The job market and growth for sustainability careers or green jobs has grown rapidly in recent years due to increasing public and corporate interest in addressing environmental and social issues. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2015, the ratio of US oil and gas jobs to renewables and environment jobs was 5:1, but by 2020 this ratio had inched closer to 2:1. The WEF predicts that renewables and sustainability professions could actually outnumber oil and gas in total jobs on their platform within the next couple of years, a major pendulum shift towards green jobs in a relatively short period.
Approximately 875,000 Americans already hold jobs related to sustainability, renewable energy, and conservation. Over the next decade, the number of green jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow by another 114,000, or 9%. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), the renewable energy sector employed 11 million people globally in 2021. The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry alone employed 3.4 million people. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the fastest-growing occupation from 2019 to 2029 is expected to be wind turbine service technicians, with a growth rate of 61%.
Some of the fastest-growing sustainability jobs include:
- Renewable Energy Specialist
- Energy Manager
- Environmental Consultant
- Sustainability Coordinator
- Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
- Climate Change Analyst
Thinking About a Career in Sustainability?
Wind Turbine Technician
- Most wind turbine service technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some employers may prefer applicants with a technical degree or certification in a related field such as electrical, mechanical, or renewable energy.
- On-the-job training is common for wind turbine service technicians, where they learn about the specific equipment and procedures used by their employer. Some employers may also provide in-house training programs or opportunities to attend industry workshops and conferences.
- Many employers prefer wind turbine service technicians who have completed a certification program from a recognized organization such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or the American Wind Energy Association.
- Wind turbine service technicians typically start as apprentices or entry-level technicians and gain experience by working on turbines under the supervision of more experienced technicians.
- Wind turbine service technicians must adhere to strict safety standards, and many employers require technicians to be certified in first aid and CPR, as well as complete OSHA 10-hour training for wind energy.
Renewable Energy Specialist
- Pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field such as engineering, physics, environmental science, or renewable energy. Some programs offer a specific focus on renewable energy technologies and their applications.
- Participate in internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions in the renewable energy industry to gain hands-on experience in the field.
- Obtain certifications in specific areas such as solar panel installation, wind turbine maintenance, or energy efficiency, which will demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers.
- Attend renewable energy conferences, join industry organizations, and network with professionals in the field to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and make valuable connections.
- Seek opportunities for growth and advancement within the renewable energy industry, such as project management or technical leadership positions, to further develop your expertise and responsibilities.
Renewable Energy Manager
- A bachelor’s degree in engineering, energy management, environmental science, or a related field is often required for entry-level positions in renewable energy management. Some employers may prefer a master’s degree in a relevant field.
- Acquiring work experience in related fields such as energy engineering, project management, or sustainability consulting can provide valuable skills and knowledge that can be applied to a career in renewable energy management.
- Renewable energy is a rapidly evolving field, and it’s important for renewable energy managers to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and best practices. Participating in industry-specific training programs, conferences, and workshops can be a good way to stay current and build a network of contacts.
- While not always required, earning a professional certification such as the Certified Energy Manager (CEM) or Project Management Professional (PMP) can demonstrate a high level of competency and commitment to the field and can be useful in advancing your career.
- Building relationships with other professionals in the renewable energy industry, such as engineers, project managers, and sustainability consultants, can be a valuable way to learn about job opportunities, stay informed about industry trends, and develop a network of contacts that can help advance your career.
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as environmental science, environmental engineering, or geography.
- Gain work experience in environmental analysis, regulatory compliance, or environmental management through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions.
- Consider obtaining a Master’s degree in a related field or obtaining professional certifications, such as Certified Environmental Scientist (CES), Certified Environmental Professional (CEP), or Environmental Professional In Training (EPT).
- Network with professionals in the field and attend conferences and workshops to keep up with industry developments and trends.
- Acquire the necessary licenses and certifications, which vary by state and by the type of work being performed.
- Build a strong portfolio of work and a reputation as an expert in your field, and seek out opportunities to work on high-profile projects and gain exposure to diverse industries and clients.
- Consider becoming an independent consultant or starting your own environmental consulting firm.
- A bachelor’s degree in a related field such as sustainability, environmental science, or business administration is typically required for entry-level positions. Some employers may prefer a master’s degree in sustainability or a related field.
- Gain experience in sustainability through internships, volunteer work, or entry-level positions in the field. This could include experience in environmental management, energy efficiency, waste management, or sustainable business practices.
- Stay current on industry developments and trends by attending conferences, workshops, and networking events. Consider obtaining certifications in sustainability, such as LEED or ENERGY STAR certifications.
- Create a portfolio showcasing your experience, education, and relevant skills to demonstrate your expertise and commitment to sustainability.
- Look for opportunities to work as a Sustainability Coordinator, either in the public or private sector. Network with professionals in the field and use online job boards and company websites to find job openings.
Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business administration, environmental science, or sustainability. A master’s degree in a related field may also be helpful.
- Gain experience in the field through internships, entry-level positions, or volunteer work. This experience can help you understand the business world, as well as the various sustainability issues that companies face.
- Develop skills in communication, leadership, project management, and strategic planning. Familiarize yourself with CSR best practices, sustainability metrics, and corporate sustainability reporting.
- Build a professional network by attending industry conferences, joining professional organizations, and connecting with others in the sustainability field.
- Consider obtaining a certification in sustainability, such as the Certified Sustainable Development Professional (CSDP) or the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP).
- Look for job opportunities in CSR and sustainability at large companies, sustainability consulting firms, or nonprofit organizations. Networking and demonstrating your skills, knowledge, and passion for sustainability can increase your chances of landing a job in the field.
Climate Change Analyst
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as environmental science, atmospheric science, meteorology, or geography.
- Gain practical experience through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions in related fields.
- Build a strong foundation of technical skills, including experience with computer modeling and data analysis, as well as knowledge of climate science and the impacts of climate change.
- Pursue advanced education, such as a master’s degree or PhD, in a field related to climate change, environmental science, or a similar discipline.
- Network with professionals in the field and seek opportunities to participate in research or analysis projects.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in climate science and policy, and consider obtaining certifications or professional memberships in relevant organizations.
- Consider specializing in a specific aspect of climate change, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, or greenhouse gas reduction strategies.
Attorney, Focus – Environmental Law
- Environmental law attorneys usually have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as environmental science, political science, or law.
- After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring environmental law attorneys must attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.
- After graduation from law school, environmental law attorneys must pass the bar exam in the state in which they wish to practice.
- To become proficient in environmental law, new attorneys may need to gain experience through internships, clerkships, or working as an associate in an environmental law firm.
- Environmental law is a complex and rapidly changing field, and many environmental law attorneys choose to specialize in this area through continued education and experience.
Unsure of what path is right for you? Choosing a field within the sustainability industry can be a personal and complex decision, as there are many different areas of focus, including renewable energy, environmental conservation, green building, sustainable agriculture, and more. Important factors to consider when determining the path that is right for you –
- Assess your skills, interests, and values: Identify your strengths, what you enjoy doing, and what values are important to you. These factors can help guide you toward a career that you will find fulfilling and rewarding.
- Research different sustainability fields: Learn about the various areas of focus within the sustainability industry and what they entail. Consider attending events, networking with professionals in different fields, and reading articles, books, and reports to gain a deeper understanding of each field.
- Gain practical experience: Consider volunteering, interning, or working in entry-level positions in different sustainability fields to get hands-on experience and determine what you enjoy and excel at.
- Consider your long-term goals: What do you hope to achieve in your career? What impact do you want to make? Your goals can help you determine the best field for you, as well as guide you toward further education or certification.
- Consult with professionals in the field: Reach out to individuals who are working in the sustainability field and ask for their advice and perspectives.
Currently, the demand for green jobs is outpacing the production of green talent. Jobs that require green skills—building blocks such as waste prevention, environmental remediation, and other abilities that promote the environmental sustainability of economic abilities—are crucial to this green transformation. A 2022 LinkedIn report found that job postings requiring green skills have increased by 8% per year over the past five years, while the pool of green talent grew by just 6% a year over that same period.
As businesses and governments continue to prioritize sustainability and invest in green technologies, it is expected that the demand for professionals in these fields will continue to grow in the coming years.