How to Find Green Jobs
Over the last decade, the workforce has undertaken an enormous transformation. Not just thanks to changing technologies and emerging sectors, but because employees themselves have changing priorities and are advocating for their employers to implement sustainable change.
A key example is the development of environmentally friendly policies and the creation of so-called green jobs.
Whilst climate change and environmentally friendly working practices have been topics of discussion for decades, it’s taken a new millennial generation to force employers to make substantial changes.
It is believed that more than 70% of the millennial workforce (those born between 1980 and 2000) would be willing to accept a pay cut to work for an employer with strong environmental policies.
With over half of the American workforce made up of millennials (progressing to 75% by 2025), it’s never been more important for businesses to listen to concerns made by workers and adapt accordingly.
Many businesses have implemented specific green jobs in a bid to attract millennial and Gen Z workforces who are actively looking for careers that can make a positive environmental impact.
It may surprise you to learn that green jobs aren’t necessarily about working in the outdoors and getting close to mother nature.
In fact, many green jobs require significant technical skill and knowledge, whether that’s in environmental law, environmental engineering or if you strive to be an environmental management consultant.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics separates green jobs into two distinct categories:
They look at issues relating to output (companies that provide green goods or services) and issues relating to processes (companies who use environmentally friendly processes).
The official definition of green jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics says:
Green jobs are either:
Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
Jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.
From this, we can surmise that the definition of green jobs runs much wider than you may think. It’s looking beyond direct environmental work to any job role which can have a positive, long-term effect on the planet.
This depends on the type of job that you want to do. If you want to work within an environmental agency making direct change, then you may benefit from an environmental science degree.
This is because they may have some theoretical insights into the distinct challenges within the green sector.
However, that’s not to say that green jobs are only open to these graduates.
But there are wider opportunities as well.
For example, if you are suited to a corporate environment and you are considering studying for an MBA, you could choose to specialize in environmental management or sustainability.
This is a growing area for many businesses and it is anticipated that new job opportunities will continue to emerge as businesses look to improve their environmental footprints.
Working in a green job isn’t about being good at gardening or horticulture. The wide array of green jobs available mean that the list of green skills is continually increasing.
In 2020, Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) suggested that green skills are ‘the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.’
If we look at how this has changed, we can see that the skills needed for a green job include:
Training and understanding of renewable energy. Can workers identify how this is relevant for individuals as well as for businesses? Do workers have the technical capabilities to install new measures and can they design sustainable solutions for businesses?
Scientific and technical skills. Can workers use data analytics to make predictions/modeling to see how implementing sustainable changes can have an impact? Can they undertake a risk analysis to see if materials have long-term sustainability?
Understanding and interpretation of legislation. Can workers understand what state and federal law says about environmental policies? Can they interpret scientific data and advocate for change? Can they design services that work in harmony with sustainability?
Business management. Understanding how to work in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way and how this can impact the bottom line.
Project management. We need to understand how to spot new and emerging technologies that can aid sustainability and know how to implement these into the workplace. If you’ve strong organizational skills, then you could be at an advantage.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of skills required for green jobs. Each job will have its own skill requirements. However, this list does provide an insight into how green jobs are far more nuanced than you may initially think.
The breadth of skills that may be required means that there are options for everyone when it comes to examples of green jobs and sustainable careers.
If you are specifically looking for employment within a green job, then you must know where to look.
Many companies choose to advertise their green jobs on specific job boards and within environmental communities where they are highly likely to find candidates whose beliefs align with their corporate values.
Here are a few common job boards where you can find examples of green jobs:
Green Job Search. This is part of the Green Jobs Network and is one of the largest job boards dedicated to green jobs and careers. Users can search by category or location, giving immediate access to jobs in your locality.
Conservation Job Board. If you’re looking for specific work within a conservation job role, then this is the place to look. Jobs listed here are specifically related to conservation, ecology, forestry, wildlife and fisheries. As well as permanent and temporary positions, you can also use this site to search for paid and unpaid internships.
Green Latinos. This is a site dedicated to environmental matters and how it impacts the US Latino community. As a non-profit organization, there is lots of information about collaborative partnerships and networks as well as a dedicated jobs page highlighting the latest green jobs.
Environmental Career. This job board has been running since 1995, making it one of the first dedicated green job boards. The site specializes in technical green jobs, so if you are looking for jobs such as air quality engineer, climbing arborist foreman or biomedical science technician, then this could be ideal for you.
Idealist. This is a job board designed to focus on roles that have a social impact. It’s a useful resource for those who have been to graduate school.
There are many different types of green jobs available, within almost any sector.
We’ve collated a selection of green jobs to show the wide range of careers available that relate to environmentalism and sustainability.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but is designed to be used as a starting point to showcase the many different options available for those who want to make a positive social impact.
Required qualifications: Architecture degree
As an architect, you’ll have to devise ways of designing and building sustainable homes or business premises.
You’ll have to consider new technologies and solutions which will allow the building to be as energy-efficient as possible.
You could also be a landscape architect specializing in the design of parks and other recreational spaces that remain as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible.
Required qualifications: Master’s degree in biology/zoology/wildlife management
If you work as a wildlife biologist or ecologist, you will be responsible for studying the impact of animals and wildlife.
You’ll look at their natural behaviors to see if there are any environmental changes causing concern.
Required qualifications: Degree in urban planning/ACIP certification
As a city/town planner, you’ll be responsible for deciding where new developments should go.
It may seem like you are going against typical ‘green’ jobs as you’ll be heavily involved in building developments. However, you’ll need to factor in sustainable solutions and work with architects, environmental engineers and auditors to design developments that are as environmentally friendly as possible.
Sector: Public Relations/Marketing
Required qualifications: Communications degree
As a spokesperson for a company, you can use your communications major to raise awareness of your employers’ environmental policies and actions.
This can involve positive proactive communications, or it could incorporate crisis communications.
Required qualifications: Science degree, auditor certification
As an auditor, you’ll be asked to audit buildings and businesses and assess how environmentally friendly they are.
You’ll be asked to make recommendations to make them more energy-efficient and plan audits and surveillances.
Required qualifications: Engineering degree
You’ll be responsible for looking at air, soil, water and noise levels within engineering projects.
You’ll have to look at how projects are managed and what the impact is on the environment, both short-term and long-term.
You’ll also have to design and deliver sustainable solutions.
Required qualifications: Law degree
If you have an interest in law and an understanding of legislation, then you could work as an environmental lawyer.
You may be responsible for advocating for clean water, or the management of land and/or parks.
Required qualifications: Science degree
As an environmental scientist, you’ll be responsible for cleaning up areas impacted by pollution.
You’ll have to establish ways to improve human health to reduce the impacts caused by pollution.
Required qualification: Degree in engineering or geology
Geologists study the Earth. It’s a technical green job which requires a knowledge of the Earth and other terrestrial plannets.
You may be required to study natural resources, or you may have to explore potential building sites for evidence of oil, gas, minerals, etc.
Much of the work will be around compiling reports and taking samples/recording data.
This is a new role which gives a candidate the responsibility for ensuring that all business operations remain sustainable and in line with environmental aims.
You’ll not only have to implement positive changes, but you’ll have to show that they have a direct impact on business performance.
As you can see, a green job is far more diverse than just working in gardens or parks.
Green careers aren’t just about hands-on work outside, they are about job roles that proactively seek to create a long-lasting environmental difference.
This means that more people can benefit from working in a green job than those with a ‘typical’ science degree.
Years ago, green jobs were aligned with radical thinkers, but it’s now been proven that sustainable business practices can provide tangible returns on investment.
The opening up of green careers within corporate organizations means that sustainability and environmental roles will continue to emerge, and new departments may develop as a result.
From a career’s perspective, this means that those with degrees in areas such as architecture, communications, political science and even urban planning, can use their knowledge and expertise to work in new, greener ways.
It means that they can work to create a more sustainable world for us to live and work in.
It’s an exciting time for those who wish to work in green jobs. There is plenty of opportunity for career progression as businesses expand, giving more opportunities to combine effective environmental practices with increased earning potential.