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Outlook: the future of green economy careers

future green careers

The global economy has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic, and world leaders are trying to come up with solutions to rebuild, while also taking action against the ongoing threat of climate change. Ongoing pressure from citizens has created an environmental movement, which is emphasizing green careers, but will environmental jobs increase in the future? In this article we will look at green industry jobs and what the green jobs of the future will be. 

Future of green careers

The green industry is already a major employer – according to a 2020 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), there are 11.5 million jobs in renewable energy alone. According to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO), it is predicted that the green economy will create an additional 24 million jobs by 2030. Embracing the green economy is not only a necessity but can also help to reduce poverty and offer future-proof employment opportunities. 

Top 10 environmental careers in demand in the future

What are the green jobs of the future? Below we have collected a list of environmental sustainability careers that are not only jobs that help the environment but will also help boost the economy. 

1. Urban Farmer

Urban farming, also known as “vertical farming ”, originated due to the need to feed more people in cities while using less land and water. Urban farmers grow crops on rooftops or small parcels of arable land within the city. In the US, urban farming has grown by 30% in the past 30 years. It not only helps to improve food security but also helps with nutrient cycling, increased biodiversity (like beneficial insects), and micro-climate control.

2. Eco-Builder 

The building sector is a large contributor to carbon emissions. Green construction companies can play a pivotal role in reducing these emissions. Eco-Builders will use smart technology to ensure resources like heating and light are being used efficiently. Already existing buildings can be retrofitted to make them more energy-efficient, and new buildings can be constructed with a lower carbon footprint. The ILO is predicting 6.5 million sustainable construction jobs by 2030, making it the second-fastest-growing sector after renewable energy. 

3. Renewable Energy Engineer

The renewable energy sector is the fastest-growing green industry, and companies specializing in hydroelectric power, solar power, biofuels, clean transport, and wind turbines are thriving. It is predicted that solar panel and wind turbine engineers and installers will be the fastest-growing jobs in the US between 2021 and 2026. 

4. Sustainability Expert or Consultant

Green jobs of the future will be found outside of the green economy as well. All industries have a role to play, and that is where Sustainability Consultants will play an important part. These consultants will work with companies to transform their business models, reduce waste and resource use, and ensure goods and services are sustainably sourced. Sustainability experts will either be appointed on a project-by-project basis or can be employed full-time by a company or government department. 

5. Environmental Scientist

It is expected that the job market for environmental scientists will grow by 8% between 2020 and 2029. With the impacts of climate change already being witnessed around the world – through storm surges, glacial melting, and droughts – environmental scientists will be able to study climate change impact and suggest mitigation measures to prevent the damage caused by climate change, as well as informing the world of the current situation. 

6. Water or Air Quality Technician

Large industries are continuing to pollute our water sources and air. Water and Air Quality Technicians are therefore more important than ever. These technicians are responsible to ensure that water and air quality remains safe for humans and animals. This is done by conducting regular assessments and setting quality standards, as well as working with companies and governments to prevent pollution.

7. Recycler 

The future economy is predicted to thrive on reusing, remaking, and recycling – a transformation that will create a lot of new and creative employment opportunities. This “circular economy” of reusing and recycling products will allow recyclers and people that do “upcycling” to have sustainable careers in the future. The ILO predicts that the circular economy will create 6 million jobs. 

8. Wave Energy Producer

Wave energy producers are a specific type of renewable energy engineer that will be increasingly in demand in the future. These individuals use commercial-scale marine devices that capture and produce energy from the waves in the ocean. This is still novel technology, and there are not a lot of wave energy producers around the world yet, meaning this industry is ready to grow. 

9. Green Entrepreneur

These days almost everyone identifies as an entrepreneur, with local start-ups and small businesses flourishing. In the US, green entrepreneurs account for 11 million individuals. These entrepreneurs include app developers, technicians who develop solutions to pollution, and even eco-friendly beauty companies. 

10. In-Vitro Meat Scientist

More and more people are adapting to a plant-based diet, either because of personal choices, wanting to prevent cruelty to animals, or from a climate change perspective due to the destructive practices of animal farming. Scientists are circumventing this by producing lab-grown meat using stem cells from muscle tissue. Developing meat in a lab reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from traditional farming. This will allow the meat-eaters to still consume their favorite proteins without harming the environment. 

Final thoughts

The rise of green jobs is an important trend, and even more so to rebuild the global economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. The world is in an important position to create new employment opportunities that will set the world en route to a sustainable future. 

Green careers are the key to ensuring a greener planet. The United Nations’ Global Goal 8 calls for decent and fair employment and sustainable economic growth. There is a need for investment in green jobs that are in demand, and there is hope that the sustainability sector will continue to grow.


Looking for more great resources to guide your green career search? Check out our Free list of 100 sustainability and green career ideas

Further reading:

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Check out our resources library.


Author: Adri Meyer holds a B.Sc Conservation Ecology from Stellenbosch University and a M.Phil Marine and Environmental Law from the University of Cape Town. She has 2 years working with BirdLife South Africa, a conservation NGO, and 5 years working as an Environmental Assessment Practitioner, conducting Environmental Impact Assessments within the agriculture, housing and waste industry, and acting as an Environmental Control Officer on construction sites. She has 1 year’s experience as a content creator for several sustainability and conservation focused websites. In her free time, she volunteers at the Seabird and Penguin Rehabilitation Center (SAPREC) as well as the local Animal Welfare.

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