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Environmental Jobs in 2020

Environmental Jobs in 2020

Your Guide to Environmental Jobs in 2020

If you’re reading this, you are likely already aware of the global challenge we face of addressing climate change. Sea temperatures will continue to rise, hurricanes will grow in intensity, glaciers will continue to melt, and sea levels will alter our landscape as we know it.
We are responsible for the repercussions of our actions. It is our hope that along with these problems will come the wide range of responsible citizens that understand the complexity of these issues and rise to meet the demand of climate activists, environmental scientists, and sustainable development practitioners that will be necessary to maintain our world as we know it. 
As our understanding of the specific problems associated with climate change becomes more widely adopted by governments and ingrained deeper into our cultural practices, the transformation of our workforce towards sustainability and ecologically-sound technologies will blossom across many different sectors.
Search the Climate List jobs page to see current environmental job openings.

Environmental Jobs Defined

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics defines an environmental job as:
    (1) a job that generates goods or provide services that will conserve natural resources and;
    (2) a job in which duties involve making production processes ecologically friendly (green industries)
These includes jobs that support natural resource conservation, environmental standards compliance, environmental education, pollution mitigation and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, lesser waste production, energy efficiency and production of energy from renewable sources.

The Growing Demand of Environmental Jobs

The solar industry has now outweighed the demand for workers compared to coal industries. Consumers are now more interested in organic and locally sourced products, healthy living, and eating less meat, exhibiting a 20% annual growth average in sustainable product development since 1990 according to the Organic Trade Association. While many of the jobs associated with this growth are highly specialized, not all environmental jobs require direct experience or degrees in environmental science.
In the United States alone, green infrastructure including parks, urban forests, street trees, wetlands, greenways, etc. will continue to require more laborers, architects, city planners, and groundkeeping workers. This is followed by maintenance workers, construction laborers, industrial tractor operators, farmworkers, construction equipment operators, cement masons, concrete finishers, roofers and finally, primary supervisors of construction trades (Statista, 2017).

Do I need an environmental science degree to qualify for entry level environmental jobs?

Scientific know-how is crucial to effectively deliver highly technical environmental science jobs. However, there are plenty of jobs that don’t require strict academic qualifications. The Climate List was created for people without environmental science backgrounds to get jobs fighting climate change! Read more about our mission.
As the world continues to move forward following the three pillars of sustainable development, a lot of academic programs, no matter the field, have re-oriented towards a common goal of helping the environment.
Environmental careers have now sprung from different academic backgrounds: natural sciences, environmental engineering, resource management, environmental education, green architecture and many more. If you have no background that's related to the environmental sciences, you can still qualify for entry level environmental jobs through obtaining certificates from vocational training programs or through volunteering.

The Full Spectrum of Environmental Jobs

There are thousands of environmental jobs in the world, and many of them have a direct impact on the climate change. Compensation for these kinds of jobs vary according to how specialized or how physically demanding the job is.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the highest paying environmental jobs are those of atmospheric and space scientists coming in at $94K annual median wage before bonuses and extra compensation. Forest and conservation workers are at a $27K annual median wage point while tree/vegetation maintenance are compensated at an average of $16/hour.
Location, size of the business, and your level of work experience will have the greatest influence starting salary. Of course ideally, regulator’s understanding of the current state of the environment will help incentivize the growth of climate change jobs in both volume and salary.
Here a few types that you can consider as a career:
  • Agricultural Engineer – innovates farm equipment and machinery
  • Farm Technician – operates agricultural materials and equipment
  • Climatologist – creates climate projections
  • Conservation Scientist – manages land and water quality of biomes
  • Ecologist – researches on the relationships between living and non-living things
  • Energy Manager – designs systems that reduce energy costs
  • Environmental Lawyer – defends cases relating to environmental destruction
  • Entomologist – researches on the physiology and behavior of insects
  • Fisheries Officer – implements programs for the conservation and protection of fisheries
  • Forest Worker – implements programs for the conservation and protection of forests.
  • Horticulturist – oversees agricultural farm process from planting to distribution of produce
  • Hydrologist – studies surface and groundwater distribution and circulation
  • Marine Biologist – perform research on the physiology and behavior of marine organisms
  • Meteorologist – studies the weather and generates weather forecasts
  • Microbiologist – researches on the physiology of microorganisms for health recommendations
  • Molecular Biologist – studies the structure and function of cells
  • Oceanographer – studies the physical and chemical dynamics of the ocean
  • Pollution Control Officer - oversees the strict implementation of pollution standards
  • Seismologist – studies earth movement and projects earthquake, as well as, volcanic activities
  • Repair and Maintenance of Wastewater Infrastructure – monitors pipes and related machines
  • Segmental Paver – constructs pathways in green, urban spaces
  • Tree Trimmer – maintains vegetation growth in green, urban spaces
  • Wildlife Biologist – oversees the protection of wildlife
  • Wildlife Park Ranger – implements police-power in the protection of wildlife

Environmental Non-Profit Organizations

Along with the growing job market of for-profit companies is the growth of environmental non-profit organizations. Non-profits are entities that specifically lobby and advocate for environmental, social, and political change ultimately using its revenues to address a cause rather than distributing profits to shareholders or business owners.
Examples of environmental non-profits are:
  • The Nature Conservancy – advocates for land and water conservation since 1951
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists – combines science and advocacy to create practical innovations and solutions for a sustainable future
  • The Environmental Defense Fund – combines science and economics to find solutions to environmental problems.
  • The Sierra Club – a movement that brings people together to voice out the environment where and when it is much needed.
  • The World Wildlife Fund – combines science and advocacy to address issues surrounding forests, oceans, freshwater bodies, wildlife, food and climate.
  • advocates for the use of renewable energy
  • Greenpeace Fund – a movement that protests against plastic pollution, offshore drilling, deforestation,
  • lack of sustainable food and many more environmental issues since 1971.
  • Ocean Conservancy – geared towards finding science-based solutions for a healthier ocean
  • Center for Biological Diversity – combines biological science and legal expertise to implement
  • conservation programs
  • Conservation International – an organization that pushes for: the utilization of renewable sources of energy, conservation of natural biomes (forests, oceans, etc.) and its resources that could lead to food scarcity, loss of livelihood and eventually global stability.
  • Oceana – implements programs that enhance the livelihood of coastal communities, as well as, protect the marine environment.

The best time to find an environmental job is now!

The International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) states that the maximum safe limit of global temperature increase should only be at 1.5oC. At present, scientists are projecting an increase of about 4oC in the year 2100. If you imagine, thats within arms reach for Generation Z which comprises about 32% of 2019s global population.
In addition, looking back between the interglacial period, 800,00 years ago, and the present, the highest atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide recorded was only up to 300ppm. However, 2019 concentrations were observed at 415 ppm, a value that has exponentially increased over the last 75 years. Now this may sound a bit gradual for a lot of people, but remember that global temperatures (influenced by the entrapment of greenhouse gases, like CO2) basically regulate all life on earth and the replenishment of its natural resources.
A degree Celsius increase in sea surface temperature for example could already cause massive coral bleaching and such has been documented in the Coral Triangle during El Niño months since 2015. Furthermore, hotter temperatures, forest fires, and stronger natural disasters will risk agricultural production, thereby affecting the livelihood of millions.
While it’s critically important to assess our own impact and individual ways of living, one of the best ways to address our global environmental situation is by applying to your first climate change job!