In addition to the recent attention that elevated it to the American mainstream, the Green Jobs Industry has been a developing field for the past few decades. Patrick Heffernan’s 1976 study Jobs for the Environment – The Coming Green Collar Revolution informed congress on the importance of environmental awareness in business and government. Alan Durning’s book Green Collar Jobs first introduced the term to America. Focusing on the post-logging towns of the Pacific Northwest, his work examines the shift from an economic dependence on the natural resources of the land to an awareness of environmental and ecological preservation. This opened the doors for the green collar industry and such fields as sustainable forestry, natural resource conservation, and ecological restoration. And, in 2006 Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes of San Francisco State University defines green collar jobs as “blue collar jobs in green businesses – that is, manual labor jobs in businesses whose products and services directly improve environmental quality,” finally offering a concrete definition of the term.
Today, with environmental awareness at an all-time high, we are seeing an increase in employment opportunities across the board. Scientists are needed to analyze, protect, and monitor the environment and society’s interaction with it. Builders and urban planners are needed to design and construct environmentally friendly neighborhoods, parks, recreation areas, and housing and commercial developments. The field of alternative and renewable energies have opened the doors to students of engineering, technicians, analysts, and environmental management looking to “green” their career paths.
The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has stated that there are 8.5 million jobs in the solar energy field. Educators ranging from middle school earth science teachers to environmental biology professors are providing much needed instruction and preparation to an enthusiastic generation eager to repair the planet in the fields of environmental management, natural resource conservation, and forest preservation. Organic and sustainable farming, one of the oldest green professions, is still an ever growing field as people are becoming more aware of environmentally responsible farming practices.
So, even if your interests and education don’t involve years of study in agronomy or geology, water conservation or landscape architecture, you can still find a career that lets you “go green.”
Environmental engineers are finding work in the fields of urban planning, green building, solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy farms and plants. These environmentally educated engineers conduct building site appraisals, work with architects and planners on construction projects, work with environmental policy makers, work as technicians and electrical engineers, and use their knowledge of the effects and control of pollutions working for large plants and manufacturers.
Environmental engineers, along with their technical and analytical expertise, focus on environmental compliance issues and work with managers and executives on the adherence to federal regulatory practices.
So whether a student has a background in science or technology there are an abundance of jobs in the green-collar industry that can help the environment.
For most high level engineering positions, an advance degree is required. However, individuals with environmental engineering degrees can find work with a bachelor’s degree. Core courses at most university programs emphasize math, physics, and the natural sciences.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) environmental engineers will see a 10-25% increase in the job market over the next decade.
Engineering salaries have always been above the average for the U.S. work force, and as the demand for environmental engineers in new “green” fields grows, these salaries will as well.
Sustainable Architects are finding themselves in high demand as the push for “greener” building practices reaches from the commercial industry to the residential one. Sustainable Architects work closely with Urban Planners and Parks and Recreation professionals to develop sustainable environments for living, business, and recreation.
Most architectural schools are integrating “green” building practices into their curriculum and degree programs. Sustainable architecture courses are found in sustainable design programs, urban planning programs, and, as they become more prevalent in the world of academia, sustainable architecture programs.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) initiative set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council has given rise to new guidelines for the implementation of “green” standards for construction companies. Sustainable Architects will be in high demand as communities, new and old, want to follow the green trend and bring their properties up to these new standards.
The U.S. Green Building Council reports that the U.S. green building industry has a sales volume of more than $5 billion dollars in the last two years and currently sits at $12 billion. More money being spent translates into more opportunities.
URBAN / LAND USE PLANNERS
One of the biggest facing the green revolution is the conversion of the urban landscape to an acceptable environmental sustainability. As epicentres of resource use (and misuse) and wastefulness, the urban landscape in the U.S. needs to be designed (and repaired) from an environmental and ecological point of view. Environmentally educated planners dedicated to reconfiguring our communities around resource efficiency and decreased waste will be essential.
Many Urban Planning and Public Policy programs are adding sustainable design and planning to their curriculum. Along with the natural and social sciences, students are receiving educations in engineering and architecture to aid them in the new green Urban Planning field.
According to the BLS, employment for Urban Planners is expected to grow at a rate of 15% over the next decade. This is driven by the need to preserve existing urban communities and to provide them with ways to become more “green” conscious and energy and resource efficient. Also, the largest sector of this industry will deal with the development of new, environmentally sound, urban communities.
Finally, a law practice which receives applause rather than disdain from the general public. Law students are finding this “green” legal field readily available in their university’s curriculum and the professional field very welcoming. The “greening” of the nation has seen the enactment of dozens of federal policies, several congressional acts, and countless corporate and business regulations. When a corporation or large business fails to comply with federal green regulations, an environmental law group steps in to ensure the future compliance of the group. It is the job of environmental law students to work as policy pushers and consultants to make sure corporations, states and cities, and the general public adhere to these new green initiatives.
Many law schools across the country are now offering J.D. degrees with concentrations in environmental law. Programs are now becoming interdisciplinary, with courses offered in the natural and social sciences in such areas as conservation, ethics, policy, and national and global issues.
With corporations across the U.S. seeking guidance about the ecological impact of their actions – from land use to pollution control – the need for environmental lawyers and corporate consultants is expected to increase at a rate of 25 percent over the next decade (EPA).
Many fields of environmental science are now in high demand. Environmental Scientists can be found in “green” fields of business ranging from agriculture to education, and from energy to building. They often work as consultants in the development of wildlife parks, and as researchers in new forms of biofuel production and pollution control.
They take the training they acquired at the university level in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, ecology, geology, forestry) and apply to the working world, all the while focusing on environmental conservation and protection. For research and higher level manager positions, an advanced degree is usually required. However, environmental scientists with bachelor’s degrees are finding an abundant amount of opportunities available.
According to the BLS, the employment of Environmental Scientists is expected to increase at a rate of 25 percent over the next decade, a rate much higher than the national average. Currently, 43% of all Environmental Scientists work for local, state, or federal governments (BLS). Many work for consulting firms, or as private consultants.
TOP PROFESSIONS IN THE FIELD
Conservation biologists focus on the protection and restoration of biodiversity in various ecosystems on the planet. They develop environmental planning and management practices to maintain the wildlife and resources of the earth’s natural ecology.
Hydrologists use science and math backgrounds to improve and solve water quality issues. They work with natural bodies of water to improve aquatic ecosystems, and also with man made reservoirs to improve the quality of drinking water and irrigation for farming.
Toxicologists study the causes and effects of harmful toxins, and how we can better protect ourselves from the exposure to poisons. Toxicologists study how we are exposed to toxicants, the levels it takes to harm us, and how to reduce or eliminate the effects of toxins. They study the effect of toxins in drinking water, agricultural products, household cleaners, and many other everyday products.
Ecologists study the relationship between the environment and actions that affect it, including weather, pollution, climate change, human interference, and industrialization. Ecologists work in a range of environmental fields including forest preservation, wildlife science and protections (especially working with endangered species restoration), park and woodlands development, and water and natural resource conservation. The main goal and responsibility of all ecologists is environmental preservation and sustainability.