tier cement production company — HeidelbergCement. An energy-intensive enterprise is one that consumes sheer amounts of energy and natural resources for its principal activity (for example, metal-working plants, cement, or paper manufacturers). 

Their activity is hard to present to the community as ecologically positive. That’s why energy-intensive enterprises need strict constraints related to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, hydrocarbon fuel consumption, and overall negative ecological impact. The sustainable development department monitors these activities and presents their results to the stakeholders - public organizations, investors, etc. 

During the internship, I carried out research and assisted the biologists in drafting the plan for rehabilitation of an open-pit mining area”. 

How to choose a country?

If you are not sure which country to choose, we recommend you consult QS ratings for Environmental Sciences and  Sustainable Development. You can select top schools for your specialty, and then explore what ecology-related programs they offer. 

You can also refer to the Environmental Performance Index ranking. The nations with top EPI scores are Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Great Britain, France, Austria, Finland, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. 

As a rule, these countries finance a lot of scholarships for ecology-related study programs. Besides, in Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands the “green” education is not expensive as it is (up to EUR 1000 per term). 

Margarita Zaritskaya:

“The program I joined did not cover living expenses: on the other hand, I had to pay only the EUR120 tax per term. EUR60 of that amount is the price of the travel pass.

The cost of living in Munich is high, but a student can always find a job. A student visa permits working up to 20 hours per week (i.e. a maximum of 120 full working days or 240 half working days per year. The average wage is EUR 8 per hour: with average working hours, this amounts to EUR 300-400 per month. I, personally, worked evenings in the Leipzig concert hall, pouring sekt, German sparkling wine, during the intervals. 

Internships are paid, too: the minimum payment is about EUR 800 per month (with a standard 40-hour working week). Usually during the internship students make up their own schedule basing on their training curriculum. The highest salary I got interning as a working student was about 1000 EUR. Students’ wages are not subject to tax, as opposed to the graduates’ salaries”.

Where to work after graduation?

“Green” consulting. Ecology and sustainable development programs graduates may advise public and private organizations on ecological and environmental issues.

Supervision over sustainable management of natural areas. You will plan and control implementation of projects related to increasing biodiversity or supporting particular species, raise funds, and run campaigns aimed at raising ecological awareness.

Education. You can give lessons, seminars, and courses on ecology in schools and universities, train volunteers, liaise with training and community groups.

Environmental management. Here you may find work drafting and implementing environmental strategies in private or public sectors. You may assist large and small companies in reducing waste, planning, and implementing new waste treatment schemes. Also, there are many projects for improvement of water quality and optimization of water resource utilization. 

Sustainable development analytics. You will gather data and conduct research, assisting companies to ensure their environmental compliance. You can also pursue a career of an environmental inspector or an ecologist. 

Margarita Zaritskaya:

“To find a job in Germany, a foreigner needs to reach at least С1 level of German. You have to compete with German native speakers, so fluent English will be your huge advantage.

I have been searching for a job in Germany for about two months, with no result. My German was at B1-B2 level, which is not high enough to work, and I could not even get invited to an interview. So, I decided to return to Russia and build a career back home. 

Shortly thereafter, I found a job in “green” construction business, certifying buildings according to LEED and BREEAM international standards. Then I decided to work in Big-4, to pursue a career in sustainable development for business. Now I develop climate projects and perform audit of greenhouse emissions reporting. My career roadmap is to gain experience in consulting, where every year counts as two due to high workload and abundance of various projects. After several years in consulting, specialists take up jobs in the industry with their former clients, with higher salaries and shorter working hours. 

The “green” industry is budding: the trend for ESG and sustainable development is likely to continue at least until 2030, so this sector spawns a lot of job opportunities”.

Author: Aleksandra Bodrova, Margarita Zaritskaya, and the editorial office