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Corporate Responsibility: CSR Degrees & Certifications, Part 1
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Corporate Responsibility: CSR Degrees & Certifications, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: CSR Degrees & Certifications, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: CSR Degrees & Certifications, Part 1

As formal efforts in corporate social responsibility become more the standard than the exception, one would expect universities to see potential in CSR as a field of study. A degree or certification in CSR would signal to serious employers that a candidate isn’t thinking of CSR awareness and implementation as job skills, but a career in itself.

It’s true that in many businesses, CSR is a task, something to do once or twice per year, like the quarterly inventory or the annual goal-setting. In such places, the task is often delegated to someone with a job vaguely related, perhaps a marketer, a public relations specialist, an office manager, or even an intern. And it makes sense that such a disparate cross-section of workplace roles might be assigned to such tasks. CSR has as many forms as it does practitioners, it seems, and who’s given the job is likely related to a company’s motivation for practicing it.

A look through GlassDoor’s CSR listings shows that preferred degrees include (depending on the positions themselves) business and marketing, public relations, communications, English, journalism, law, and the general field the company operates in. Many higher-level positions require degrees in general but CSR experience in particular, rather than formalized study in CSR. Nowhere were we able to find a listing with a preference for a degree in CSR.

Degrees in CSR at bachelor’s and master’s levels exist, rare though they still are. The University of Wisconsin offers BS and MS degrees in sustainable management, which is a big piece of CSR but in many cases not even half the picture. The University of California at Berkeley offers an MBA with an emphasis on CSR. A few universities in England offer master of science degrees specifically in CSR. New York University’s business school offers a 14-week course leading to as CSR certification. And several primarily online, for-profit colleges offer MS degrees in CSR.

The fact that for-profit schools in the U.S. seem to be leading the way in developing specific courses of study in CSR is telling. Many of their students are career-focused, looking to move into a new field or to advance in their existing fields. At the very least, established universities might consider a similar move, perhaps within the auspices of existing schools with cross-listed courses across fields. A meaningful CSR degree might include already-offered courses in management, marketing, communications, law, social work, business ethics, education, and sustainability, among others.

The flipside for this argument is that as CSR becomes the expectation in good business, it ceases to be a separate field. Although it may remain an area of specialty, and therefore a good choice for certification or “...with an emphasis in” status, perhaps CSR will increasingly become part of a good business education in general, just as business ethics are typically included in higher business education. Still, in a world where many see business as an area for go-getters with an eye on the bottom line, it would be nice to see more institutions offer a specific major for those interested primarily in business as an opportunity to make differences for people and communities.


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Corporate Responsibility: CSR Degrees & Certifications, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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