If you have a passion for the environment and want align these values with the way you earn your paycheck, a green job may be the right path for you. But before you whip out the calculator to figure how much an advanced degree will cost you, keep in mind that you may already have the skills. Says Dion Lim, president and COO of Simply Hired, "In many ways, green collar jobs will be about re-purposing people with good skills onto projects that are green-oriented. For example, roof installers may become solar installers, electricians may become building retrofitters, etc."
According to recent data from Simply Hired, the availability of "green tech" jobs has increased by 233 percent since October 2008. Some of the top green jobs are:
Civil Engineer. Thanks to the influx of stimulus cash, infrastructure needs are on the rise and likewise the demand for qualified engineers to oversee projects such as the construction of roads, airports, water and sewage systems. Online salary database PayScale.com puts the median salary for civil engineers in the $67,000 range and the BLS estimates that sector will grow by 11 percent in the next few years.
Environmental Engineer. The BLS estimates that engineers who can work to solve issues such as water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues will continue to rise — and that doesn’t even include what will be needed to clean up BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. According to PayScale data, environmental engineers can make over $67,000 per year.
Water Treatment Specialist. This job has been around for as long as we’ve had running water into our homes and businesses. But now, as tap water is rediscovered as a sustainable alternative to bottled, and new sewage treatment rules are implemented, specialists will be in high demand. Even those with a high school diploma and five years experience can expect to earn over $40,000 per year.
On the other hand, Dennis Cail, CEO of GreenJobs.pro says that some jobs need only to be redefined to meet green criteria. “Employees who seek out ways to get involved with their current employer's sustainability initiatives will likely be more successful in this transition.” For example, says Cail, “Every project manager should add a green component as a project deliverable.”
Other “regular” jobs that can be turned green include:
Surveyor. Often billed as the “second-oldest profession,” land surveying can be easily adapted to projects that redevelop old industrial sites or reclaim contaminated property. With a bachelor’s degree and several years experience, surveyors’ salaries fall into the $50,000 per year range.
Software Developer. Applying software and database design skills to make solar energy more affordable is just one of the ways a developer can channel their technical expertise into a green job. The median salary is $74,000 per year, but those with special certifications or advanced degrees can expect to earn more.
Grant Writer. Just like software developers, grant writers need only to turn their communication and research skills to green. With environmental advocacy on the rise, nonprofits that protect the planet need plenty of funding sources. A grant writer for such an organization can make about $48,000 per year.
Sales and Human Resources. Bottom line, every business needs help selling its product or service and hiring qualified people. HR professionals can translate five-plus years of motivational, training, and planning skills to a variety of sustainably-minded organizations and earn around $59,000 annually in the process. Career sales associates will also find that their persuasive techniques will transfer easily to eco-friendly products and services.
Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.
More from PayScale: