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Eco-Friendly Living: The Five Top-Paying Green-Collar Jobs

Job & Salaries
Eco-Friendly Living: The Five Top-Paying Green-Collar Jobs

It’s no secret that green-collar jobs have some of the quickest growth and highest pay in the workforce. It’s a growing trend across all related industries, picking up speed as renewable resources play an increasing role in our worldwide energy future. As concerns about humanity’s impact on the planet rise, the market increases for jobs focused on environmental innovation and energy efficiency. Growth in many industries focused on sustainability and renewable resources have reached double digits in recent years, and with new innovations being announced seemingly every day, there is still a large room for pioneering technology and discoveries.

Especially when it comes to industries such as solar power, salaries for green employment are higher than their non-green counterparts. According to statistics published last week by the U.S. Department of Labor as well as a Forbes survey, environmental jobs make up 3.4 million domestic jobs and commonly command six-figure incomes. Career paths that currently don’t bring in as high of a salary are in such high demand that the pay is sure to increase in the near future.

Scholastic requirements for environmentally conscious jobs vary. An environmental engineer, for example, only requires an undergraduate degree while a career in physics demands a PhD. Green jobs are in worldwide demand (Germany’s goal is to have 35% of its total energy market in solar power in the next six years), and it is now possible to fulfill one’s wanderlust while earning a considerable salary. A quick glance at the news would assure even the most casual reader that there is no foreseeable way that the demand for green collar jobs will shrink in the near future.

Environmental Engineers – Mean Annual Salary: $85,140

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Environmental engineers combine their knowledge of engineering and natural sciences to focus on a number of environmental challenges. Often, the can make careers leading environmental impact studies alongside urban planners on private construction projects. Federal work for environmental engineers covers a broad spectrum of possibilities, including ensuring safe public drinking water, and testing clean air levels in urban environments. This field also opens the possibility of examining larger issues, such as the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment, and could lead to other avenues, such as policy making.

While environmental engineering isn’t the highest paying career path on the list, job outlook is growing by as much as 15% over the next decade, which is much higher than the national average. As demand for environmental engineers increase, the salary in careers related to this field can be expected to rise as well.

Meteorologist – Mean Annual Salary: $90,010

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Becoming a meteorologist doesn’t just mean being the local weather person.  The fastest growing need for meteorology is in private sector research, with studies being commissioned on such issues as the effect of climate change on agricultural crops and livestock. The highest paying jobs, however, are within the federal government.

While there are many meteorology jobs that only require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is recommended for advancement within this field. Hours can vary according to the job, and can include extended hours during periods of severe weather. Like environmental engineering, meteorology is a profession in which there is a lot of flexibility in job pursuits, and can lead to careers all over the world.

Chemical Engineer – Mean Annual Salary: $102,270

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While job growth is slower in chemical engineering than the national average and might be a tough industry to break into, the average starting salary of a chemical engineer is close to $60,000. This makes it one of the highest salaries surveyed, and an appealing option for those pursuing a career in the sciences. Chemical engineers who focus on the environment take on such tasks as finding innovative ways to reduce consumer waste, and cutting the environmental impact of industrial and nuclear facilities. Chemical engineering has also been instrumental in the introduction and spreading use of biofuels.

As regulations regarding acceptable levels of chemicals in products fluctuate, as well as the environmental impact of upcoming treaties such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there are many different avenues to consider within this field. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required. For those looking to break in, internships and cooperative engineering programs are looked on positively by potential employers.

Physicist – Mean Annual Salary: $106,370

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Jobs for physicists concentrating on environmental issues tend to be in research and working in “dirty energy” to prevent leaks, spills and other catastrophes.  Not surprisingly, this side of the private sector pays much more than the national average or federal work. Physicists with an environmental focus can find work in a range of areas, from natural gas pipelines, to waste water conservation, to researching safer drilling methods. Physicists are essential to ensuring that disasters and any environmental impact they may cause are kept to a minimum.

Physicists generally need a doctorate degree to pursue a career in this field.  The industry’s steady growth rate at 10%, high earning potential, and potential to make an positive environmental impact makes this career choice a worthwhile pursuit for those looking for a green career.

Environmental Lawyer – Mean Annual Salary: $113,530

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This is one of the fastest growing sectors of law, and like the previous professions listed there are many avenues to pursue at the local, state, national, and international levels. Environmental lawyers are crucial to enforcement, compliance, administration and policy making. This field encompasses a need that is expected to grow as society is faced with new environmental challenges which the law needs to catch up and adapt to.

Environmental lawyers need a JD and to pass the bar exam to pursue a career in this field. Internships, as with any other legal specialty, are recommended for those looking to make it.

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