6 Top-Paying Green Jobs

As nations across the globe look for ways to prevent global warming, they’re spurring a ‘green’ revolution-and focusing on everything from environmentally friendly house additions to how to make business environmentally friendly. The movement’s swelling popularity is also fueling growth of new industries and some top-paying green jobs.

Green Job 1: Venture Capitalist

VCs invest early in companies with potential to revolutionize an industry or create a new one, says a report by the Cleantech Group and Environmental Entrepreneurs. VCs work with the companies to help them grow, and sell their stake within a few years, hoping to make a handsome profit.

According to the Cleantech Group, in the third quarter of 2007, North American VCs invested close to $1.3 billion in clean technologies, a 50 percent increase over the second quarter of 2007 and a 36 percent increase over the third quarter of 2006.

“Probably the highest-paying jobs in the green arena are venture capitalists themselves. You can make probably $300,000-$400,000 as a venture capitalist in green,” says Richard Stuebi, senior energy fellow at The Cleveland Foundation.

Green Job 2: Chief Executive Officer

Annual median salary, 5-9 years of experience: $120,674

Skilled and savvy leaders are in high demand for green companies, and they can command sizable salaries, especially at outfits supported by venture capital, experts say.

“Most of this stuff is startups backed by venture capital firms. You have young people who see an opportunity and bring the idea to the investment community and they want what I call ‘adult supervision’-someone who has done it before. So the demand for CEOs in this industry will continue,” says Charley Polachi, a partner at Polachi, a Massachusetts-based executive search firm.

Green Job 3: Chief Technology Officer

Annual median salary, 5-9 years of experience: $102,280

As green technologies gallop apace, CTOs are highly sought after, and often hard to find, according to experts.

“You don’t have a deep talent pool necessarily to dip into, so you have to pull talent from other industries that have some correlation to the technology or the process the company is going through. A lot of times you see the leaders or executives in startup energy companies coming from outside of energy,” says Tim Conti, partner and energy and materials practice leader at ON Search Partners in Cleveland.

Green Job 4: Vice Presidents of Research and Development; Manufacturing

Annual median salary, 5-9 years of experience: $125,202 (R&D); $80,158 (manufacturing)

Positions shepherding advancements in green technology and taking them to market are crucial, experts say.

“Like any industry with ongoing technology developments, the critical piece for companies to make something more standard is that you have to be able to take a technology out of a lab and put it into high-volume manufacturing capacity,” Conti says. “VPs of research and development and manufacturing are critical to these companies. What you can do in a lab you can’t necessarily do in a high-volume manufacturing environment.”

Green Job 5: Vice President of Government Affairs

Annual median salary, 5-9 years of experience: $96,816

As the U.S. government offers more funding for green initiatives, positions that interface between a company and Uncle Sam are increasingly important, Conti explains.

“It [the government] can provide a deep-pocketed source of capital for your company. You have to provide your business plan and continue to hit milestones, but folks that have those relationships with government, that can drive funding to their company, can be very valuable,” he says. “You are seeing some companies with a VP of government [affairs] or VP of regulatory affairs trying to drive grants to their companies from the government.”

Green Job 6: Vice Presidents of Sales; Marketing

Annual median salary, 5-9 years of experience: $96,541 (sales); $103,371 (marketing)

Keeping people apprised of initiatives, products and services is key to keeping green industries blooming.

According to Lawrence Comras, founder of Greenhome.com, an online green department store, “There’s a ton of green products out there. There are tons of jobs in sales, and sales [are] well-paying, often highly professional jobs.”

Kristina Cowan is the senior writer for PayScale.com. She has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues. Email Kristina Cowan.