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Graduate Certificate in Sustainability

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Program Overview

Students will gain an understanding of the major theories and concepts related to the key dimensions of sustainability, and conduct in-depth studies of sustainable development strategies and techniques used in the public and private sectors.

Courses can be taken by students admitted solely to the certificate program or concurrently enrolled in a masters or doctoral degree program at Portland State University.

Program Structure

Students must complete the four core courses for 15 credits and two electives totaling at least 7 credits for a minimum of 22 credits total in order to obtain the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability. Students may consult with an adviser to select the two elective courses that will best help them meet their career goals. 

Course Requirements

Check specific dates and times for courses and register online here.

Required core courses (15 credits)

Course Number

Course Name and Description


Term Offered

ESM 588

Environmental Sustainability

Sustainability in natural and human-influenced ecosystems, with a focus on processes of regeneration, maturity, collapse and renewal. Topic areas include natural provisioning of ecosystem services, processes of change in ecological systems, interactions among ecological and social systems, economic valuation of ecosystem services, and ecosystem management.



USP 588/688

Sustainable Development Practices

Introduction to analytic and management approaches intended to limit the social and environmental harms associated with most past patterns of development. Builds upon basic understanding of socio-environmental change and provides a foundation for subsequent in-depth studies of particular sustainable development strategies and analytic techniques. Students study a broader range of sustainable development topics, tools, and techniques. 



ECON 522

Economics of Sustainability

Economic concepts and theories for analyzing sustainable development, including the emerging field of ecological economics. Roles and practices of the business, government and nonprofit sectors in fostering sustainability. 



SOC 565*

Environmental Sociology (for 2014/2015)

Analysis of the types of social forces which frame the nature of environmental problems concerning resource use and distribution across spatial and geopolitical levels. Examines the social forces which influence which problems are tackled; the mechanisms selected to solve the problems; and the social impact of the selected solutions. Also offered as Soc 665 and may be taken only once for credit. Expected preparation: undergraduate exposure to basic social science concepts.



* Prior to 2014/2015, the required Sociology course was SOC 588/688, Social Sustainability 

Elective courses (7 credits)

Elective courses for the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability are offered by various departments across campus. Browse currently offered electives here.

Application Information

For Certificate-Only Students:

  1. Complete Department Application Form
  2. Email the following to the Program Coordinator:
    1. Three professional letters of recommendation
    2. Resume
    3. Non-official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended (PSU transcript not required)
  3. Complete University Graduate Admission Process
    1. Certificate code: GCSU
    2. Submit the University admission form, $50.00 non-refundable fee, and official transcripts to the Office of Admissions, Registration, and Records.

For PSU Masters/Doctoral Students:

  1. Complete Department Application Form
  2. Complete the GO-19M, Request for Change of Major form (for Masters level) or the GO-19D, Request for Change of Major form (for Doctoral level)
    1. You must obtain your Masters/Doctoral program director’s signature first.
    2. Send signed form to the Program Coordinator via campus mail (mail code: SUST) or by postal mail to: Elizabeth Lloyd-Pool, Program Coordinator, Portland State University, Mail code: SUST, PO BOX 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751.
    3. Must have original signatures. Email, fax, or PDF are not accepted.  


  • Fall Admission: April 1
  • Winter Admission: September 1
  • Spring Admission: November 1

Program Contacts

Program Coordinator:
Elizabeth Lloyd-Pool

Program Director:
Jennifer H. Allen


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