Green Jobs: Where they are and how to get them

By: Tania Lavin, Market Research, Allegis Group

Earth-conscious individuals can find jobs in a variety of industries and occupations to satisfy their passion for all things green. According to the BLS’ Green Goods and Services (GGS) survey, establishments that receive revenue from green goods and services employed 3.4 million people in 2011, up 9.7% year over year. Below is a summary of the major green industries and jobs.

Green Organizations
There are an increasing number of organizations that produce goods and services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. These businesses can be categorized into the following specialties:

  • Energy from renewable sources
  • Energy efficiency goods and services
  • Pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction and recycling and reuse
  • Natural resources conservation
  • Environmental compliance, education and training and public awareness

 

Some of the biggest and fastest growing green industries include biofuel, electric vehicles, environmental remediation, geothermal energy, green construction, recycling, solar power, sustainability and wind energy. For more information on these industries, refer to the BLS’ green career articles.

Green Jobs

Green jobs may be unique to the industry they support. For instance, energy auditors, recycling coordinators and wind turbine service technicians require a bit of green industry experience and training. Other jobs may be found in non-green industries but green industry experience is often preferred.

Still, other jobs have lower switching costs, meaning an employee’s skills are more easily transferred from a non-green industry into a green one. Business/management, construction, engineering/design, manufacturing, plant operations, sales and scientist positions are easier to find without green industry experience.

Credentials

Like most industries, green industries employ people at all education levels. Below is a list of the most common green jobs sorted by educational level.

  • On the job training: Agricultural equipment operators and laborers, construction equipment operators and laborers, crane operators, dredge operators, earth drillers, excavating operators, computer-controlled machine tool operators, electrical and electronic equipment installers, repairers and assemblers, mechanics and welders.
  • High school diplomas: Electrical power-line installers and repairers, machinery maintenance workers, power plant operators, pump operators, recycling drivers, retail salespersons and customer service representatives.
  • Apprenticeship or vocational/technical degrees: Carpenter, electrician, glazier, HVAC installer, insulation installer, painter, plumber, roofer, derrick operator, rotary driller operator, roustabout, automotive service technicians and mechanics, industrial machinery mechanics, machinists and plant operators.
  • Associates degrees: General and operations managers, construction managers, engineering technicians, environmental engineering technicians, mechanical engineering technicians, wind turbine service technicians, chemical or laboratory technicians and environmental science and protection technicians.
  • Bachelor’s degrees or higher:
    • Business: Accountants and auditors, compliance auditors, cost estimators, emergency management directors, human resource specialists, occupational health and safety specialists, public relations specialists, real estate brokers and recycling coordinators
    • Sales: Purchasing agents, sales representatives
    • Engineering and Design: Agricultural, chemical, civil, electrical, electronics, environmental, health and safety, industrial, materials, mechanical and mining and geological engineers, architects, commercial and industrial designers, cartographers, mechanical drafters and software developers.
    • Managers: Industrial production managers, material recovery facility managers, natural science managers, plant managers
    • Scientists: Atmospheric scientists, biochemists and biophysicists, chemists, conservation scientists, environmental scientists, geologists, geoscientists, materials scientists, microbiologists, physicists, soil and plant scientists and wildlife biologists. Masters or Doctorate degrees are required for biochemists, biophysicists and scientists conducting research or developing new products.
    • Licenses or certifications may be required for engineers, electricians, energy auditors and hazardous materials removal workers.

 

In addition to traditional education and training, schools and associations have developed programs for green industries. Several schools offer degrees or certificates in sustainability or environmental management. The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) has developed programs to provide training on the skills needed to work on electric or alternative fuel vehicles. For now, these certifications provide a valuable edge to today’s green job seeker. However, over time, these credentials may become requirements for tomorrow’s green employees.