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5 hot jobs in the green economy

Green jobs

Even if you’ve never thought about an eco-friendly career, there’s good reason to make the choice. Not only will you help build a more sustainable planet, but you could make more money doing it, according to a 2011 study by the Brookings Institution, which found that median wages in the “clean economy” are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages.

Michael Bevis, an instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Madison Campus, encourages checking with the U.S. Department of Labor’s online resource center to see how your current job skills might transfer into a comparable occupation in the green economy.

“It’s important for people to understand that just by shifting their thinking a little, they can find themselves working in the clean economy,” says Bevis, who has consulted for clean-water advocacy groups.

Here are five green-collar jobs that are expected to grow by 2020:


Sustainable management

What it is: Businesses, forestry services, agriculture, construction firms and the government are all seeking ways to reduce the effects of what they do on the environment, according to Shawn McCowan, PhD, associate dean of the University’s College of Humanities and Sciences. “This requires a sensible approach,” he says, “where the needs of people are balanced with the environment.”

What you’ll need: While having a good business sense helps, the sustainability field needs people who are passionate about the environment but who also are willing “to see the bigger picture of succeeding financially while protecting nature,” McCowan stresses. To be in high demand in the field, he notes, requires a broad education in either environmental science or sustainability.


Water engineering

What it is: Water use has grown at more than twice the rate of the population increase in the past century, according to the United Nations. By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live where water is scarce. Water and wastewater engineers can help design methods to conserve and reuse water.

What you’ll need: Because the work is technical, water engineers require a degree in environmental engineering, a field that is predicted to grow by 22 percent.


Green design and construction

What it is: Because many U.S. cities now have regulations requiring homes and buildings to be more energy-efficient and to use more eco-friendly construction materials, builders who have knowledge in these areas will have an edge over conventional builders, Bevis says.

What you’ll need: Those with architectural or carpentry experience can seek to become accredited in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which means they have learned about environmental construction practices and can use those skills to seek jobs in the sustainable-building sector.


Renewable energy installation and repair

What it is: Individuals with a background in construction or equipment repair should check out the solar and alternative energy areas, Bevis says, which are predicted to grow by up to 19 percent.

What you’ll need: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, installing and repairing alternative energy equipment sometimes requires a two-year degree in electrical engineering, but workers with experience in similar fields often are trained on the job.


Green marketing and public relations

What it is: If you have marketing training or a journalism background, consider using those skills to help promote an earth-friendly company, Bevis suggests.

What you’ll need: People with writing experience who take courses to earn a certificate or degree in sustainability make themselves even more desirable to green employers.

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