2020 Guide to Green Careers - All You Need to Know
The sustainability industry is taking the world by storm.
There are around 10 million job openings this year, and they’re only shooting up. By 2030, the green economy is expected to offer up to 24 million new green jobs.
With these many possibilities, you’re probably looking into the possibility of a career in a green industry. You naturally need a good guide to navigate your green career path.
You’re in luck!
In this article, you’ll find the best resources, websites, and advice to nail the perfect job in the green industry.
Read on to find out:
- 7+ Industries for Green Careers (27+ Jobs Included)
- How to Kickoff Your Green Career - Top Job-Search Resources
- Green Education - 30+ Schools, 13+ Majors, and 25+ Scholarships
- 33+ Websites for Green Jobs
7+ Industries for Green Careers (27+ Jobs Included)
Many businesses offer a variety of green career choices. To explore and understand these options and their requirements, we have categorized them by industry.
Below you will find a list of detailed examples of green jobs in:
- Renewable Energy
- Environmental Protection
- Recycling and Waste Management
- Business and Administration
When thinking of the green industry, what usually comes to mind is renewable energy. The sector employs 11 million people from numerous sources: solar, wind, geothermal, oil, coal, gas - you name it.
Here’s how you can contribute:
- 1) Solar Energy Engineering
Solar energy engineers work in a variety of areas that use engineering to soak in the energy from the sun. This energy is used to generate electricity for homes and buildings, or to heat up water.
Solar engineers work on solar panels, solar-powered devices, telecommunications and guidance systems, heating and air conditioning systems, and even automobiles. They are mainly recruited by companies in the private sector.
Annual salary: $50,000 to $ 100,000+
Education level required: Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry, Computer Science, Civil Engineering or a related field.
- 2) Geophysical Engineering
A geophysical engineer’s main job is to design safe and effective ways of extracting resources from a site. Before doing so, they examine these prospective mining sites to discover important resources.
Geophysical engineers may also inspect working sites to improve productivity and safety. The job may require considerable traveling and extended working hours.
Annual salary: $70,000 to $90,000+.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in Geology or Geological Engineering. The university needs to be ABET-accredited.
- 3) Wind Energy Engineering
Wind Energy Engineering is the development and creation of wind farms. Wind energy engineers build, manufacture and install wind turbines and collector structures for wind farms.
There are different types of wind energy engineers because the process is complicated and diverse. Some of these include aviation, mechanical, software, electricians, ecologists and more. The job is mainly done in offices, a laboratory or manufacturing plants, depending on the type of work.
Annual salary: an average of $96,980.
Education level required: Bachelor's degree in energy engineering, manufacturing engineering, or a related field. Many jobs require a graduate’s degree or doctorate.
- 4) Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical Engineers deal with researching, designing and creating mechanical and thermal devices. They develop and produce new energy sources, or solve water conservation issues. They design anything from batteries, medical devices to generators and elevators.
Annual salary: an average of $92,800
Education level required: Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
The central goal of environmental science and protection is to avoid the destruction of the natural world which is essential to all living beings. The industry covers many disciplines: it involves a variety of professions requiring different skill sets. These areas range from law, marketing, planning, and management, to zoologists and hydrologists.
Here are some of the top careers for the industry:
- 1) Environmental Science
Environmental scientists and experts examine and find solutions to environmental issues. For example, some environmental scientists and professionals work to restore polluted lands and streams.
They spend most of their time in offices or laboratories, but part of the job can be fieldwork as well. Environmental scientists work full time, usually around the regular 40 hours a week.
Annual salary: an average of $71,130.
Education level required: For entry-level positions, Bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, engineering or any related field. For more advancement, a master’s degree.
- 2) Environmental Law
Environmental law is a largely demanding and complex field of study. This is a sector of law that requires a highly specialized appreciation of environmental issues. You will get the chance to bring a change in attitudes and policies that affect sustainability issues.
Annual salary: an average of $ 113,530
Education level required: Bachelor’s of Law
- 3) Zoology
Zoologists are biologists who research animal species. Their typical duties include analyzing the human impact on wildlife and carrying out conservation plans to protect them. So, the job demands plenty of maintenance, care for animals, which makes it an appealing position for wildlife lovers.
The work environment varies. Zoologists work in different zoological parks, aquariums, state agencies, and laboratories.
Annual salary: an average of $73,331.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in zoology, wildlife biology, ecology, or a related field.
- 4) Conservation Science
Conservation scientists take care of and protect natural resources. They usually deal with habitat protection and managing conservation. To be a conservation scientist you need to have an investigative, curious and creative personality.
As for the workplace, the job is done in both indoor offices and labs, as well as outdoors. Physical difficulties can be challenging, depending on the weather and area of operation.
Annual salary: an average of $61,310.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in forestry, environmental science, agricultural science, natural resources or any related field.
Proper disposal of trash and waste is not an easy process, but someone has to do it. The industry has rapidly grown in the past decades. This has improved the environment and has created opportunities through thousands of job openings.
Common jobs include:
- 1) Refuse Materials Collection
Refuse materials (also known as garbage) collectors, pick up the trash and recyclables of a city. They drive garbage trucks and use the hydraulic lift to pick up the bins. Openings are available in both the private and public sectors.
Annual salary: an average of $36,160.
Education level required: No education.
- 2) Recycling Coordination
Recycling coordinators are similar to refuse materials collectors. Their job is to oversee the recycling collection process, in order to optimize efficiency. Other duties include managing the operations budget and designing waste management programs.
Annual salary: an average of $51,713.
Education level required: No education
- 3) Hazardous Materials Work
Hazardous materials workers deal with the process of finding, packing and disposing of hazardous materials. These include waste oil, fuel, contaminated soil, etc. Working conditions depend on what material is being cleaned. The job requires long hours & night shifts and weekends are very common.
Annual salary: an average of $45,500
Education level required: On-the-job training
The transportation sector accounts for 30% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Sustainable transport has emerged as an alternative solution because it uses renewable energy to power up vehicles.
This is what you can do for sustainable transport companies:
- 1) Transportation Management
Transportation managers handle the execution, management, and cooperation of all transport issues inside an organization. They also have a duty to communicate clearly with customers and to reply to their needs.
Their work hours are flexible but long hours and weekend shifts are common. Transportation managers mainly work in towns and cities.
Annual salary: an average of $91,710.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, logistics, or a related field.
- 2) Transport Engineering
Transport engineers deal with designing, constructing and maintaining transportation systems. They ensure that the plans are designed to comply with the engineering standards and environmental state policies.
For this job, you need to have technical and problem-solving skills. Transportation engineers spend most of their working hours in the office and at construction sites. They have normal working hours, ranging from 40 to 50 a week.
Annual salary: an average of $67,065.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in Engineering.
- 3) Transport Planning
Transportation planners are all about the logistics, supply chain and optimization of vehicle flow. As a transport planner, you can help reduce transport costs and actively work towards sustainability in the transport industry.
You need a good grasp of IT, the triple bottom line and transport planning optimization. A passion for sustainability and pro-activity is also a must.
Annual salary: $20,000 to $35,000
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in logistics or supply chain management.
Don’t know where to apply? Check out these sustainable transportation companies:
One of the main elements of sustainability is having efficient information and communication technologies. The science of ecology benefits research techniques, biotechnology, satellite tracking, and more. There are many positions you can find in the IT sector in green companies.
Sustainable companies are looking for green-minded people in:
- 1) Computer Software Engineering
Computer Software Engineers use programming languages to set up the software people use to perform tasks and operations. The profession itself is not green, but there are plenty of opportunities to make software engineering more sustainable and do work for sustainable companies. You can build quality models, reduce the cost for recommender systems, and follow environmental standards.
The work is done indoors in offices, and the working hours can be unsteady. So, overtime is common for software engineers. Still, the profession is on high-demand and is expected to grow by 22% throughout 2020.
Annual salary: an average of $ 110,000.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in software, math, science or any related field.
- 2) Green Data Analyst
A sustainability data analyst helps companies keep track of their green goals. You should be able to look through the fluff of information and weigh in on the decision making process.
For this job, you need to know how to use SQL based RDBMS such as Oracle or SQL Server and know programming languages like R or Python. The exact technical skills and specific languages will depend on what the company uses.
Annual salary: from $34,500 to $ 107,000, depending on skill level.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, business management or any related field.
- 3) Green Information Technology
Environmentally sustainable IT is all about the use and disposal of information technology in a way that minimizes damage to the environment. Although we still have to figure out the best way to do that, you can still work as a regular IT specialist in a green company, maintaining the company’s hardware and software. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with too many employees clicking on scam e-mails.
Annual salary: an average of $81,000.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Mathematics or Engineering.
- 4) Web design
Web Designers build nice-looking and functional websites and applications for individuals, companies or government agencies. There are plenty of sustainable companies looking for web designers. So if you have the skills, are creative and pay attention to detail, the job is yours!
Annual salary: an average of $52,691
Education level required: University degree in computer programming or graphic design. Here’s a list of some of the best green companies to work for in tech:
Interested in eco-friendly technological organizations? Check out this list:
Governmental and Regulatory Administration
The world is going green and organizations need to comply with governmental regulations. Whether you’re the one weighing in on those regulations, or the one following them, there are plenty of opportunities in this field.
Check out the most in-demand professions:
- 1) Arbitration and Mediation
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help with conflict resolutions outside the court system. Your main responsibility would be the negotiation and arbitration of sustainability-related conflicts between the regulatory organizations and companies.
Annual salary: an average of $63,000
Education level required: Doctoral or professional degree in Law or Dispute Resolution.
- 2) Energy Auditing
An energy auditor checks whether the energy levels of buildings and systems are compliant with regulations. You need to know a lot about building, construction, and physics. One of your main responsibilities as an energy auditor would be to analyze risks related to investments in green technology.
Annual salary: from $40,000 to $ 123,000
Education level required: Bachelor’s Degree in Construction or Energy.
- 3) Urban and Regional Planning
Urban planners develop plans and programs for land use in physical facilities or cities. In this job, you can promote environmental sustainability or conservation initiatives directly: you’ll be the one planning them. You also get to communicate with people and governmental agencies on environmental issues.
Annual salary: a median of $73,000
Education level required: Bachelor or Master in Real Estate Development or Urban Affairs.
- 4) Regulatory Affairs
A regulatory affairs specialist performs internal audits and inspections. He/she also renews and registers environmental licenses. As a regulatory affairs specialist, you also get to evaluate whether an organization is following environmental laws and what impact it has on the environment.
You’ll need a good grasp of the law, biology, computers, and electronics. Since part of the job is talking to organizations and the public about regulatory affairs, you also need good communication and public speaking skills.
Annual salary: $38,000 - $ 110,000
Education level required: Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Law, Economics or Geography.
You can find job opportunities in governmental and regulatory administration in the Environmental Management departments in your state.
On a federal level, you can check out:
Business and Administration
All organizations, including environmental ones, need leading and administrative bodies.
Here are some popular careers in the green business:
- 1) Sustainability specialists
Sustainability specialists deal with addressing organizational sustainability problems like waste management, green policies and more. Most of them work with consulting companies or in finance and private industries.
Annual salary: an average of $53,842.
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences, engineering or any related field.
- 2) Environmental management
Environmental managers are responsible for making sure the organization complies with its environmental requirements. They have an important scientific and administrative position in companies. These managers usually work for private systems like energy, utility, aerospace, etc.
Annual salary: an average of $ 107,480
Education level required: Bachelor’s degree in environmental science or a related field. Work experience is mandatory to be a manager too.
- 3) Power plant operation
Power plant operators are in charge of managing power plants and electricity flows. The job requires problem-solving skills, focus and quick thinking. Be mindful of your choice, though. The shifts can get long and stressful.
Annual salary: an average of $35,569
Education level required: on-the-job training.
- 4) Construction inspection
Construction inspectors are in charge of making sure that construction meets the building codes, contract specifications, and other environmental regulations. Most construction inspectors work with the government. Inspectors spend their time both outdoors - examining sites, and indoors - scheduling and writing reports.
Annual salary: an average of $33,843
Education level required: minimum high school diploma, on-the-job training.
How to Kickoff Your Green Career - Top Job-Search Resources
Seems like your mind's made up: working in green is awesome. So how do you sustainably get yourself to the finish line?
Well, there are three main steps to landing ANY job, including one in a green industry:
- An impeccable resume to get your foot in the door.
- A strong cover letter to back it up.
- Killer interview skills to seal the deal.
These might seem obvious, but they’re easier said than done. Below are the best resources in the game to catapult you to success.
How to Write a Green Resume
A resume is a one-page document that summarizes your qualifications for a job. The resume is tailored to the job you are applying for and only includes relevant information.
Your resume needs:
- A resume header with a short summary and your contact information
- Relevant work experience in the green industry
- Your education
- Skills relevant to the green position you are applying for.
Here are the best resume guides to get you started:
Writing a Cover Letter for Green Careers
Your cover letter is a one-page letter that accompanies your resume. If your resume describes what you have done that is relevant to get the job, your cover letter explains why and how a green organization should hire you.
You might think that a good cover letter depends on how good of a writer you are. That’s where you’re wrong. There is a formula you can follow and tips & tricks you can use to make it stand out.
These resources should get you inspired and give you a leg up on the competition:
Attending a Job Interview
After you impress with your resume and cover letter, the company will invite you for a job interview. They will ask you questions about yourself, your career, and will try to assess how fit you are for the job you are applying for.
So you get in there, impress them with your amazingness, everyone claps, and you get the job. Right? We wish it was that easy!
Job interviews are all about preparation, preparation, preparation! You need to do your homework beforehand and be mindful of your answers.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Green Education - 30+ Schools, 13+ Majors & 25+ Scholarships
So, you’ve decided you want to pursue a career in a sustainable industry. Great! To start off, you need a relevant degree.
We have put together a list of the best colleges for environmental studies and all the possible degrees you can obtain. Check them out below.
30+ Universities for Green Studies
There are great options in countries all over the world. This is only our top 30 for 2020.
You can explore more schools by simply searching for Best Environmental Science Universities + the country you are interested in.
- The University of California, Berkeley
- Stanford University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Harvard University
- Yale University
- The University of California, Los Angeles
- Cornell University
- University of Washington
- California Institute of Technology
- Princeton University
- Duke University
- Arizona State University
- The University of Texas at Austin
- Oxford University
- Imperial College, London
- University of Cambridge
- The University of Exeter
- Nanyang Technological University
- National University of Singapore
- The Australian National University
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of New South Wales
- The University of Queensland
- McGill University
- University of Toronto
- Delft University of Technology
- Utrecht University
- University of Copenhagen
- ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
13 + Green Degrees
You might have your ambitions set on an awesome university. However, there are countless degrees to choose from and not everything will be your cup of tea. Which one do you go for? Well, that will depend on the type of work you want to do.
Here is a list with some of the most interesting (& in-demand) green degrees:
Agriculture isn’t only about planting seeds and shearing sheep. It’s a broad field that offers many educational options: Poverty, famine, economic growth, selective breeding, sustainable ecosystems, illness outbreak ... agriculture intercrosses with all of them.
The degree is typically a Bachelor of Science. You will get a strong understanding of many natural and social sciences like biology, natural environments, economics, chemistry, business administration and more. You will also get practical, hands-on training as part of your degree. Some universities even have their own farms!
Architecture is a very popular option. Although there are many track options, simply put, architects are in charge of designing different buildings and structures. Environmental designers can use this degree to create eco-friendly public or private spaces.
What do architecture students actually learn? Anything starting from drawing 3D designs to history and technology classes. You will graduate with either a BA or BSc, depending on the university. Regulations vary from place to place, but usually, you will need about 5 years to complete the degree.
Business and Entrepreneurship
Business-minded? Great with numbers? A good understanding of business and management is a critical element of the green career field. A great option can be getting a degree in sustainability.
Sustainability is a combination of economics, business, social and environmental science. It is also recognized as the study of the minimization of human impact on the environment.
Students finish university with a Bachelor’s in Sustainability and a handful of exciting options to start jobs in. They include:
- Sustainability specialists
- Climate change analysts
- Energy consultants
- Corporate sustainability strategists, & more.
If you’re a nature lover, botany is a perfect choice. Botany focuses on the scientific study of plants. It’s generally a 4-year bachelor’s degree program. The coursework mainly consists of plant biology and chemistry. Part of the course is also laboratory experiments and field research, like analyzing plants on their natural habitats.
With a Botany degree, you can work as a:
- Biology scientist
- Botany teacher
- Landscape designer
Are you passionate about saving the environment? Do you want to put a stop to the pollution of rivers with toxic waste? A position as an environmental lawyer may be for you.
At first, you will be taking compulsory core courses to learn the basics of the profession. Then you’ll dive deep into topics tailored to your field of study. These include biodiversity and international law, energy law, the policy of climate change, sustainability development, and more.
Eventually, students have the chance to train in the courtroom and work on a pro bono. The time span of the course depends on the university, but it typically ranges from 3 to 5 years maximum.
With a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, which usually lasts about 4 years, you can find entry-level engineering jobs. The coursework of the field is an interesting and diverse one to study. There are classes on air and water pollution, ecosystem functions, organic chemistry, environmental policies, and more.
You will expand your expertise through indoor and outdoor experiments too. Some of the most common positions this degree prepares you for are:
- Environmental consultant
- Pollution control operator, etc.
Do you want to learn more about the biggest environmental challenges of today’s world? Environmental science is a great start. The field uses natural sciences, economics, and social sciences to address modern ecological issues. As an environmental science student, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore habitats, climates and land formations on many school trips.
The degree usually lasts about 3 to 4 years on a bachelor’s level. Career opportunities include:
- Environmental consultancy
- Environmental engineering
- Environmental education,
- Environmental management
Forests are the lungs of our Earth, and it is the forester’s job to protect and preserve them. To earn professional forestry positions, you need a Bachelor’s degree which usually lasts 3 to 4 years. The coursework includes subjects like biology, chemistry, ecology, geology, zoology, environmental sciences and more.
With a forestry degree, you can become a:
- Urban forester
- Wetlands specialist
- Conservation and resource forester
- Forest ranger
Geology researches the physical structure and compounds of the Earth. Geology students learn about a range of subjects such as the Earth’s layers, composition, mineral formations, dinosaur revolution, sustainability, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, amongst many others. The course also includes working outdoors and on the labs.
In the end, you will have a BSc in Geology, which generally takes about 4 years to get. Some common jobs you can get with the degree are:
- Engineering geologist
- Geotechnical engineer
Similar to agriculture, horticulture studies the cultivation of plants. Consider the major if you enjoy working outdoors and taking care of plants.
What does the curriculum include? It’s a 4-year program with coursework such as soil fertility, floral art, plant disease diagnosis, plant biology. There’s a mixture of learning methods, classwork, laboratory and off-campus on practical horticulture environments.
With this degree, students can go on to become:
- Horticulture consultants
- Greenhouse administrators
- Landscape designers.
Human-created pollution has changed the sensitive balance of the underwater world. Marine biology is the science that studies the ocean’s plants and animals and prevents them from going distinct. The field has a diversity of coursework like cell biology, biochemistry, marine environments, physiology, amongst others.
Many universities provide the chance for on-field training as well. This happens through experiments and research on wetlands, islands, marine habitats. In the end, you finish with a BA or BSc in Marine Biology which takes about 4 years.
Job possibilities include:
- Aquatic scientists
- Research biologists
- Biological scientists
A bachelor’s degree in renewable energy gives a general knowledge of engineering with specialization in renewable energy. Coursework topics include science, economics, calculus, general chemistry, energy sources, etc. The degree typically takes about 3 years of study. Some common jobs you can get from the major are:
- Civil engineer
- Materials scientists
If you are fascinated by the animal kingdom, zoology may be the major for you. Zoology is the science that specializes in studying the vast variety of living and extinct animals.
The course usually starts with an overall view of the key definitions of bioscience. Later on, it focuses on more specific topics like animal behavior, neurobiology, evolutionary biology. Students explore laboratory methods and apply their knowledge on fieldwork as well. In the end, you have a BSc in Zoology, which lasts about 3 to 4 years.
25+ Green Education Scholarships
Want to pursue a green education but don’t want to drown in student debt? Luckily, there are plenty of scholarship opportunities.
Check out the top 25 scholarships for sustainable educations:
- Commitment to Social Change Scholarship
- The Alexander A. Smick Scholarship in Rural Community Service and Development
- American Society for Enology and Viticulture Scholarship Program
- Annie’s Homegrown Sustainable Agriculture Scholarships
- Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Awards
- Bill Morrall Conservation Scholarship
- Castle Ink Paperless Scholarship
- CBCF Environmental Studies Scholarship
- E-Waste Scholarship
- EPA Marshall Scholarships
- EPP Undergraduate Scholarship Program
- Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program
- Dr. W. Wesley Eckenfelder Jr. Scholarship
- Eckenfelder Scholarship
- Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Awards
- Finnis Scott Foundation Scholarship
- Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration
- Greenpeace Scholarship
- Minority Scholarships
- National Garden Clubs Scholarships
- NEHA/AAS Scholarship Awards
- SERF Foundation Educational Scholarships
- Steve Hansen Memorial Scholarship Fund
- The Switzer Fellowship Program
- WEC Scholarships
33+ Websites for Green Jobs
Getting a degree is important, but it’s only the launch of a green career. Today’s job market is cutthroat and competitive, so you need to skyrocket ahead of their competition.
Internships are a great way to win that edge. They provide skills and knowledge that are highly valuable in the environmental industry and look great in your resume. AND you can also combine them with your studies for college credits.
Start looking for opportunities in these green internships sites:
- Tesla Motors
- The Student Conservation Association
- Renewable Northwest
- Department of Energy
- Ceres Internships
- Advance Energy Internships
- ACORE Internship Program
- CEQ Internship Program
- Research Participant Program Internships
- Skanska Summer Internship Program
Not digging an internship?
Perhaps you have some experience under your belt or want to dig in straight for a full or part-time job after your studies.
Here are the best green job-searching websites for you to start browsing:
- Green Jobs Network (Website, LinkedIn, & Facebook)
- Environmental Protection Agency
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
- Dayaway Careers
- U.S. Green Building Council
- Conservation Job Board
- Green Biz
- Sustainable Business
- Renewable Energy Business Network
- Green Career Central
- Environmental Career Opportunities (ECO)
- Environmental Career
- The Nature Conservacy
- Green Dream Jobs
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Environmental Career Opportunities in the United Kingdom
- Green Jobs Network (U.K. and Ireland)
- Earthworks Jobs
- Earth Justice
Having a career in the green industry can be an amazing path.
There’s a sea of options to choose from - anything from agriculture, geology, and botany to the technology, business, and architecture field. You get the chance to positively impact the environment while working on modern issues.
Though the road to success is never easy, we hope this green career guide helps pave the way.
Good luck with your job search!
As always, make sure to follow our career blog for the industry-leading career tips, tricks, and advice!