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8 Hot Green-Collar Jobs for Earth-Conscious Grads

by Student Loan Daddy

As the world deals with global warming and a growing demand for energy, the green movement has moved beyond a fringe fad to become an international initiative. Green industries and “green-collar” jobs are on the rise as businesses and governments face an increasing pressure to protect the environment. If you’re an eco-minded grad, here are eight of the fastest up-and-coming green jobs, where you’ll be able to earn a paycheck while doing your part to save the planet.

Carbon Trader

Carbon trading, currently active in Europe and Japan, is likely headed to the United States within the next five years. The carbon trading market is currently estimated to be worth a little over $6 billion. As carbon trading expands to the United States and other parts of the world, the market could grow to $500 billion by 2050, according to a Deutsche Bank report.

The idea behind carbon trading grows out of limits imposed on greenhouse gas emissions by a government or other regulatory body. Companies or other organization are issued permits that allow them to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide. Those businesses that exceed their allotted carbon limit must buy extra carbon “quota” from those that emit less.

A carbon trader helps put together financing for projects that can produce carbon credits to sell. It might be a wind farm in India or a methane-capture landfill in the United Kingdom. “We advise a hedge fund in the U.K. and other institutions that invest in the landfills, or buy the credits and resell them later,” says Alex Rau, founder of Climate Wedge, a carbon trading firm. “We are participating in the growth of a new asset class. If you can do something that reduces greenhouse emissions, you can produce an asset.”

The principles behind carbon trading are a lot like those behind stock trading; your stock just happens to be carbon credits. You’re doing a lot of the same work as a financial advisor or investment trader, so you’ll need a degree or experience in business and finance, with knowledge of financial management and investment banking.

Corporate Climate Consultant

With its new director of climate change and energy strategy at the helm, Yahoo invested $2 million to buy carbon emission credits from a hydroelectric project in Brazil and a wind farm in India to achieve its carbon neutral status. Christina Page spent her first week as Yahoo’s director of climate change in the Amazon River basin, researching hydroelectric projects.

Carbon consultants advise companies on how to reduce their carbon footprint, whether it’s for regulatory reasons, publicity, budget-cutting, or all of the above.

At Yahoo, Page is focused on examining all the company’s business processes and looking for ways to make them more energy-efficient. That means building better data centers and installing an energy monitoring system so that every Yahoo employee knows how much energy is being consumed around them, from their laptop to the entire building. It also means pushing out eco tips to Yahoo’s users.

Usually, you’ll need previous experience as a consultant or project manager, with a master’s or bachelor’s degree in environmental studies or in science and engineering, with an emphasis on environmental coursework. Some employers may require knowledge of state and federal environmental regulations, along with experience in regulatory compliance projects.


A few years ago, this job didn’t even exist. Often referred to as sustainability coordinators, these positions deal with improving the quality of life for those in the organization, while caring for and supporting the environment. Eco-educators are responsible for developing programs and policies that conserve energy, efficiently use natural resources and educate employees regarding sustainability issues.

Since this is such a new field, many companies are open to different backgrounds and qualifications, although many prefer at least a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Environmental Engineer

Not your average engineers, these individuals apply scientific principles to improve the environment, provide healthy water, air or land for human habitation, and may deal with recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues as well as water and pollution control. Some engineers may design municipal water supply or industrial wastewater treatment plants, conduct hazardous-waste management studies, and be concerned with the effects of acid rain and ozone depletion.

A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a bachelor’s degree in another field of engineering with a minor in environmental engineering is required; master’s degrees are encouraged.

Environmental Lawyer

Expected to grow by 25 percent in the next decade, these individuals give guidance to corporations that need advice on the ecological impact of their actions, from land use to pollution control. Lawyers generally measure and assign liability in the event that an environmental crime has been committed, and ensure that companies comply with the provisions of law.

You’ll have to get a graduate Juris Doctorate degree in environmental law, natural law, or related field, and pass your state’s bar exam in order to practice in this field.

Green Recruiter

Maybe you’re a natural at sales, love talking to people, or want to help others get their dream job. Finding individuals to fill jobs in the exploding fields of environmental sciences, sustainable development, climate change or other areas of social responsibility may be just up your alley. With the number of specialists in the field more than doubling between 2006 and 2007, this career is a safe bet for a secure future.

Many companies require that you prove yourself on the job, and may not even require a college degree for entry-level positions. An undergraduate marketing or other degree may help you land this job, however.

Solar Installer or Wind Turbine Technician

If you’re a hands-on person with decent mechanical or electrical skills, this job could be a rewarding alternative to the corporate grind. You would be part of a team responsible for installing equipment on rooftops or on massive wind turbines.

Some companies may require you to be certified as an electrician or electrical engineer, but there are no formal certifications required to be a solar installer.

Sustainable-Design Architect

More popularly known as green design, green building, or even green architecture, the term “sustainable design” refers to the use of environmentally-conscious design techniques and a focus on minimizing the negative environmental impact of buildings through the efficient use of materials, energy, and development space.

You may be able to do green design with a general professional architecture degree, but many schools are now offering specialized post-professional architectures degree in sustainable design and environmental building that are in high demand at many of the largest firms in the country.

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