Careers in Sustainability

Green jobs and careers are a new and rapidly growing sector of the economy focused on reducing humanities impact on the environment. As society continues to place more importance on preserving natural resources, companies will increase their demand for workers with experience in sustainability to help initiate and implement programs that reduce resource consumption and protect the environment.

Pathways Header Sustainability

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported 3.1 million green jobs in 2010 (with 2.3 milion in the private sector) and that amount grew to 3.4 million in 2011. [See the BLS’s 2011 Green Goods and Services Report] This increasing demand for workers in sustainability is not only expected to continue but to also affect a wide number of industries from engineering, architecture, and forestry to conservation, climate change, and advocacy. 

But what is a “green” job? The BLS defines these positions as either jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources; or jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources (Retrieved from www.bls.gov/green/). So a job can be green because that worker is part of an organization that is ‘green’, or because a workers duties fulfills a green function within their organization.  Both types of green jobs usually involve one or more of the following:

  • Reducing fossil fuels
  • Decreasing pollution & greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Recycling
  • And developing renewable sources of energy

Students with a passion for the environment and a desire to help institute new programs and processes that reduce waste and conserve resources are greatly desired within this field. Because this field crosses traditional employment sectors, opportunities in this field are diverse and require different skill sets depending on what areas are of interest. However, all green jobs require a willingness to try new methods and figure out ways to make processes more efficient. It’s also helpful for students to come into positions with an awareness of areas of greatest impact and need for change within the specified community and overall environment. Being aware of and involved in sustainability efforts is one of the best ways to get involved in this career.

 

Positions in sustainability can be found in a number of organizations including the architectural, engineering and science firms that are heading the green movement. Even these more technical firms need English majors for technical writing, communication, public relation positions and more!

Related Job Titles Include: Energy Auditors, General and Operations Managers, Training and Development Specialists, Public Relations Specialists, Correspondents, Agricultural Inspectors.

Alumni Within the Field

Coming Soon! We're in the process of gathering alumni profiles for this page. Meanwhile, you can connect with alumni in this field through the University of Maryland Alumni Advisor Network.

Getting Started

If you’re interested in a career in this field here are some ways you can start preparing:

  • Connect with University of Maryland’s Office of Sustainability, this office has a lot of information about the field available to students.
  • Join student groups that share your passion for the environment:
    • Rethink College Park – an online blog run by students with the mission to “transform College Park into a great college town.”
    • Student Sustainability Committee – an undergraduate committee in the Student Government Association who advocates for the universities commitment to become sustainable.
    • The Office of Sustainability has a full listing of student organizations that can help get you involved.
  • Attend conferences or events focused on sustainability:
    • The Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference is an annual event looking at sustainable efforts on college campuses. It is open to students and is a good opportunity to network and learn more about the field.
  • Take courses or consider a concentration that enhances your skills in environmental issues
  • Consider programs that combine academics with real-world problem solving and experience
  • Find Green Internships and Volunteer Opportunities
    • The Student Conservation Association is a great resource to find green programs, internships and team-based programs like the SCA Corps
    • AmeriCorps, the national service organization, often has a number of programs dedicated to developing sustainable communities and practices. This is a perfect post-graduation opportunity; posts usually last 3-12 months, provide a living stipend, health insurance, housing (in some cases) and an education award at the end you can use to pay for further education
    • The Green Job Bank, has job listings, information on educational programs, and other resources
    • UMD’s Office of Sustainability also has a list of internships and volunteer opportunities
  • Keep an eye on the University Career Center’s calendar of events because many agencies actively recruit on campus

Where to Learn More

U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Green information on the field (growth, jobs, resources etc.)

CareerOneStop: Green Jobs - CareerOneStop’s overview of green jobs

Eco Jobs

Environmental Career Center

Green 360

Green Jobs Network - A resource site on green jobs with information about training, education, green job boards, fairs and events. Also visit their blog Green Collar Blog.

Idealist - best website for finding non-profit internships & jobs

Let's Go Solar Green Career Guide

University of Maryland's Career Center - Visit Careers4Terps, a jobs/internship database exclusively for UMD students; also see the events calendar for networking opportunities, and events

LinkedIn - search for groups to join with keywords such as “environment,” “sustainable,” “green jobs,” etc. One of the largest groups is the Green Jobs and Career Network which has 80,000+ members with whom you could network!