A Career in Sustainability

VT XMNR 2019

When you were in high school meeting with your career adviser or counselor, were you ever presented with a career in sustainability as an option? If yes, I would love the name of your adviser to send them a thank you card! Not only are there many careers focused on sustainability or supporting functions, but they are also competitive and widely well-paid roles.

There are the obvious science and engineer based careers, but that is only a subset of the functions that need passionate and educated people driving change. There are technical roles requiring 2 years or less of education such as a wind turbine technician which has a national pay scale of $38K to $68K. A quick search on Indeed shows 1441 open positions related to sustainability in the nonprofit sector. Moreover, every industry including textiles, agriculture, automotive, finance, hospitality, energy, and entertainment all are bringing sustainability roles to the c-suite table and imbedding environmental based roles throughout their organizational structure.

What does this mean for you? If you have a young adult in your life, looking at making career decisions, ensure they are aware of viable sustainability roles as an option. If you are like me and already completed your higher education and started a career path wholly unrelated to sustainability, it is not too late to adjust course. When I became a parent and looked around at the world I was handing to my daughter as my legacy, I decided I was going to drive meaningful change to leave our Earth in better condition for the next generation. I went the path of getting a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management, but this is far from necessary to help play a role in professional sustainability.

Where to start? Ask around your organization and understand what initiatives might be underway. There may be an employee resource group you can join to help lead employee initiatives. Is there an existing environmental policy? If so, is it accessible to your colleagues? If these things do not exist, talk to you HR representative about leading an effort. Maybe you are like minded to me and desire to spend a majority of your professional share-of-mind in sustainability strategy and execution. The industry for sustainability Managers, Directors, Specialist and even Chief of Sustainability roles are on a steep incline. Weekly, more organizations are posting job openings for these types of positions.

Are you interested in a career shift? The $50K advise I can give you is conduct informational interviews with professionals from a wide range of industries and career paths to narrow your focus before jumping into a graduate degree. I conducted over 20 informational interviews from many industries, and no one decline my request. Use LinkedIn to grow your network, feel free to start with my account, I am more than happy to bring passionate people into my network and connect you with others.

Spend some time in self-reflection so that you can articulate to yourself and to others what you are looking for. Then get the word out there, you may be surprised how much support you can get to integrate sustainability into your professional agenda!

Additional Resources:

ClimateBase.org – discover jobs, people, and organizations working to solve the climate crisis.

EnvironmentalScience.org – search sustainability focused educational programs.

Glassdoor.com – explore jobs, companies, and salaries across industries and geographies.