One of the first degree programs of its kind in the United States, Columbia University’s undergraduate major in sustainable development is founded on the principle that students must be trained in a variety of disciplines in order to be effective leaders in the field of sustainable development. The program is designed to ensure that graduates, upon completion of the degree, will understand the basics of the natural and social sciences and will be equipped to address complex problems across a wide range of challenges facing humanity.

A minimum of 15 courses and a practicum are required, for a total of approximately 47 points, to complete the major. Students will take courses within the following framework:

I. SDEV Foundation
II. Basic Disciplinary Foundation (Natural Science, Social Science, Quantitative Foundation)
III. Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems
IV. Skills/Actions
V. Elective
VI. Practicum
VII. Workshop

A letter grade of C- or better is needed in all program related courses in order to satisfy the requirements for the major. P/F grades are only permitted in SDEV 3998.

For course descriptions and scheduling, check out the sustainable development Bulletin.

I. Sustainable Development Foundation

SDEV 2300 Challenges of Sustainable Development (required) 
EESC 2330 Science for Sustainable Development (required) 

  • Beginning fall 2023, SDEV 1900 Introduction to Sustainable Development is no longer a required course for students in the major and special concentration. 
  • The program recommends that students take SDEV 2300 and EESC 2330 prior to completing the remaining program requirements.
  • No course substitutions will be permitted for SDEV 2300 and EESC 2330.

II. Basic Disciplinary Foundation

A. One of the following science sequences:

CHEM 1403 General Chemistry I  – 1404 General Chemistry II
EEEB 2001 Environmental Biology I  – EEEB 2002 Environmental Biology II + EESC 2310 Life Systems Lab
PHYS 1201 General Physics I + PHYS 1291  – 1202 General Physics II + PHYS 1292 


Two of the following:
EESC 1600 Earth Resources & SusDev
EESC 2100 Earth’s Environment System: Climate
EESC 2200 Earth’s Environment System: Solid Earth
EESC 2300 Earth’s Environment System: Life

  • Two natural science courses are required to complete the sequence. Note that EESC courses cannot be combined with CHEM, EEEB, or PHYS courses to complete the sequence.
  • EAEE E2100 A Better Planet By Design will not be approved as a science sequence after Fall 2016.
  • Earth Resources and Sustainable Development has two sections (1600 and 4600), which count toward separate major requirements. Please note 1600 satisfies one course of the science sequence only and 4600 is accepted for Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems. Transfers between requirements is not permitted.

B. Two social science courses:

ANTH 1002 The Interpretation of Culture
ANTH 1003 The Environment
ANTH 2004 Intro to Social and Cultural Theory
ANTH 2427 Anthropology of Climate Change
ECON 1105 Principles of Economics
ECON 2257 The Global Economy
HIST 2222 Nature & Power: Environmental History of North America
POLS 1501 Introduction to Comparative Politics OR POLS 1601 International Politics
SDEV 2000 Intro to Environmental Law
SDEV 2050 Environmental Policy and Governance OR POLS 1201
SDEV 3400 Human Populations and SDEV
SOCI 1000 The Social World

C. One of the following Quantitative Foundations courses:

EEEB 3005 Introduction to Statistics for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
EESC 3017 Environmental Data Analysis
MATH 2015 Linear Algebra & Probability*
STAT 1101 Introduction to Statistics**
STAT 1201 Calculus-Based Introduction to Statistics

  • *This course is approved as a quantitative foundations course starting Fall 2022. This course replaces MATH UN2010 Linear Algebra as an option for this requirement.
  • **This course is approved as a quantitative foundations course starting Spring 2024.

III. Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems (two courses)

ANTH 3932 Climate Change, Global Migration, and Human Rights in the Anthropocene 
CIEE 3260 Engineering for Developing Communities
EAEE 4304 Closing the Carbon Cycle
ECIA 4100 Management and Development of Water Systems
EESC 3032  Agricultural and Urban Land Use: Human-Environment Interactions
EESC 4600 Earth Resources & Sustainable Development
EEEB 4135 Urban Ecology and Design
HIST 3712 African Climate and History
HIST 4811 Encounters with Nature: The History of Environment and Health in South Asia and Beyond
PUBH 3100 Fundamentals of Global Health 
PUBH 4200 Environment, Health and Justice
SDEV 3330 Ecological and Social Systems for Sustainable Development
SDEV 3355 Climate Change and Law
SDEV 3360 Disasters and Development
SDEV 3366 Energy Law
SDEV 3410 Cities and Sustainability
URBS 3565 Cities in Developing Countries: Problems and Prospects
SDEV 4250 Climate Change Adaptation
SDEV 4350 Public Lands in the American West
SDEV 4650 Building Climate Justice: Co-Creative Coastal Resilience Planning

IV. Skills/Actions (two courses)

EAEE 4257 Environmental Data Analysis and Modeling
EESC 4050 Global Assessment and Monitoring Using Remote Sensing
EESC 3050 Big Data with Python: Python for Environmental Analysis and Visualization
SDEV 3320 Economic and Financial Methods for Sustainable Development
SDEV 3390 GIS for Sustainable Development
SDEV 3450 Spatial Analysis and Modeling for Sustainable Development
SDEV 4101 Qualitative Research Methods for Sustainable Development**
SDEV 4240 Science Communications
SOCI 3010 Methods for Social Research
SUMA 4100 Sustainability Management

V. Electives (two courses)

Select two courses from the following areas. Courses can be combined across Areas 2-5 only. If you select Area 1, you must complete two thesis courses and these will fulfill the elective requirement:

Area 1: Senior Thesis Sequence (EESC 3800/3801, EESC 3901)

  • If choosing the senior thesis option to fulfill the elective requirements, students must take both courses in the senior thesis sequence.

Area 2: Upper level courses from the approved electives list
Area 3: Additional courses listed under Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems
Area 4: Additional courses listed under Skills/Actions
Area 5: (a) SDEV 3310 Ethics of Sustainable Development, (b) SDEV 4050 US Water & Energy Policy, (c) SDEV 4350 Public Lands in the American West

VI. Practicum (one course)

SDEV 3998 Supervised Individual Research
SDEV 4500 Sustainability and the Meaning of Place on Cuttyhunk Island
SDEV 4550 The New York City Watershed: From Community Displacement to Collaboration and Climate Adaptation
SUMA 4310 Practicum in Innovation Sustainability Leadership
SUMA 4734 Earth Institute Practicum 

VII. Capstone Workshop (one course)

SDEV 3280 Workshop in Sustainable Development
SDEV 3550 Bangladesh Workshop
SDEV 4400 Sustainable Development in Rwanda

  • SDEV 3550 and SDEV 4400 will be offered next in Spring 2025.