27 Areas of Potential Job Growth In the Green Economy

People have asked me “Where do you see growth in the area of green jobs?” The United States has a shortage of technical professionals when compared to other countries due to low graduation numbers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. As the Climate Change, Environmental and Infrastructure industries pick up, here are the fields where I believe well paying jobs will come available:

  1.  Accounting/Forensic Accounting: The critics of the cap and trade market believe that fraud and ponzi schemes could be a major problem in the new carbon market. These people will be part of the team to determine the money trail and help regulators with prosecution.

  3. Alternative Energy: You have heard of this one, but the number of people going into this field is still very low because of high math and science requirements. People are needed in Biofuels/Biomass, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Waste to Energy and Wind.
  4. Architecture: Architects are responsible for designing (or redesigning) buildings to fit the new green standards and building practices. With the advent of recycled building materials and the high numbers of government buildings that will be retrofitted with green features, it will be important for architects to have the LEED certification as part of their credentials.

  5. Atmospheric Sciences:Atmospheric scientists study how pollutants behave in the atmosphere. Accidental toxic releases, acid rain, carbon emissions and ozone depletion are big business in their realm. Their mission over the next few decades is to inform the general public about the effects of greenhouse gases on the weather.

  6. Carbon Consulting:Eventually every company will have a department or business partner to help them deal with their GHG emissions, carbon credits and trading. There will be growth in corporate as well as consulting jobs.

  7. Carbon Capture/ Sequestration:What do we do with the carbon dioxide? Good question. This industry’s job is to find innovative ways to offset, reuse and store captured GHGs. Expect a lot of smart people and money to flow into this industry over the long term.

  8. Computer Aided Design: These people “draw” the construction documents for any type of construction related project. With thousands of architecture, engineering and construction projects slated to come from the ARRA, there will be plenty of work once the projects start flowing.

  9. Civil Engineering: Civil engineers have a role in every infrastructure related project, whether it is airports, bridges or stormwater systems. This is a field which will have good long term growth and a shortage of workers.

  10. Electrical Engineering:These are the people who design and maintain the electrical grid and power plants. There may be a shortage of these people as the design and construction of the new grid picks up.

  11. Emissions Trading:These professionals will be the focal point of the new carbon trading market. They are responsible for buying and selling credits to interested parties on the exchange. Carbon is not the only market that will see growth. Look for opportunities in Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and Sulphur Oxide (SOx) markets as overall greenhouse trading markets grow. Traders and brokers must complete licensing requirements in order to work in the market.

  12. Energy Management: Also called Resource Efficiency Managers, the professionals in this field not only understand engineering and construction but monitor utility rates to find cost savings. They ensure that energy consumption and costs stay within acceptable limits.

  13. Environmental Engineering:These are the people who design water and wastewater treatment systems. Many cities like Atlanta, DC and Portland,OR have multi-billion water infrastructure upgrade programs underway which will receive federal funding.

  14. Environmental Information Systems:Industrial facilities must monitor all their equipment, facilities and waste products to ensure the safety of their employees, the environment and the public. The specialized computer systems, software and the people who design and maintain them will have a big job to do in the “green economy”.

  15. Environmental Scientists:These are the people who do the environmental investigations and write the environmental permits and reports for construction, industry and climate change. These people will be especially important to the smart grid, rural broadband and environmental clean-up and restoration projects.

  16. Forestry:I am sure you were scratching your head about this choice. Here is my reason: Forests absorb carbon dioxide and will be used as offsets in carbon trading. Someone has to look after the trees because planting trees could become more lucrative than cutting them down.

  17. Geographic Information Systems/Remote Sensing:The Smart grid and other infrastructure will be on a highly specialized network of sensors using different technologies to monitor power flow and report data.

  18. Greenhouse Gas Auditing/Compliance:Every facility that has a smoke stack or produces gaseous byproducts will be inspected and monitored for compliance with greenhouse gas regulations. These professionals will work for environmental consulting firms, the government, non-profits and private investors to make sure GHG emissions stay in range.

  19. Geotechnical Engineering:Geotechnical engineers have a key role in the design and construction of dams, foundations, levees, tunnels and underground remediation systems. As the alternate energy, infrastructure and environmental projects heat up, the need for these professionals will go off the chart.

  20. Industrial Waste Treatment/Solid Waste/Hazardous Waste Managers:Before any industrial waste product can be reused or returned to the environment it must recycled, treated or put into long term storage. These professionals are at the front line dealing with contaminated water, E-waste, household trash and nuclear waste.  

  21. Landscape Architecture/Horticulture:Ever heard of a green roof or eaten organic vegetables or Xeriscaping? The natural activities of plants are important to the green jobs industry. Plants will be used to conserve water, clean up environmental spills and many other things.

  22. Mechanical Engineering (HVAC):Green buildings need high climate controls to monitor energy consumption and the indoor environment. Mechanical engineers will be responsible in designing the next generation of indoor climate controls.

  23. Nuclear Engineering:I know. I know. You think this is a stretch, right? Well, the French have come up with a way to reuse spent nuclear fuel rods and return them into service. If the department of energy approves the process, it is possible thousands of spent fuel rods could be returned to service and limit the need for new manufacturing.

  24. Recycling:Recycling companies will gain a huge benefit in the green economy. Watch for some of them to have strong business in scrap metals and recycled materials markets.

  25. Regulatory/Government compliance:The EPA and a number of other government agencies will have to expand their staffs to stay on top of new companies and regulations.

  26. Risk Management/Insurance:All businesses need insurance and risk management services. The green industry will be no different.

  27. Structural Engineering:Do you remember the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota or how about the Dallas Cowboys practice facility? Structural Engineers not only design structural framework of building and bridges, they also investigate structural failures.

  28. Transit /Light Rail:The ARRA has a lot of money committed to transit projects. This field has a large number of people retiring over the next few years and a large influx of new people will be needed.


14 Responses to “27 Areas of Potential Job Growth In the Green Economy”
  1. ferd dong says:

    “United States has a shortage of technical professionals when compared to other countries due to low graduation numbers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.”
    The shortage is due to several things, but the two main problems have been decades where companies throw away experienced engineers and scientists, and our TV culture that promises much more money and fun for much less effort. Fewer kids graduate college with technical degrees because it’s too much work for an unstable career. Companies only hire on the cheap, and lay off or outsource staff who manage to obtain a few raises or promotions.
    There are plenty (possibly even a glut) of capable but unemployed engineers and scientists available who could do most of the jobs listed. However, they need to be retrained. That’s okay for those who will spend their own money and time to retrain (hoping for a longer lived career this time), but they will still meet resistance in the job market because companies will label them as over-qualified or too old or lacking some entry on an unrealistic list of hiring qualifications. Before any of the listed potential jobs become realistic careers, companies need to change their attitudes about using the talent base already here.

    • Ferd,
      Great comment. You have given this subject a great deal of thought. However we have a point where you and I disagree. There is no glut of engineers and scientists in the US. The numbers of graduates have fallen steadily since the 1981-1982 recession where many of them exited the field for good. Further, colleges and universities have opted to funnel students into fields where they get the most financial support. I could go further but time and space are limited.

      Thanks for your comment

  2. Thank you for the wealth of information you have provided!

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