With the right academic training careers in sustainability can earn you a lot of green. Sustainability is more than just a buzz word it is also an economic boom that has launched thousands of careers and promises to be at the center of many thousands more. These are career paths that can do more than just pay the bills, these are jobs that are imbued with a powerful sense of purpose. Jobs in sustainability can be found in both the private sector and the public sector and they can involve both outreach and activism. Whether in a nonprofit or a for-profit organization there are many sustainability-focused career opportunities. For a comprehensive review of sustainability including definitions click here.
Green jobs* are in high demand and that demand will only increase as we dive ever deeper into the green economy. The number of green economy jobs has been growing for years. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that 2.3 percent of private sector jobs or about 2,515,200 positions were related to the production of green goods and services. This includes everything from clean power production to green buildings and electric cars.
The green economy is huge and growing at a rapid pace. In the US alone there are more than 2.7 million jobs in energy efficiency and another 3.4 million in the clean energy sector. According to 2017 statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) worldwide there are an estimated 8,079,000 direct and indirect jobs in renewable energy.
Entry level sustainability positions may not be as lucrative as in some other fields but the earning potential rapidly increases as your position improves. Senior personal can earn incomes well into the high six figures. Generally speaking a graduate degree will earn you more than an undergraduate degree and an academic background in the sciences and management will pay more than degrees in social sciences and humanities. According to Indeed, those employed in sustainability average between 70k – 90k per year.
The number of corporate sustainability managers is growing fast. A 2013 report from GreenBiz showed that the number of companies with full-time sustainability managers went from six in 1990 to 283 in 2012. And a 2012 survey of more than 4,000 corporate leaders found that 70 percent of represented companies had placed sustainability permanently on their management agendas. In 2017 there are a number of powerful drivers that continue to move sustainability forward.
The role of the social entrepreneur is on the increase. Here we are talking about people who are the point of convergence between doing good and good business.
Campus Sustainability Officers are another growing source of employment. Schools across the country and around the world are becoming ground zero for sustainability. This is a good starting position for those just getting into sustainability. Whether a manager or a coordinator campus sustainability officers focus on climate planning, energy efficiency, waste and recycling, sustainable food systems, water efficiency. They also are involved with student engagement, working with faculty on sustainability degree curriculum development and research, and community engagement. Average salary is up to $62,059 per year.
The demand for consultants keeps increasing. This is also true of consultants who specialize in sustainability. This includes supply chain management, product design, marketing and organizational culture. a report from The College Board indicates that consulting is currently one of the fastest-growing industries. Between 2008 and 2018 a total of 835,000 new jobs are projected. A 2010 study by Forrester Research predicted that global sustainability consulting would grow from a $2.7 billion industry in 2010 to a $9.6 billion one in 2015. The International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) indicates that average salaries in this field are well over $70,000 annually.
Lobbyist who advocate for sustainability can find work with public interest groups, lobbying firms, or election campaigns. They run advocacy campaigns, set up fundraisers, organize meetings between politicians and stakeholders, do media outreach. The average salary is around $100,000 per year.
Health and safety engineers are responsible for designing processes and systems that help to ensure the safety of people working within a controlled organizational or non-organizational environment. The focus on the work-related safety and health of employees including air and water control, machine inspections. Average salary $75,000 per year
Environmental engineers develop biological and chemical solutions to environmental problems including water and air pollution control, recycling, safe pest management, waste and sewage disposal, and public health issues. Responsibilities may also include developing new processes that turn waste into usable products. Average salary $79,000 per year.
Atmospheric scientists determine the sustainability of the global ecosystem (ie the effects of chemicals. They study the impact of industrial processes on air quality and the relationship between pollution and climate. They are also responsible for reducing air pollution. Average salary $89,000 per year.
Chemical engineers are responsible for making chemical processes more environmental friendly and sustainable. This includes making chemicals biodegradable, and developing chemicals and chemical processes that reduce pollution and waste hazards. Average salary $92,000 per year.
Operations managers/general managers oversee daily operations, processes and services while following the directives of the chief sustainability executive. This includes waste minimization, recycling, pollution prevention, energy efficiency and conservation. Responsibilities also include keeping a track of financials, generating ideas and setting the organizational tone. Average salary is $95,000 per year.
Natural science managers are scientific manager who coordinate teams of scientists and researchers working collectively on sustainability projects. Average salary is $114,000 per year.
Chief sustainability executive (vice president, director) is responsible for envisioning, expanding, implementing and enforcing sustainability within the organization. Average salary is $166,000 per year.
* The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines green jobs as either “jobs in businesses that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources” or as “jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.” These definitions include employment in 1) renewable energy; 2) energy efficiency; 3) pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse; 4) natural resources conservation; and 5) environmental compliance, education and training, and public awareness.
Make sure to see the article titled, “Comprehensive Green School Information and Resources.” It contains links to over 350 posts covering everything you need to know about sustainable academics, green school buildings, student eco-initiatives, and college rankings as well as a wide range of related information and resources.