Industrial ecology, MSc

120 credits (2 years)

Sign up for informationSociety faces immense challenges arising from pressure on the environment and natural resources such as climate change, chemical risks and resource constraints on land, materials, and energy. The complexities of these issues including technology development, social change, economic growth, and environmental policy have created an increasing demand for knowledge and skills in the field of Industrial ecology. Engineers from the industrial ecology programme analyse and contribute to sustainable technical solutions in the industry, consultancy, governmental agencies, and research.

Industrial ecology​ master's programme at Chalmers

The master's programme in Industrial ecology aims to equip students with the competencies, knowledge and tools needed to analyse environmental impacts and resource constraints, to suggest and develop measures and to plan, lead, evaluate and follow up the effects of measures related to for example product development, land and resource use, energy systems, and large-scale urban planning processes. Industrial ecology provides a solution-oriented engineering approach to environmental and sustainability problems. H​ence, while it is important for graduates of the programme to have gained a broad understanding of environmental problems in nature, they should become experts in analytical tools that facilitate the suggestion of relevant measures or policies.

This master's programme in Industrial ecology is aimed towards students that want a professional career in a field where they can make a difference for sustainable development, including environmental strategy, research, and assessment at more than one level in society. From more traditional engineering problems to changing industrial practice or international negotiations and policymaking. The master's programme welcomes students from all fields of engineering as well as other relevant backgrounds including architecture, environmental science, physics, and chemistry.

Topics covered 

The subjects of sustainable development and industrial ecology are fundamental areas in the Industrial ecology master’s programme. The courses included in the programme plan handle topics such as the environment, life cycle assessment and circular economy.

Master's programme structure

The master's programme runs for a duration of two years, leading to a Master of Science (MSc) degree. During each year, students can earn 60 credits (ECTS) and complete the programme by accumulating a total of 120 credits. Credits are earned by completing courses where each course is usually 7.5 credits. The programme consists of compulsory courses, compulsory elective courses and elective courses.

Compulsory courses year 1

During the first year​ the programme starts with four compulsory courses that form a common foundation in Industrial ecology. Each course is usually 7.5 credits. In the second and third semesters students choose at least 4 out of 10 semi-compulsory courses. These courses are broadly divided into two different tracks.
  • Sustainable development
  • Technical change and the environment
  • Science of environmental change
  • Environmental systems analysis​​

Compulsory courses year 2

The programme ends with a master thesis of 30 cr. or 60 cr. either in industry or in a research department. Several students from the programme have also conducted master thesis in the form of Minor Field Studies (MFS) in developing countries​
  • Master's thesis

Compulsory elective courses

Through compulsory elective courses, you can then specialize in one of the tracks: Company level courses (e.g. Environmental management and Life Cycle Analysis) or Society level courses (e.g. Environmental Policy Instruments and Sustainable Energy Futures). It is also possible to combine courses from both tracks. During year 1 and 2,  you need to select at least four compulsory elective courses out of the following in order to graduate.
  • Environmental policy instruments
  • Environmental management
  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Applied industrial ecology
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Sustainable energy futures
  • Assessing sustainability
  • Leadership for sustainability transitions
  • Circular economy
  • Urban metabolism and resources
  • Managing stakeholders for sustainable development​​

Elective courses

The programme also gives room for up to 30 cr. of elective courses. These courses can be used to create an individual package of courses that combines Industrial Ecology with a strength in each student's original engineering track.


Engineers from the Industrial ecology programme have interesting and broad career opportunities. Previous students from the programme have continued to work in the industry, environmental consultancy firms, governmental agencies and research.

  • Industry: graduates from the programme work for example as environmental strategy analysts, project leaders at environmental divisions and in technology development. Examples of industrial sectors include energy, automobile, furniture, green buildings and the process industry.
  • Environmental consultancy firms: e.g. life cycle analysis, systems analyses of energy resources and waste.
  • Governmental agencies: e.g. Swedish Energy Agency, Swedish Environmental Technology Council.
  • Research: Several students have also continued within academia both at Chalmers (Physical Resource Theory, Environmental Systems Analysis, Energy Technology, Logistics and Transportation, Shipping and Marine Technology) and other internationally known institutions.

Research within Industrial ecology​ 

The programme was developed by leading professionals at the Department of Energy and Environment who have close contact with industry and authorities to ensure an educational profile that meets the needs of the target groups. The core courses of the programme are closely connected to ongoing research at the Divisions of Environmental Systems Analysis and Physical Resource Theory. Both of these divisions have expanded over several years with research groups that cover a wide range of topics and have connections to international research networks, several different industrial sectors and policy processes. In addition, the Environment Economics Unit at the University of Gothenburg gives one of the courses in the programme.

Chalmers' research and education in the field of environment and sustainability is very strong in general. In a recent ranking, Chalmers ended up as the number one Swedish university in the environmental field, based on the connection between research and education and the popularity among students and employers. Chalmers' strength in this area is currently further developed by increased funding for strategically important research including, for example, Chalmers Energy Initiative, the Sustainable Transport Initiative and the Sustainable Production Initiative.

The department of Technology management and economics
The department of Space, earth and environment​

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Sustainable development​

Society faces immense challenges arising from pressure on the environment and natural resources. The Industrial ecology programme at Chalmers develops insight into the interconnectedness of technology development, social change, economic growth, and environmental policy. It will equip you to work on future-proofing societies and guide progress towards all of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

You will learn about sustainability, environmental science, and systems thinking and get insights into the role of technology, companies, and policymaking for the environment. Courses such as Urban metabolism and Sustainable energy futures give sector-specific knowledge. This knowledge connects to all the SDGs.

You will use different tools to understand and analyse complex sustainability problems. The courses Environmental systems analysis, Life cycle assessment, Environmental risk assessment, and Applied industrial ecology train various methods for assessing the sustainability of any technology, production, and consumption system or sector to support sustainable innovation and increased well-being.

Finally, you will develop the skills for working towards solutions and managing change. The courses Circular economy, Managing stakeholders for sustainable development, and Leadership for sustainability transitions will prepare you for partnering efforts toward the SDGs.​

Student interview

“We learn to approach sustainability holistically
Syeda, Pakistan, Industrial Ecology

Why did you choose this programme?
– I had always been inclined towards the process improvement side of my bachelor's degree, but I became passionate about sustainability in industrial practices when I worked on a Solar power installation project for my company. It was hard to find a master's centered on the concept of sustainability while at the same time focusing on the technical side of the field. When I looked at the course content of industrial ecology at Chalmers, I knew that was what I wanted to study; a sustainability-centered program that would allow me to expand my technical expertise.

What have you been working on?
– This programme provides many opportunities to work with sustainability from different perspectives, such as understanding the social and environmental impacts of materials and product use, working on environmental policies and their effects, how societal choices can shape the future of technology, and ethical dilemmas associated with this. It has given me the insight to think about life cycles and systems perspectives. In the environmental management course, we evaluated the environmental work of three different confectionery companies to determine their preparedness for future environmental challenges and where they stand in their environmental journey right now. 

What do you like the most about your programme?
– I love the different teaching methods that enhance knowledge of the subjects and provide insight into what it's like to work with sustainability and environmental challenges in real life. We have simulation exercises, group projects, discussions, and individual reflections that help construct concepts and visualize scenarios. We also learn how to approach these challenges from a holistic mindset that incorporates social, economic, and environmental dimensions. Another thing I like is that there are people from different backgrounds in the class which leads to a diverse outlook on the topics and makes working in groups all the more interesting and insightful.

What do you want to do in the future?
– After graduating, I hope that I will be able to apply my knowledge and skills to make industrial processes more sustainable. I am particularly inclined towards environmental consulting, sustainability technological assessment, and life cycle assessment. I would like to work as a sustainability analyst in the environmental management field, assisting businesses or working as part of a government body in achieving environmental goals. After a few years of practical experience, I would like to obtain a Ph.D. in LCA-related fields.​

​​Student Blogs

Page manager Published: Tue 17 Jan 2023.