How to Get into Sustainability Careers
Are you passionate about making a positive impact on the environment and society? If so, a career in sustainability may be the perfect choice for you. The concerns regarding climate change and the degradation of the environment continue to grow, which increases the need for professionals who possess sustainability expertise in order to address these concerns.
In this guide, we will explore how to get into sustainability careers, providing you with valuable insights and actionable steps to kickstart your journey. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a career changer, or simply someone interested in making a difference, then this guide is just what you need to get started on the path to a fulfilling career in sustainability.
How to Start a Career in Sustainability
Embarking on a career in sustainability requires a combination of passion, knowledge, and practical skills. Here are some key steps to help you on how to get into sustainability careers:
Assess Your Skills and Interests: Begin by evaluating your skills, strengths and exploring your specific interests within the broad field of sustainability. Are you fascinated by renewable energy, environmental conservation, or green building practices? Understanding your strengths and passion will help you narrow down potential career paths within the broad field of sustainability.
Pursue Relevant Education and Training: Gain a solid foundation in sustainability by pursuing relevant education and training. Look for academic programs, courses, and certifications that offer comprehensive knowledge of sustainability principles, environmental science, policy development, and sustainable business practices.
Gain Practical Experience: Practical experience is invaluable in the sustainability field. Seek internships, volunteer opportunities, or entry-level positions with organizations that focus on sustainability. This hands-on experience will not only enhance your skills but also allow you to network with professionals in the field.
Network and Engage: Networking plays a crucial role in any career, and sustainability is no exception. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars related to sustainability. Connect with professionals in the field, join sustainability-focused organizations, and engage in discussions and online communities to build a strong network of like-minded individuals. Having a strong network of professionals can offer valuable insights and job opportunities.
As Mary McGillicuddy, a career advisor from Arizona State University, mentioned in our discussion, “I can never stress enough the importance of talking to people who are in the field already and using their experience and their insights to inform what your next steps are”. Watch the complete discussion here on Landing Your Dream Sustainability Job.
Stay Informed and Adapt: Sustainability is a rapidly evolving field with constantly emerging new technologies, practices, and policies. Stay up to date with the latest trends and research. Subscribe to industry publications, follow influential sustainability thought leaders, and engage in continuous learning. Continuously seek opportunities for professional development and adapt to the changing landscape of sustainability to remain competitive in the job market.
Some additional tips:
- Start small. If you don’t have a lot of experience, start by volunteering or interning with a sustainability organization. This will give you the opportunity to learn about the field and gain some experience.
- Focus on your transferable skills. Even if you don’t have a degree in sustainability, you may have skills that are transferable to the field. For example, if you have experience in project management, you could use those skills to manage sustainability projects.
- Be patient and persistent. The sustainability field is growing, but it can be competitive, and it may take some time to break into the field. Don’t give up if you don’t get your dream job right away. Keep applying for jobs, learning and networking, and eventually you will find the right opportunity.
You can also check out our article Why Sustainability Matters to You, the World, and the Economy to learn more about it.
What Are Some Careers in Sustainability?
Sustainability offers a wide range of career opportunities across various industries. Here are some diverse careers that demonstrate the breadth of opportunities within the field:
1. Environmental Scientist or Consultant:
Environmental scientists or consultants play a crucial role in understanding and addressing environmental issues. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, and develop strategies to mitigate environmental impact. Environmental scientists work in both the public and private sectors, tackling issues such as pollution control, resource management, and environmental policy development. An environmental science degree or a related degree could provide a path to a rewarding career in this field.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, the median annual salary for environmental consultants is $82,499 in June 2023.
Job Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental scientists and specialists will have an employment increase of 5% during the period 2021-2031. This growth is expected to be driven by increasing public awareness of environmental issues, as well as government regulations aimed at protecting the environment.
2. Energy Auditor:
Energy auditors are professionals who assess the energy efficiency of buildings and recommend improvements to reduce energy consumption. They evaluate energy systems, identify inefficiencies, and propose energy-saving measures. The Investment Grade Energy Auditor (IGEA) certification training offered by the Sustainability Education Academy is an excellent starting point for individuals interested in pursuing a career as an energy auditor. This certification does not require prior industry experience or previous energy audit training. And it provides comprehensive training and covers essential topics in energy auditing.
Salary: According to Zippia, the average salary for energy auditors in the United States is $85,220 per year.
Job outlook: The BLS projects that employment of energy efficiency analysts, auditors and assessors is projected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth is expected to be driven by increasing demand for energy efficiency measures in commercial and residential buildings.
3. Green Building Architect:
Green Building architects integrate eco-friendly practices into the design and construction of buildings. They focus on energy efficiency, renewable materials, and green building techniques to create sustainable structures. Green Building architects work closely with clients, engineers, and construction teams to ensure environmentally conscious designs that minimize the ecological footprint of buildings.
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the median annual salary for green architects in the United States is $131,322 in June 2023.
Job outlook: The BLS projects that the employment of all architects is projected to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031. This growth is expected to be driven by increasing demand for green buildings, as well as the need to renovate and retrofit existing buildings to make them more energy efficient.
4. Corporate Sustainability Manager:
Corporate sustainability managers help organizations implement sustainable practices and reduce their environmental impact. They develop sustainability strategies, set targets, and oversee initiatives such as waste reduction, renewable energy adoption, and carbon footprint reduction. These professionals play a pivotal role in guiding businesses towards more sustainable and socially responsible practices.
Corporate Sustainability Managers focus on the ESG aspects of a company’s operations.
Salary: According to Salary.com, the average salary for corporate sustainability managers in the United States is $129,557 per year in June 2023.
Job outlook: According to a report from Zippia, employment in sustainability management jobs is projected to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028.
5. Renewable Energy Engineer:
Renewable energy engineers design, develop, and maintain systems that harness renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or hydroelectric power. They work on projects ranging from solar panel installations to wind farm development, contributing to the transition to a clean energy future.
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the median annual salary for renewable energy engineers in the United States is $116,500 in June 2023.
Job outlook: According to the Department of Energy, clean energy jobs in every state witnessed a remarkable surge. A nationwide growth rate of 3.9% resulted in the addition of 114,000 new clean energy jobs, now constituting over 40% of the total energy job market.
6. Sustainable Business Manager:
As sustainability becomes a priority for businesses worldwide, sustainable business managers play a crucial role in driving organizational change. They develop and implement sustainable strategies, assess environmental and social impacts, and ensure compliance with sustainability standards. Sustainable Business Managers focus on the overall sustainability of a company’s business model. A background in business management combined with sustainability knowledge is essential for this career path.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, the average salary for sustainable business managers in the United States is $103,665 per year.
Job Outlook: According to Unity College, the employment of sustainable business managers is projected to grow by 6% over the next eight years, from 2018-2028.
7. Environmental Educator:
Environmental educators are passionate advocates for sustainability who promote awareness and educate communities about environmental issues. They develop educational programs, conduct workshops, and engage with various audiences to inspire positive change. Environmental educators may work in schools, nonprofits, government agencies, or nature centres, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the environment.
Salary: According to Zippia, the median annual salary for environmental education specialists is $43,754 in April 2023.
Job outlook: The BLS projects that employment of environmental education professionals is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029.
These are just a few examples of the wide array of careers available in sustainability. Working in these fields can anticipate a moderate to substantial increase in employment opportunities. Each offers unique opportunities to contribute to a more sustainable future and make a meaningful impact on our planet.
Also, it is important to note that compensation packages vary based on the country, state and groups they serve and work with.
Remember, your journey will be unique, and you can tailor your path to match your skills, interests, and aspirations.
In case you are still wondering what are some careers in sustainability, check out the Top 2023 Green Jobs in Demand according to NDTV report.
As you have explored and narrowed down the careers in sustainability that you are interested in, how would you excel?
Develop effective habits that support your professional growth if you want to excel in your sustainability career.
Taking the Next Step
Ready to take the first step towards a rewarding sustainability career?
Consider enrolling in our new course, “Introduction to Net Zero.”
This course provides an overview of net-zero concepts, practices, and technologies, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to contribute to the global effort of achieving net-zero emissions. If you’re looking at how to get into sustainability careers, take this course as your starting point.
Starting a career in sustainability offers a unique opportunity to create positive change while pursuing your passion for a greener and more sustainable world. By exploring diverse sustainability career paths and taking the steps outlined in this guide, identifying your interests, gaining relevant education and experience, and connecting with professionals in the field, you can embark on a fulfilling and impactful sustainability career.
Remember, it’s never too late to start making a difference. Join the growing community of sustainability professionals and contribute to building a better future for generations to come.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Nurture Commitment, Knowledge, and Purpose
Remember, starting a career in sustainability is a journey that requires commitment, continuous learning, and passion for making a difference. With the right mindset and a dedication to sustainability principles, you can shape a career that not only fulfils you professionally but also contributes to a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.