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Green jobs in government: discovering career pathways

Green jobs in government include more than you think and contribute to each level of governance. Depending on your interest, you could work at a national level where many big policy decisions are made, or you may want to be more in touch with a particular community and serve local government.

Read on to find answers to common questions about the different types of green careers in government and where you might fit in.

What Is a ‘Green’ Job?

While green jobs are typically coined as those that serve environmental sustainability and the mitigation of climate change, it is important to remember that sustainability covers three different spheres, being environmental, economic and social.

Therefore, a green job can be related to any of the three P’s: the planet, profit, and people. There are many different sustainability government jobs, being both generalist and specialised.

What Are the Different Levels of Government?

To better understand where you might fit into the system of governance, each of the levels and responsibilities are set out below.

Federal or National Government

As the title suggests, national governments govern an entire nation. When it comes to setting sustainable policies and objectives, this is where the big decisions are made. State and local governments typically adopt what is led by the national government.

State or Provincial Government

Sometimes referred to as regional governments or councils, this level of governance has authority over specific regions within a country. Like national government, its members are typically elected officials. Although state governments must consider objectives set by national government, they usually have their own legislations and autonomy to determine how they will enact national directions. Matters such as transport, education and healthcare are managed within a region.

Local Government

Local governments operate at a community level, often responding to the specific needs of their towns and communities. Transport infrastructure, parks and recreation, and essential services are some of the responsibilities that local government has autonomy over.

Non-exhaustive List of Green Jobs in Government

Green jobs in government can be specialised or generalist. For example, an Environmental Policy Analyst may have a more holistic view than a role focusing on one area, such as a Water Resource Specialist. However, everyone will contribute to the decision-making process as a subject matter expert.

Here are some examples of environmental government jobs, what they do, and which level of government they typically fit into. As you’ll discover, many roles overlap and work together.

Generalist Roles

  • Environmental Policy Analyst

Typically working at the highest level of government, Environmental Policy Analysts conduct sustainability research and formulate innovative solutions to advocate for policies that protect and enhance our environment.

  • Environmental Compliance Officer

Environmental Compliance Officers typically work within state or local government and are responsible for ensuring that businesses and organisations comply with environmental regulations. This involves investigating businesses’ practices and leading initiatives to promote environmental preservation.

  • Sustainability Coordinator

Working in all levels of government, Sustainability Coordinators are responsible for developing, implementing and overseeing strategies to promote sustainability and encourage environmental stewardship within the workplace.

  • Planners

Working in state or local government, Planners work to address communities’ needs and collaborate to create short- and long-term plans that comprehensively include land use, transportation and environmental sustainability matters. Of importance, they review development proposals as well as advise policymakers on where infrastructure investments should occur to ensure equitable outcomes.

Specialised Roles

  • Climate Change Analyst

In all levels of government, Climate Change Analysts look at the potential impact of climate change on different sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, public health, and the environment. To do this, they model future climate scenarios to understand the risks of climate change and use this information to develop strategies, policies, and adaptation plans for mitigation.

  • Environmental Scientists and Engineers

Typically working in state or local government, Environmental Scientists and Engineers collaborate to protect the environment through sustainable development. Environmental Scientists look at the interactions between human activity and the environment, inform policy decisions, and recommend mitigation strategies. Environmental Engineers are responsible for infrastructure design outcomes where they implement solutions, enforce regulations, and oversee projects.

  • Natural Resource Manager

Also known as Conservation Managers, this role involves overseeing the sustainable management and preservation of natural resources, operating within various government levels. Conservation Managers implement strategies and regulations to balance environmental conservation with economic progress and community needs. Emerging issues like climate change, invasive species, and habitat fragmentation are often at the centre of their work.

  • Specialist in Water Resources

Working at any government level, Water Resource Specialists oversee water resources’ sustainable management and protection. This encompasses research, policy formulation, and stakeholder engagement to resolve water-related concerns to ensure the availability of clean water for communities.

  • Expert in Waste Management

An asset to any government level, Waste Management Specialists look at the proper disposal, handling, and recycling of waste materials. They develop waste management policies and collaborate with stakeholders to promote waste reduction.

  • Professional in Renewable Energy

Primarily working in national governments, Renewable Energy Specialists promote the transition to sustainable energy sources. By advocating for investment in renewable energy infrastructure, they aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and guide economic progress toward a greener future.

The Influence of the Public Sector

The public sector offers plenty of opportunities for fulfilling environmental work. Environmental careers in government at local and national levels are often at the forefront of environmental policy development and the implementation of sustainability initiatives. Public sector work will allow you to directly contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development efforts. If you are looking for a role that enables you to collaborate with diverse stakeholders to address complex environmental challenges, consider a sustainability career in government.

Further reading:

Latest tips and advice about green careers

Interviews with environmentalists and green sustainability professionals.

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