So, you’re one of the many people who has become increasingly interested in our planet and the steps we can take to protect it. There are certainly many ways you can take care of Mother Earth in your daily life (i.e. reduce your meat and dairy consumption, minimizing plastic use, etc.), but how does it sound to get paid for doing what you love?
Fortunately, our planet is hiring. Earth needs more people to take an active role in saving it, and this means that sustainability jobs already exist—and the field is growing. There’s a bright outlook for careers in sustainability, and more jobs are becoming available in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
Whether you’re starting to do some planning while in high school, are already enrolled in college, or are considering a career change, it’s never too early or late to transition towards a career that provides some much needed support for our home.
To give you an idea of what you could expect, here are some of the top sustainability jobs and what they require.
10 Top Sustainability Jobs
1. Environmental Engineer
Environmental engineers combine engineering principles along with chemistry, biology, and soil science to determine solutions for environmental problems. This is a desirable position for many because it involves working in an array of settings, many times with urban and regional planners, construction workers, and other engineering experts.
The career typically requires a Bachelor’s Degree, but does offer a median pay of $88,860 per year (bls.gov). In 2019, there were 55,800 environmental engineering jobs and the job outlook for an environmental engineer is excellent. According to Best Colleges, we could anticipate a 5% increase in positions from 2018 numbers by 2028.
2. Sustainability/Environmental Manager
Corporations and non-governmental organizations are continually seeking more sustainability-oriented manatees to add to their teams. These are typically filled by sustainability managers, also sometimes known as a sustainable design consultant or sustainability specialist.
One of the benefits of working as a sustainability manager is that you may find a job in nearly any field and with a large variety of organizations.
According to the University of Wisconsin, corporations like Unilever, Patagonia, IKEA, and Nike are seeking more sustainability managers, just like non-governmental organizations like World Wildlife Fund, WRI, and Greenpeace. While these are large-scale organizations, small, local organizations are just as committed to incorporating sustainability into their teams.
Generally speaking, a Bachelor’s Degree is required. In 2018, the median salary was $70,530 and the field employed 1,135,700 professionals—a number that’s expected to grow at a slightly higher rate of 65.
3. Director of Sustainability/Chief Sustainability Officer
If someone were looking to work as a sustainability manager, but take it to the next level, they could consider a position as a chief sustainability officer (CSO). This is a relatively new position that helps a business or organization develop, communicate, and execute sustainability business strategies to not only contribute to further sustainability, but also help them gain additional profits in the process.
This will generally require a Master’s Degree, as well as many years experience in the sustainability field. However, the median pay in 2019 was $104,690 per year (bls.gov).
4. Forest and Conservation Worker
Unlike the previous mentioned career opportunities, to become a conservation worker only requires a high school diploma, or the equivalent. As the name suggests, conservation workers take records of forests and other natural areas and then implement and use practices to improve them.
This will generally be a labor-intensive role, but will allow someone to spend a great deal of their time outside. The median salary was $31,770 per year in 2019 (bls.gov), and unfortunately the job outlook is anticipated to slightly diminish over the next decade.
5. Environmental Science and Protection Technician
Similar to a conservation worker, an environmental science and protection technician will monitor and evaluate an environmental area. However, they will also work to detect and mitigate causes of pollution and contamination. They’ll spend time working in the field, but also in laboratories and offices.
Typically, an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree is required. The average annual salary in 2019 was $46,540 (bls.gov).
6. Environmental Health and Safety Analyst
Generally employed in the production and manufacturing fields an environmental health and safety (EHS) analyst will audit a company’s practices to ensure that they meet health and environmental standards. EHS analysts will also develop and implement green initiatives.
Becoming an EHS specialist will generally require a Bachelor’s Degree, and someone can expect a salary of around $63,389.
7. Ecologist/Environmental Scientist and Specialist
Incorporating a strong understanding of the natural scientists, an ecologist is tasked with protecting the environment and human health. While this sometimes may require field work to gather data and observations, an environmental scientist will typically work in a laboratory or office.
A Bachelor’s Degree is required to become an environmental scientist and the job outlook is much higher than average (8%). In 2019, an ecologist made, on average, $71,360 per year (bls.gov).
Filling both practical and theoretical positions, a geoscientist will collect and analyze data to develop a deeper understanding of soil composition, groundwater, and other physical aspects of the Earth. This knowledge may be used to prevent some of the risks of our changing climate, and can also be used by companies that extract natural resources.
Some entry-level positions will only require a Bachelor’s Degree, but most positions will require someone with a Master’s Degree. In 2019, an average geoscientist made $92,040 per year (bls.gov). The expected growth in this field is slightly higher than average (5%).
9. Wildlife Biologist/Zoologist
As the name suggests, a wildlife biologist studies wildlife and animals to determine their role in their ecosystems. This will generally involve a lot of time spent outdoors in an animal’s natural habitat, but also requires some time in laboratories and offices.
Like a geoscientist, entry-level positions only necessitate a Bachelor’s Degree, while some higher positions (like those involving university research) may require a Master’s Degree or higher. In 2019, a zoologist made around $63,270 per year (bls.gov). The field is expected to grow around as fast as average (4%).
10. Agricultural and Food Scientist
With an increasing awareness of the impact our food system has on the planet, there’s an increasing demand for scientists to not only research and develop safe and effective agricultural practices, but also create food products that are better for our planet.
A Bachelor’s Degree may be suitable for some entry-level positions, but a Master’s Degree (or higher) is more common. In 2019, an average salary of $65,160 was reported (bls.gov), and the job outlook is higher than average (6%).
The Number of Sustainability Jobs Continues…
The list of sustainability careers is endless! We’ve only just scratched the surface with these ten sustainability jobs. Because more and more people are becoming aware that all of our actions have an impact on our changing climate, sustainability is increasingly becoming embedded in many fields—from marketing and insurance management, to community development, accounting, and local government.
While we won’t elaborate on the requirements/outlook of these careers, here are some more sustainability jobs:
- Agroforestry expert
- Air quality forester
- Aquaponics specialist
- Aquatic biologist
- Chemical engineer
- Ecotourism specialist
- Energy auditor
- Environmental lawyer
- Energy manager
- Environmental public relations specialist
- Environmental remediation specialist
- Landscape architect
- Nuclear engineer
- Solar engineer
- Solar power installer
- Sustainability writer
- Turf scientist
- Urban and regional planner
- University researcher/lecturer
- Watershed manager
- Wind turbine technician
- Zoning technician
We’re sure that we still haven’t even mentioned all of the sustainability jobs out there! If you work in the sustainability field, let us know what you do in the comments below.