Between the increased understanding of climate change and the rising awareness of the ethical responsibilities involved with sustainability, it is no surprise that careers in green and renewable energy sectors are in high demand. These jobs cover the broad expanse of areas associated with environmental career fields, from the more established recycling and energy production opportunities in wind and solar power to newer positions in marketing and green building.
If you are a green job seeker and want a job that makes a difference, learn more about these sustainability careers that are growing, thriving, and becoming an impactful part of the mainstream economy.
Biofuel Production Operator
Although biofuel is far from a perfect form of renewable energy, it is a much better choice than fossil fuels. The use of biofuel, mainly ethanol and biodiesel, has grown significantly in the United States over the last decade, resulting in an estimated job growth of 807,000 by 2022.
Biofuel is grown on farms, then harvested and sent to factories to be processed. A biofuel production operator manages the systems responsible for biofuel processing, including the supply chain, production lines, and equipment amongst other areas. The responsibilities associated with this position may also involve quality control tests, inspections, and repairs.
Wind Energy Engineer
Harnessing wind energy involves the design of complex systems; thus, engineers in this field are skilled and valued. These scientists develop all aspects of wind farms, such as designing sites and manufacturing all mechanical components. Some wind energy engineers are responsible for the hardware design of energy production systems, turbines, and rotor systems, while others analyze aerodynamic properties or budget manufacturing processes.
Wind energy is a vast field requiring a multitude of engineers with differing specialties. Engineers who focus on wind energy include environmental, civil, mechanical, and electrical, as well as industrial, electronics, and materials engineers.
Green Construction Professional
The desire to build with sustainability and the environment in mind now dominates most new architecture from large cities to smaller towns. The U.S. Green Building Council notes in their 2019 Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report that green building is one of the top energy efficiency job markets in the country. With Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation, more green builders are in demand, especially among millennials purchasing new-build homes. Because of this impact, green construction building professionals are amongst the most popular positions in architecture.
Green construction professionals span a wide range of individual positions, such as equipment and operating engineers, landscape architects, construction laborers, and construction managers. Green building industries often look for professionals who also have additional education or training in business or construction management and engineering. Ultimately, all of these positions work together to create a green building that helps rather than hurts the environment.
The primary responsibilities of an energy auditor are to study and evaluate commercial and residential buildings in terms of their energy usage and waste. Energy auditors find and stop energy leaks in heating and cooling areas and discover ways to reduce energy waste over time. This position may also require the installation of energy-efficient technology for lighting, heating, and cooling, amongst other areas.
Agricultural and Food Science
A shortage in the agriculture business due to an aging population and increased urbanization has led to more jobs and a need for workers in this sustainability field. These needs range from agricultural technology to food science to precision and sustainable agriculture. The overall employment for this sector is expected to grow 7 percent through 2028.
Agronomists, who are crop experts, are among some of the most desired agribusiness employees. They are responsible for their knowledge and implementation of the newest and best sustainable methods of growing crops. These scientists also focus on soil management to grow and cultivate healthy, disease-free crops. Agronomists may work in fields (greenhouses or farms) or run tests and analyses in laboratories. Seed companies, chemical and fertilizer companies, food companies, and farming corporations also hire agronomists for their businesses.
Growth in farm size has made operating a successful farm challenging to accomplish alone. Farmers who don’t have children who wish to take over the family operation or who cannot physically do farm work by themselves are looking for farm managers to assist their business. Large farming corporations are searching for efficient, experienced individuals, while other companies are willing to train workers on the job. Desired skills include knowledge, operation, and maintenance of farming equipment, basic agricultural education, communication skills, management experience, problem-solving ability, and a strong work ethic.
The process of recycling goes far beyond the weekly garbage collection. Waste needs to be disposed of in environmentally acceptable ways, and recycling is designed to prompt the reuse of as much waste as possible. Green jobs involving recycling include wastewater and solid waste management, environmental science, soil experts, hazardous materials experts, as well as environmental technology, human resources, and accounting. With an increased emphasis and participation in recycling programs, this industry can provide 30 times more jobs than traditional employment in landfills and incineration.
Local governments and private businesses hire recycling coordinators to run their waste removal department. This job involves oversight of recycling collection and drop-off services to analyze the process and optimize it for efficiency and service. In-house duties include assigning drivers and technicians to routes, creating and managing budgets, negotiating contracts with outside waste management companies, operating equipment, and acting as a liaison with the community.
Hazardous Materials Worker
As a hazardous materials worker, an individual locates, identifies, and removes dangerous materials such as nuclear and radioactive waste, lead, arsenic, and asbestos. This position requires the worker to respond to hazardous material spills and implement clean-up plans, keep records of clean-up incidents, and packaging and shipping hazardous waste materials. These workers may focus on the removal of specific hazardous waste materials, such as mold and radiation.
Green, Purposeful Careers
Job opportunities in sustainability sectors continue to rise with sustainability employment representing between 4 and 4.5 million jobs in the United States. Green jobs and energy efficiency jobs are not outsourced and therefore pay above-average salaries. The need for sustainability and clean energy is present in every state, offering increased employment opportunities that are critically important to the planet and full of purpose.