Environmental careers are in high demand, with above-average growth projected for the next 10 years. Make your impact on the planet and find a career that offers sustainability both for your future and the environment.
It may not be easy being green, but it's certainly easier today than in years past. In fact, the environmental and sustainability industries are expanding rapidly into new and exciting areas. With its wide variety of jobs and steady growth, the promising environmental sector is sprouting like a healthy tree.
This means that not only can an environmental career be personally fulfilling as you help to save the planet, but there is real evidence that these careers will have a great financial outlook going forward.
In this blog, we'll explore the benefits of venturing the trail of the blooming sustainability industry and list 20 exciting environmental career paths.
What careers deal with the environment?
In decades past, the term “environmentalist” might have conjured very specific images. In recent years, however, careers aimed at protecting the environment and curbing industrial and social impact on nature have evolved in fascinating and unexpected ways. So, what constitutes an environmental career? In short, any job that promotes conservation and a positive impact on the environment. Today, that includes jobs in a wide variety of fields, spanning alternative energy, environmental science, engineering, sustainable agriculture, wildlife sciences, forestry, and outdoor adventures. These jobs appear in both government and, increasingly, in the private sector.
Why choose an environmental job?
An environmental career can be extremely personally fulfilling, having a direct, positive impact on your local climate and the planet as a whole. Here are 3 reasons to consider a job in this sector:
Do Actual Good. If you have a passion for improving sustainability, curbing climate change, or fighting the effects of pollution, a career in the environmental sector gives you the chance to be directly involved in the fight.
Experience Nature. If you're a nature enthusiast, an environmental job lets you spend time working outdoors. Many environmental jobs even offer travel opportunities to experience new topographies.
Variety. The environmental field has several, unique careers depending on your interests, capabilities, and the kind of environmental impact you wish to make.
Is an environmental career worth it financially?
Doing good for the planet of course has its own rewards. But when choosing a career path, it's important to know if that path even has a future that offers financial stability. So, will these jobs be in demand?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Absolutely.
What's good for the earth may be good for your earnings. Wages in many occupations related to environmental protection were well above the $38,640 median annual wage for all occupations in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)...[some]…occupations that involve monitoring the environment and preserving natural resources…wages were more than twice the overall median.
Who is hiring in the environmental sector?
Obviously, there are several government agencies that employ environmental engineers and scientists. Government positions tend to develop and enforce regulations or monitor ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, U.S. Forestry Service, and U.S. Geological Survey to name a few. Local and state governments also have their own governing agencies.
In the private sector, these jobs aim at creating solutions related to infrastructure and energy projects:
Environmental consultancies like Environmental Resources Management and Tetra Tech are on the rise.
Alternative energy companies, including solar companies, like Sunrisewindny,
Wind turbine companies like Vestas, and green energy companies like Clean Choice Energy.
Environmental tech companies like HDR and Planet create infrastructure, architectural, and design solutions.
Manufacturing and chemical companies, like BASF, are hiring in-house environmental impact planners and energy managers.
Where can I find jobs in environmental careers?
If you're ready to begin your search for an environmental career, there are niche job search sites geared specifically towards job postings in the sustainability industry.
Environmentalcareer.com is a job search site that spans all areas of environmental and outdoor careers, covering tech and science jobs as well as a ranger, forestry, and government jobs.
Builtin.com is a tech-oriented job search site with a deep roster of environmental tech companies.
Where can I find training for environmental careers?
If you're just beginning your career journey and considering trekking the path of an environmental career, there are online resources available to help you find the necessary training to enter the workforce.
Environmentalscience.org does offer a job search database, but is primarily an educational platform, providing insights and links to training opportunities.
Terra.do is the world's largest platform for climate work. Their mission: Get 100 million people to work on climate this decade. More a community than just a website, they provide educational, job training, and employment resources.
20 Exciting environmental careers
Now that we've explored the nature of environmental careers, let's take a look at a few examples and see if any of them pique your interest.
1. Solar photovoltaic installer
Solar installers set up solar panels on homes, buildings, and land sites. They also perform maintenance on panels and certify safety protocols. Solar installers are technicians, who measure, cut, and assemble the modules. They typically receive on-the-job training.
- Average Annual Salary: $46k*
* Avg. Salary Information from bls.gov
2. Wind turbine technician
Wind turbine technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.
Median Annual Salary: $56k
3. Air quality engineer
Air quality engineers work on optimizing indoor air quality and cleaning contaminated air. This includes both the technical side of the task as well as statistical modeling and ensuring compliance with governmental regulations. This path requires at minimum a bachelor's degree with a focus on environmental engineering and advanced, industry-specific training.
Average Annual Salary: $87k
4. Sustainability engineer
Sustainability engineers advise industrial and commercial design teams on achieving low-energy, sustainability goals in design projects. They help bolster project sustainability credentials by generating models, gathering environmental impact data, and being involved in the design process.
Average Annual Salary: $91k
5. Environmental engineer
Environmental engineers create environmental investigation reports and design impact projects for environmental protection. They generally have a background in either biology or earth science and utilize their knowledge of wildlife and soil science to develop ecological improvement projects.
Average Annual Salary: $97k
6. Environmental health and safety officer
Environmental health and safety officers create plans for industrial and commercial organizations to implement in different working environments. They evaluate occupational and environmental hazards, educate teams on procedures, and ensure compliance with regulations.
Average Annual Salary: $86k
7. Environmental consultant
Environmental consultants are contracted by industrial, manufacturing, construction and architectural companies to assess environmental issues and the impact of company plans on air, water, and soil and relay their findings to their clients. They ensure that their clients adhere to environmental laws and guidelines.
Average Annual Salary: $69k
8. Environmental planner
Similar to a consultant, an environmental planner assesses the environmental impacts of construction and production projects on the environment. Often a member of the design team, the planner is involved in the environmental permitting processes, generates reports and helps minimize the environmental impact of development projects.
Average Annual Salary: $73k
9. Energy manager
"Energy management" has several meanings, but mainly it relates to saving energy in businesses, public-sector/government organizations, and homes. An energy manager, in short, analyzes energy usage and develops programs that optimize energy efficiency. They work to reduce energy consumption, including retrofitting buildings and advising on future designs.
Average Annual Salary: $87k
10. Environmental lawyer
Environmental law encompasses all aspects of the law that provide protection for the environment. An environmental lawyer deals with regulatory regimes, and environmental legal policies focusing on the management of natural resources and environmental impact assessment, which may not fit neatly into either category, but are nonetheless important components of environmental law. Environmental lawyers are employed by private law firms, NGOs, and government agencies.
Average Annual Salary: $149k
11. Sustainable agriculture engineer
Agricultural engineers address agricultural issues related to structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural goods. This work can involve grain, produce, or livestock industries.
Average Annual Salary: $83k
12. Sustainable farmer
If you've got a thumb green enough to run your own farm, sustainable agriculture might be for you. A sustainable farm means good stewardship of the natural systems and resources that farms rely on, such as: healthy soil, proper water management, improving air and water pollution, storing carbon on farms, promoting biodiversity.
Sustainable agriculture contributes to local economies and helps maintain local ecosystems by employing agroecology, the science of managing farms as ecosystems. It aims to work with nature rather than against it, helping farms to avoid damaging environmental impacts without sacrificing productivity or profitability.
Average Annual Salary: $73k
13. Conservation scientists and foresters
Conservation scientists and foresters manage the land quality of forests, parks, and other natural habitats. They oversee forestry and conservation activities to ensure compliance with government regulations and habitat protection and negotiate terms and conditions for forest harvesting and for land-use contracts. They also work with private landowners, governments, farmers, and others to improve land for forestry purposes, while at the same time protecting the environment
Foresters, in particular, also monitor the regeneration of forests, participate in forest fire suppression, and help determine ways to remove timber with minimum environmental damage.
Average Annual Salary: $64k
14. Natural resource technician
Also known as a "forest and conservation technician," natural resource technicians work on protecting wildlife habitats. They partner with conservation scientists on habitat preservation. This also includes vegetation surveys and modeling air and water quality.
Average Annual Salary: $71k
A geologist studies liquid, solid and gaseous matter. They also study earthquakes, floods, landslides, and other soil-based natural disasters. Geologists can also be contracted to consult on environmental impact studies for industrial development projects.
Average Annual Salary: $69k
16. Wildlife biologist
Wildlife biologists study various animal species in the wild and their habitats. They conduct research, create population and migration models, and generate wildlife management and conservation plans to prevent threats to natural habitats and resources.
Average Annual Salary: $70k
Ecologists study organisms and their ecosystems. They are highly specialized scientists who investigate land areas and model data to understand ecological relationships. Ecologists typically work for government agencies or research institutes.
Average Annual Salary: $74k
Water availability and purity affect a variety of practical, regulatory, and geopolitical concerns. Hydrologists study water movement, cleanliness, pollution risks, and scarcity. Hydrologists work for both public sector and private sector concerns, providing data models and action plans.
Average Annual Salary: $84k
19. Park ranger
Both park rangers and forest rangers work to preserve various outdoor areas, primarily national and local parks. They patrol parks and national preserves to ensure visitors follow park rules and prevent them from disturbing the natural environment. They serve a critical role in ensuring the land set aside for public use is kept intact for everyone. Not just limited to patrolling, some rangers serve as park guides, encouraging public interaction with nature.
Average Annual Salary: $37k
20. Adventure guide
Adventure guides organize expeditions and outdoor activities for individuals and groups. Sometimes working for adventure companies or resorts, adventure guides lead clients through various activities, such as hunting excursions, mountain climbing, rafting, hiking, ziplining, or camping. They also teach them proper techniques and provide memorable and educational experiences interacting with nature.
Average Annual Salary: $28k
With a growing public interest in environmental preservation, the environmental and sustainability industries are finding their way into new and exciting areas. Not only is the variety of jobs expanding, but their significance in industrial and commercial development means that environmental careers are seeing steady growth and promised stability in the future.
If you're a nature enthusiast, an environmental career can be extremely fulfilling as you have a real and lasting impact in helping to save the planet, while offering rewarding employment.
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