MSc Environmental Technology and International Affairs – TU Wien

By Nick Sinner

Course Summary

It is important to note that no specific academic background is required to embark on this course. Each cohort usually comes from highly diverse backgrounds, ranging from Political Science over Economics, to Natural Sciences and Engineering.
The first year is taught entirely at the Diplomatic Academy (“DA”), whereas the second year, including the Master’s Thesis, is done at the University of Technology (“TU”).

The DA year is broadly divided into 4 modules – Political Science, International and European Law, Economics and Contemporary History. Each module contains introductory courses in the respective fields, as well as courses that focus specifically on environmental issues (e.g. Environmental Law, Environmental History, … ). While only a few additional classes are needed to fulfil the ECTS requirements, one gets to choose from a vast catalogue of optional and advanced courses that will satisfy one’s thirst for knowledge. As an example, I took a course on current issues in the Middle East – a topic that I knew barely anything about. 

In the TU year, initial introductory courses in Maths, Chemistry and Physics provide the student with the relevant scientific knowledge for the subsequent courses in Air, Water & Waste Management, Renewable Energies & Nuclear Energy Safety, Climate Change or Environmental Monitoring. The courses are complemented with excursions and through guest lectures from other experts, some of which even are ETIA alumni. 

Finally, the Master’s Thesis is written during the second year, usually with one of the teaching professors as a supervisor.

Questions 

  1. What did you like most about the course?

Instead of making you an expert in a specific field, ETIA teaches you to think interdisciplinarily and to make connections between different areas in order to solve the highly complex problems we are facing today, such as the climate crisis or the mass extinction of species.

  1. What did you do before this course? Are there any specific requirements to being able to apply to and take this course?

I studied Physics in my Bachelor’s at the Technical University of Vienna. There are no specific requirements to be accepted into this course. Your background will always give you advantages in some courses and some stuff to catch up on in others but all the courses are manageable for everyone. That being said, relevant work and volunteering experience will definitely give you an edge in being admitted.

  1. What sort of work are you doing (e.g. more group work/more individual work; more project-based work/more essay writing etc.)?

The programme follows a more traditional approach to teaching with most classes being held in a classroom style, followed by an exam. The first year at the DA does offer a number of seminars where you are graded on an essay, although most of these are optional.

  1. Is there anything you would change about the course?

I would improve the gender and ethnic balance of the faculty, which is currently very European and male-dominated. Almost all environmental threats impact women and countries from the global South more severely. It would be great to have more first-hand experience from those that are impacted the most. 

  1. Why did you choose this course over other courses you may have been considering?

After my Bachelor’s, I was not sure in which direction I wanted to go but I knew that I wanted to do something related to climate change and environment. ETIA was a good fit, because it offers a wide range of courses and does not specialise in one in particular. At the same time, it teaches you the broad view on current affairs and to view interconnections between different issues.

  1. What is life at this university like?

The student life at the DA is, honestly, one of the best parts of this course. Imagine 200 highly engaging and interested students – from all over the world and with unique backgrounds – discussing current events, course materials or simply meeting up for a coffee in the student bar (located right on the premises of the university!). But don’t feel intimidated! Many people in ETIA do not have a lot of prior experience besides their Bachelor’s degree. Overall, the course will provide you with loads of new friends and an excellent professional network after you graduate. 

The city of Vienna itself does not need any further introduction – after all, it has been ranked the most livable city in the world for a decade in a row.

  1. What are you planning on doing after you’ve graduated/what are you currently doing if you have graduated? What are typical jobs graduates do after completing the course?

While not having a real plan after graduation, I intend to apply for internships with the European Union in the field of climate and/or environmental policy. Also, I am currently involved in a number of environmental NGOs, and being able to continue that full-time would be great.

As the programme has an international focus, a lot of people will start working in international relations, e.g. the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or as diplomats in their respective countries. Other alumni I met are working in start-ups concerned with renewable energy or mobility.

This article was amended on 14.01.2021 to correct a false statement which was accidentally left in during formatting.


Originally from Luxembourg, Nick has been living and studying in Vienna for the past 7 years and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Physics. Aside from university, he is volunteering in the youth-led NGO CliMates Austria where he, among other things, organised the Austrian youth climate conference 2019. He is currently completing the second year of MSc. ETIA and writing his Master’s Thesis on ecosystem restoration. 

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