4 In-Demand Green Jobs

Check out the fastest-growing environmental science and sustainability jobs.

Many hands-on career options exist for environmental engineers.
Photo: Thinkstock

It’s no secret that green jobs are more in-demand than ever before. If you’re considering a degree in environmental science, sustainability or a related field, you may be able to gauge your career prospects by finding out which green jobs are expected to grow fastest in the coming years. Here’s a quick guide to the top green jobs available to applicants with the right education.

Environmental Engineer

In addition to their love for the environment, environmental engineers also have great skills in math, problem solving and data reporting. They use this skill set to create eco-friendly, sustainable systems and practices for companies and government agencies. What sets an environmental engineer apart from other types of engineers is that their work helps to protect and preserve the earth’s resources. They can accomplish this in a variety of ways, whether they’re finding methods to convert waste to energy, inspecting industrial facilities to make sure they comply with environmental regulations, or advising corporations about the safest and most sustainable ways to create the products they sell.

Through their research and scientific testing, environmental science and protection technicians determine the causes of these issues, as well as their impacts on human health.

  • Expected growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for environmental engineers will increase 15 percent between 2012 and 2022. That’s significantly higher than the expected growth for all engineers during the same period, which is only 9 percent.
  • How to get the job: Enroll in an environmental engineering program. While many four-year colleges offer a bachelor’s degree program in this area, you can also look for a five-year program which leads to a master’s degree in environmental engineering. You’ll also need to pass the professional engineer licensing exam.

Geoscientist

Paleontology is one of many options for geoscientists.
Photo: Thinkstock

Geoscientists know all about the physical aspects of the earth, including its composition and structure. By understanding how the planet was formed and continues to change, geoscientists find ways to utilize the earth’s resources sustainably. In addition, many geoscientists are involved with environmental preservation and protection. Some geoscientists have a very specialized role -- seismologists, paleontologists, oceanographers, geophysicists and geologists are all examples of geoscientists.

  • Expected growth: The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that the demand for geoscientists will grow by 16 percent from 2012 to 2022. This is higher than the expected growth for all life, physical and social science occupations, which is 10 percent.
  • How to get the job: The minimum education required to become a geoscientist is a bachelor’s degree. While most employers prefer a geosciences degree, some geoscientists pursue a degree in geology, physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics or engineering. A master’s degree may be necessary for certain advanced positions, while a Ph.D. is required for research and teaching positions. In some states, you may need a license to practice as a geoscientist.

Environmental Engineering Technician

While an environmental engineer is responsible for designing and planning systems to protect the environment, it’s environmental engineering technicians that do much of the hands-on work of putting those plans into action. Whether they’re collecting samples, conducting surveys or organizing data, environmental engineering technicians use their skills to prepare for new systems to be put into place. In addition, they may also go over technical documents, arrange for the disposal of hazardous materials and maintain project records. Overall, they work under an environmental engineer as part of a team with other technicians.

  • Expected growth: According to the BLS, employment for environmental engineering technicians is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2012 and 2022. That projected growth is remarkably higher than that of general engineering technicians, who are expected to see an employment increase of just 1 percent in that time frame.
  • How to get the job: Most environmental engineering technicians have an associate’s degree in environmental engineering technology or a related field. You can find these programs at vocational schools and community colleges. Make sure the program you enroll in is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Inspections, laboratory work and data collection are all tasks that environmental science and protection technicians perform on the job. Their background in natural sciences helps to prepare them for a career focused on investigating the sources of contamination and pollution. Through their research and scientific testing, environmental science and protection technicians determine the causes of these issues, as well as their impacts on human health. These professionals generally work under the supervision of an environmental scientist or specialist at either a consulting firm or a government agency.

  • Expected growth: The BLS reports that there will be a 19 percent increase in job demand for environmental science and protection technicians between 2012 and 2022.
  • How to get the job: Enroll in an associate’s degree program in environmental science, public health or environmental health if you wish to become an environmental science and protection technician. Seek out internship opportunities and courses related to environmental technology (such as geographic information systems or remote sensing) to increase your employment opportunities.

Just about all careers in sustainability are seeing an increase in the demand for qualified workers. If you’re pursuing a degree in environmental studies or a related field, consider one of the growing green job categories described here.

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