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Careers in Sustainability – Required Education & Job Outlook

Careers in Sustainability

Given the growing importance of jobs and roles associated with lessening environmental consequences, there will never be a wrong time to pursue a career in sustainability. Every industry invests in sustainable development in daily business operations. In this field, candidates can explore various potential options if they seek careers that support both communities and the environment. Regarding sustainability, there isn’t one unique job path. Building a green career doesn’t require you to stop what you are already doing or set aside your other interests.

Furthermore, a profession in this field is more beneficial since green jobs and careers pay more than other positions unrelated to sustainability or clean energy. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a chief sustainability officer’s salary, as of May 2021, is $100,000 per annum. The exciting thing is that several career alternatives exist for employees who want to pursue environmental sustainability roles.

If you want to launch or enhance your career in this field, there are a few approaches to get started. Here is a summary of several environmental sustainability jobs, sustainable engineering jobs, and sustainable agriculture career options. In addition, you will also know more about the academic qualifications that guarantee a prosperous career in sustainability.

What is a Career in Sustainability?

The commercial and nonprofit sectors provide various job options related to sustainability. A sustainable career is a job that develops with individuals over time. These careers have personal significance and effectively utilize the individual’s knowledge and expertise.

A few career possibilities that sustainability might open up include urban planning, aqualogy, environmental engineering, sustainability specialist, etc.

Three Pillars of Sustainability

The three pillars that govern careers in sustainability are environmental protection, economic viability, and social equity.

Why Pursue This Career?

A career in sustainability offers many psychological, emotional, and financial benefits.

Most environmental sustainability jobs aid practitioners to be a part of improving the environmental and social advancement of the economy.

Fields of Sustainability

In any society where industrial development takes place, the four most common types/fields of sustainability include:

  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Economic Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability
  • Human Sustainability

General Overview: Sustainability Education

This section will explore sustainability degrees available at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels.

Associates Degree in Sustainability

Not many degrees exist for students to choose from at the associate level. These certificates are available as AAS, AA, or AS. In this field, the Associate of Arts (AA) primarily integrates liberal arts courses, the Associate of Science (AS) focuses more on the technical and business aspect of sustainability, and the Associate in Applied Science (AAS) centers on practical and scientific concentrations.

Typical sustainability courses available at the associate level include:

  • Environmental Studies AS
  • Forestry & Natural Resources AS
  • Energy Management Studies AAS
  • Solar Energy Technology AAS

Bachelors in Sustainability

Some of the typical bachelor’s in sustainability programs include:

  • Environmental Design
  • Sustainability Science
  • Sustainable Urban Design
  • Energy and Sustainability Policy
  • Urban Sustainability
  • Environment and Sustainability
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

Master’s in Sustainability

A master’s in sustainability comes with jobs that help the environment and pay well in the long run.

Typical master’s in sustainability programs include the following:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Sustainability
  • Environment and Sustainability
  • Sustainable Systems

Doctoral Degree in Sustainability

At the doctoral level, sustainability degree jobs are typically in academia. Although, other doctorate studies in sustainability can pave the way for specialists to explore the different industries in this field. A few of the typical doctoral degree programs available to students are:

  • Sustainability Education
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Sustainable Development

Degree-Acquired Skills

Most sustainability entry-level jobs require graduates to possess some vital skills necessary to champion growth in sustainability career paths. In the programs outlined in this article, aspiring specialists will gain the following soft skills during the program:

Research Skills

Sustainability specialists must supply reliable information to assess and analyze specific claims, policy changes, and project proposals. Using this curriculum, students will acquire skills to effectively extract information, figures, and facts using sources, including archives, journals, websites, and public databases.

Sense of Purpose

The ability for candidates to devote themselves to sustainable work requires a powerful sense of purpose that’s not taught in the classroom. Through this program coursework, candidates will learn how to convey their plans and direction to others in a professional & appealing way in different contexts or situations.

Primary Data Skills

In this sustainability degree, learners will acquire skills necessary for analyzing, collecting, and reporting on data. With this knowledge, students can explore and track the outcome of sustainability initiatives over a specific duration and their overall effect on different parts of the business.

Effective Problem-Solving

In a society where sustainability is becoming increasingly important, professionals who solve problems and develop innovative solutions are more likely to thrive. Via this curriculum, you will learn how to aid a receptive environment for idea exchange to assist businesses’ transition to sustainability.

Strong Leadership Skills

These programs will show you how to communicate change initiatives effectively, delegate duties, and inspire others to be more productive while preserving team strength when the situation changes. In addition, you will study strategies for thinking quickly, considering all points of view, and making the best decisions possible.

What Can You Do with a Sustainability Degree?

Where Can You Work as a Sustainability Professional?

About 50% of sustainability consultants and professionals are employed in not-for-profit and government organizations, while the rest are in private industries and institutions. The top recruiters or employers of environmental sustainability graduates are:

  • Government
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Oil and gas industry
  • Mining companies
  • Forestry and utilities
  • Research institutions
  • Manufacturing companies

Note: Most of the providers of jobs in sustainable development are in the United States and some key European countries like the United Kingdom, France, etc.

The Job Outlook for Sustainability Careers

The job growth for most corporate sustainability jobs, food sustainability jobs, sustainable design jobs, and sustainability management jobs will increase between 4% to 8% over the next ten years. As the world favors more eco-friendly programs, the demand for professionals in this field will continue to rise yearly.

Associate in Sustainability Jobs

It’s imperative to know that most associate degree holders in this field get entry-level sustainability jobs based on their level of expertise. A few of the associate jobs in sustainability include:

Solar Installers or PV Installers

Annual Salary: $47,670; based on BLS statistics
Projected Growth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for experts in this field will increase by 27%.

Solar installers are professionals who set up, assemble, and maintain rooftop systems that convert sunlight into usable energy. Their primary duties and responsibilities are:

  • Measure, evaluate, and create the foundation structure or base for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels
  • Analyze client or customer needs to determine the nature of PV panels to deploy
  • Install solar panel components and support structures based on building standards
  • Connect photovoltaic panels to the appropriate electrical system connector
  • Apply necessary sealant to PV equipment
  • Deploy and test PV setup

Environmental Science & Protection Technician

Annual Salary: $47,370
Projected Growth: 6%; based on BLS Statistics

Environmental science and protection technicians work in public health as practitioners that monitor the surrounding environment to protect public health. In addition, they use laboratory equipment to evaluate samples gathered in the field. Their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Collect samples of water, soil, air, soil, and other vital materials for laboratory evaluations
  • Maintain and set up equipment to track pollution levels, like remote sensors for measuring emissions from modern smokestacks
  • Use equipment like microscopes to analyze and evaluate samples for traces of contaminants and other pollutants

Conservation Worker

Annual Salary: $30,550
Projected Growth: -3%; according to BLS

Conservation workers do manual and practical tasks to regenerate and revive native farmland.

Duties and responsibilities of conservation workers include:

  • Help prevent forest fires
  • Plant good seedlings to reforest farmland
  • Identify and eliminate undesirable trees
  • Infuse vegetation with herbicides and insecticides
  • Cut trees based on sizes, types, grades, or markings
  • Spray trees with fungicides and insecticides to kill fungi and insects to protect the underlying trees from disease
  • Remove debris on roadsides, trails, roadsides, and camping areas

Bachelor’s in Sustainability Jobs

Some of the sustainability degree jobs available at the bachelor level include:

Environmental Manager

Annual Salary: $87,109
Source: PayScale

Environmental managers oversee the implementation and development of environmental management applications in organizations. They locate, address, and mitigate environmental problems like pollution and waste disposal while adhering to environmental regulations.

Some of their primary duties and responsibilities are:

  • Putting environmental policies and principles into practice
  • Create and implement plans to achieve sustainable goals and promote best practices
  • Designing vital environmental tools and processes to carry out techniques to track performance

Sustainability Coordinator

Annual salary: The median salary is $50,878
Source: PayScale

A sustainability coordinator often collaborates with the relevant authorities and other agencies to plan, organize, and publicize successful sustainability programs that will lessen the adverse effects of human activities on the environment. Their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Developing and maintaining up-to-date databases for monitoring progress toward objectives and goals
  • Designing and maintaining an effective plan for the organization’s sustainability initiatives
  • Coordinating with different departments in the organization to ensure that all sustainability programs work based on plans

Energy Auditors

Annual salary: $19.69 per hour. At 40 hrs per week, energy raters/auditors earn $37,805 per annum

Energy auditors are experts who work to minimize energy waste by evaluating facilities to identify leakages and advising clients on how to stop and fix them. Through this means, they assist consumers in conserving money and resources. Their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Identifying options for energy conservation and calculating possible savings
  • Creating and delivering audit reports that include energy analysis findings and suggestions for increased energy efficiency

Note: Most renewable energy jobs demand specialists with adequate energy auditing expertise.

Master’s in Sustainability Jobs

In this section, we will explore some careers in environmental sustainability and a sustainability degree salary range. Some of these jobs include:

Environmental Engineers

Annual Salary: $96,820
Projected Growth: 4%

Environmental engineers are specialists that come up with solutions for waste disposal, air and water pollution, wastewater treatment, recycling, and public health management. In this field, their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Govern waste management and pollution-reduction initiatives
  • Identify potential environmental hazards and develop countermeasures
  • Conduct routine site inspections to ensure environmental compliance
  • Offer team members timely help and job training

Environmental Geologist

Annual Salary: $57,296
Source: PayScale

Environmental geologists help prevent problems such as contamination from groundwater systems. They help choose locations for disposal facilities, nuclear power reactors, and new landfills that are highly safe. Their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Carrying out research to increase scientific knowledge on specific geology-related issues
  • Mapping a region’s geology to record its structures, rock formations, and other features

Ecologist

Annual Salary: $51,989
Source: PayScale

Ecologists examine how individuals and their surroundings interact. Aside from guiding legal rules on protected species, their other duties and responsibilities include:

  • Visiting locations to conduct assessments of animals, plants, and the environment
  • Investigating how urbanization and other human impacts affect the environment
  • Making use of computer modeling to foresee the effects of construction projects
  • Identifying and documenting the environment and species information

Ph.D. in Sustainability Jobs

Professionals may ponder the viability of careers in sustainability. Still, doctorate candidates can switch between numerous sustainability management jobs and employment in sustainable agriculture.

A few of the available careers in environmental sustainability include:

Sustainability Director

Annual salary: Sustainability director jobs pay between $105,000 to $106,985 per annum
Source: PayScale

A sustainability director governs the sustainability office; helps implement corporate planning, operations, projects, and educational programs; and oversees community outreach and civic engagement initiatives.

Typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Oversee the implementation of the budget for training, materials, etc., relevant to environmental sustainability
  • Provide expertise, strategic support, and guidance to operational units and related departments
  • Mentor and supervise the ecological and sustainability program to support workers
  • Facilitate and support various organizational sustainability plans to track, refine, and implement benchmarks

Chief Sustainability Officer

Annual Salary: $100,000
Source: PayScale

A chief sustainability officer is an executive in charge of a company’s resources, plans, and environmental impact. They offer adequate assistance to their organizations when assessing or evaluating the ecological effect of industrial activities while also planning for future expansion of their sustainable solutions.

The typical duties & responsibilities of a CSO in this field are:

  • Researching the most recent sustainability-related trends and practices
  • Creating grant proposals and other documentation for funding environmental projects
  • Examining a company’s present techniques and procedures to spot areas where sustainability is of importance

Note: A chief sustainability officer’s salary increases based on years of working experience in direct or related fields.

Environmental Scientists

Annual Salary: $76,530
Projected Growth: 5%

Environmental experts and scientists apply their understanding of natural sciences to safeguard human health and the environment. They might clean up dirty areas, offer legislators advice, or collaborate with businesses to minimize waste.

Their duties and responsibilities are:

  • Create strategies to tackle, control, or eliminate environmental concerns like land or water contamination
  • Obtain and collate scientific data for scientific examination from samples of air, food, water, soil, and other materials
  • Analyze surveys, samples, and other data to identify and evaluate environmental problems.

Other Entry-Level Sustainability Careers

Some of the entry-level level sustainability jobs directly related to this field include:

Renewable Energy Analyst

Annual Salary: $88,000
Source: PayScale

Renewable energy analysts gauge the effectiveness of various sustainable energy sources and create suitable energy solutions for industrial and residential buildings. In this role, they must have at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in sustainable technology or a related field. In addition, they must have job experience in solar panel setup and installation, renewable system design, etc.

Their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of renewable sources of energy in businesses and homes
  • Examining data on energy utilization
  • Developing sustainable energy models for new and existing structures

Note: Environmental sustainability jobs salary in this field depends on the practitioner’s expertise.

Sustainability Consultant

Annual Salary: The sustainability consultant’s salary as of August 2022 is $68,629 on average
Source: PayScale

A sustainability consultant educates businesses on strategies to sustainably convey their services or products. In this sector, practitioners must hold an undergraduate (associate) degree in environmental science or a related field. Also, they must have up-to-date experience in sustainable and eco-friendly solutions.

Typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Developing and overseeing long-term environmental protection plans
  • Giving clients suggestions on how to increase sustainability by implementing modifications to their business processes
  • Meeting with clients to create effective techniques to enhance sustainability performance

Note: Sustainability consultant jobs depend primarily on the skill of the specialist and years of training experience.

How to Advance Your Career

Most renewable energy, food sustainability, sustainable engineering, and sustainable design jobs require professionals to hold proven certifications that validate their expertise in the field. The following licensing qualifications are vital for professionals to have the edge over others in these careers.

Licensing and Certifications

  • Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA)
  • Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP)
  • Green Globes Emerging Professional
  • Certified Environmental Auditor (CEA)
  • Registered Environmental Property Assessor
  • Registered Environmental Manager (REM)
  • Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer
  • Registered Environmental Professional (REP)

Continuing Education

Professionals can enroll in continuing education programs and classes that teach ecological stewardship, sustainable living, and environmental leadership. Via these classes, candidates will learn and lead by integrating sustainable practices and design into their daily lives.

Aspiring professionals in this field can further take graduate courses in sustainability management and development that extend renewable resources’ values into professional practice.

How to Switch Your Career to Sustainability

Anyone can switch to a career in sustainability, provided they have the zeal and passion for thriving in the sustainable industry. To switch to this field, candidates can take courses in sustainability that expose them to the three pillars of environmental sustainability.

After that, they can obtain relevant certifications in their respective areas of specialty based on the sustainability careers they intend to apply for later.

Professional Organizations and Resources

FAQs

This section covers some of the typical jobs in sustainability and frequently asked questions about sustainability entry-level jobs.

How do I get a job in sustainability?

To get jobs in sustainability as an individual or consultant, you must earn a certification or qualification in this field. You can apply for open job positions in government agencies, manufacturing companies, or nonprofit organizations with your relevant credentials.

What is a career in the sustainability field?

A career in sustainability equips practitioners with the necessary knowledge and skills to create and maintain a safe environment and efficiently manage various natural resources.

What kind of job can you get with a sustainability degree?

Some entry-level sustainability jobs include urban planner, sustainability consultant, etc. For business sustainability jobs, graduates can get roles as climate change analysts, green energy technicians, and more.

Do sustainability jobs pay well?

Based on the PayScale report, most sustainability director salary is $106,985 as of August 2022. In contrast, another sustainability degree salary in renewable and sustainable agriculture career options varies from $57,000 to $78,000 per annum.

Also, the sustainability consultant salary for associate degree holders in this sector is $60,000, which is higher than the pay in unrelated careers.

Is a degree in sustainability worth it?

Most professionals in the sustainability field find business sustainability jobs highly beneficial and rewarding.

Which environmental degree is best?

Some of the best environmental degrees include:

  • Bachelor in Environmental science and sustainability
  • Bachelor in Environmental Engineering

Is a sustainability specialist in demand?

According to the BLS, the demand for environmental scientists and sustainability specialists will increase by 5% over the next decade.

Are sustainability internships worth it?

Without a doubt, sustainability internships are worth the time invested.

Are careers in sustainable agriculture worth it?

They are highly worth it due to the consistent demand for eco-friendly agricultural produce. For instance, a sustainability director salary ranges from $98,000 to $105,000 yearly.

Are sustainability consultant jobs easy to get?

For professionals with hands-on experience, getting sustainability careers isn’t too tricky.

How to get into corporate sustainability?

Most corporate sustainability jobs require candidates to hold relevant certifications that prove their expertise in the sustainability sector. Due to this, aspiring students willing to take sustainability job roles in a corporate environment must acquire hands-on experiences relevant to this career.

In Essence

Careers in sustainability pave the way for various entry-level sustainability jobs. Professionals and candidates with degrees in sustainability are increasingly in demand across all industries as the field grows and more businesses implement sustainable practices. In addition, we urge you to take part in the green revolution.

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