An inclusive list of environmental and sustainability degrees that will help you land a green job.
Universities continue to expand upon their sustainability and environmental programs and are now offering more degrees than ever to keep pace with the booming green job market. Let’s take a look at some of the various degrees offered and how they will help you land a green job.
Top Green Degrees – What to Choose
Environmental Engineering Degree
A degree in environmental engineering is not easily obtained. It’s a challenging degree that is sure to land you a green job as an environmental engineer. The first two years of coursework is virtually identical to that of the Civil Engineering track, but becomes more focused on the environmental implications of engineering in the final two years.
A green job in environmental engineering begins with either an internship or as an entry-level ‘engineer in training’ at a company. The goal is to work your way towards a professional engineering (PE) license. The requirements differ in each state, but a PE license typically requires four years of professional experience in addition to your undergraduate degree.
Environmental engineering graduates typically go on to land green jobs as wastewater engineers, EHS engineers, civil engineers, or air quality engineers. They most commonly work green jobs for consultant agencies, state government, local government, or even the federal government.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental engineers make a median salary of $88,860 per year. This makes environmental engineering is one of the most lucrative green jobs in the market.
If you’re interested in a highly rewarding, high-paying, and challenging green job, then environmental engineering may be a good fit for you!
Environmental Law Degree
An environmental law degree is debatably the most competitive route to landing a green job. Not for the faint of heart, an environmental law degree will require you to attend law school. Law school is expensive, highly competitive, and demanding. The competitive nature of law school stems from the simple fact that there are fewer green jobs in law than what is available on the market.
To get into law school, you must first obtain a four-year undergraduate degree from any accredited university. Top law schools require an undergraduate GPA of 3.6 or higher. On the low end, law schools may admit you with a 3.3 GPA cumulative GPA. Your GPA is taken into consideration alongside the daunting LSAT exam results. An average LSAT score to stay competitive is 152.
If you don’t satisfy the undergraduate requirements above, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be admitted into any reputable law school and ultimately land a green job. You’ll have to fully commit to this career during the first year of your undergraduate experience, making it one of the most challenging and competitive green job degrees out there.
Once you graduate from the law school of your choice, you’ll have to take the Bar exam. The Bar exam is a two-day examination administered by the jurisdiction in which you will be practicing law. The purpose of the exam is to assess whether an individual is fit to practice law based on the knowledge that they possess.
With the Bar exam under your belt, you’ll likely start out an ‘associate’ at a law firm. You’ll work as an associate for 6+ years and will either be made a ‘partner’ if you’ve done well or will branch off and create your own green job law firm.
If you want a green job as an environmental lawyer, the path to get there is daunting. If you make it through and land a green job as an environmental lawyer, then you’ll be rewarded with the highest paying green job in the green job sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a green job as an environmental lawyer will net you an average of $122,960 per year.
Environmental Science Degree
An environmental science degree is much more obtainable for the average student. The degree will set the student up for a wide variety of green jobs on the market. An environmental science degree is a broad degree that covers a plethora of topics related to the earth’s natural resources.
This four-year degree broadly covers topics that will translate well to a variety of green jobs. It’s a much more customizable degree in which the student can pick and choose for a catalog of coursework to best suit their interest. Topics include, but are not limited to, air quality, waste management, conservation of natural resources, wildlife, wetlands, water quality, wastewater, and more.
With a degree in environmental science, you will be set up for a green job in compliance, permitting, inspecting, researching, and more. You’ll likely start your green job as a field staff either collecting field samples or conducting compliance inspections. Fieldwork green jobs are typically low paying but enjoyable and hands-on.
As your green job progresses, you’ll likely shift to the desk work/permitting side of things. This includes implementing policy and procedure, reviewing analytical data, and translating your findings into permits or licenses. The progression continues until you are a manager or supervisor of other green job employees.
Most green jobs as environmental scientists either work for the state government, federal government, local government, or a consulting firm. Green jobs as a consultant are high-paced and demanding, but higher pay. Green jobs as a government worker are typically more flexible and enjoyable, but lower pay (with better benefits).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a green job as an environmental scientist translated to a median salary of $71,360 per year. The job outlook from 2021-2019 is growing at a whopping 8%, which is much faster than average. As environmental laws and regulations continue to tighten, as will the need for environmental scientists!
It’s important to note that the degrees listed above are only three of the many green and sustainability degrees offered. A degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, and Environmental Law were all chosen as they are some of the most commonly offered and sought after college degrees in the green industry.
Other Degrees for Green Industries and Careers
Other college degrees that will help you land a green job include a degree in Geology, Geography, Sustainable Management, Hydrology, Environmental Health Sciences, Horticulture, Marine Sciences, Renewable Energy, Wildlife Ecology, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Policy, and more. Check with your local University and see what they offer!
We hope that this inclusive list of college degrees and green jobs will help you gain a better understanding of the green jobs available on the market and the degrees that will help you land the green job of your dreams. It’s important to check with your career center and advisor at your university to inquire about potential green job opportunities and how their degree will help you get you there.
Looking for more great resources to guide your green career search? Check out our Free list of 100 sustainability and green career ideas
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