27 Areas of Potential Job Growth In the Green Economy

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green job growthStephen Hinton, provides a compilation of professionals that will see growth as the US economy goes green. He predicts that those in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) will experience the most job security.

by Stephen Hinton, Managing Director of Hinton Human Capital.

People have asked me “Where do you see growth in the area of green jobs?” The United States has a shortage of technical professionals when compared to other countries due to low graduation numbers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. As the Climate Change, Environmental and Infrastructure industries pick up, here are the fields where I believe well paying jobs will come available:

  1. Accounting/Forensic Accounting: The critics of the cap and trade market believe that fraud and ponzi schemes could be a major problem in the new carbon market. These people will be part of the team to determine the money trail and help regulators with prosecution.
  2. Alternative Energy: You have heard of this one, but the number of people going into this field is still very low because of high math and science requirements. People are needed in Biofuels/Biomass, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Waste to Energy and Wind.
  3. Architecture: Architects are responsible for designing (or redesigning) buildings to fit the new green standards and building practices. With the advent of recycled building materials and the high numbers of government buildings that will be retrofitted with green features, it will be important for architects to have the LEED certification as part of their credentials.

  4. Atmospheric Sciences:Atmospheric scientists study how pollutants behave in the atmosphere. Accidental toxic releases, acid rain, carbon emissions and ozone depletion are big business in their realm. Their mission over the next few decades is to inform the general public about the effects of greenhouse gases on the weather.

  5. Carbon Consulting:Eventually every company will have a department or business partner to help them deal with their GHG emissions, carbon credits and trading. There will be growth in corporate as well as consulting jobs.

  6. Carbon Capture/ Sequestration:What do we do with the carbon dioxide? Good question. This industry’s job is to find innovative ways to offset, reuse and store captured GHGs. Expect a lot of smart people and money to flow into this industry over the long term.

  7. Computer Aided Design: These people “draw” the construction documents for any type of construction related project. With thousands of architecture, engineering and construction projects slated to come from the ARRA, there will be plenty of work once the projects start flowing.

  8. Civil Engineering: Civil engineers have a role in every infrastructure related project, whether it is airports, bridges or stormwater systems. This is a field which will have good long term growth and a shortage of workers.

  9. Electrical Engineering:These are the people who design and maintain the electrical grid and power plants. There may be a shortage of these people as the design and construction of the new grid picks up.

  10. Emissions Trading:These professionals will be the focal point of the new carbon trading market. They are responsible for buying and selling credits to interested parties on the exchange. Carbon is not the only market that will see growth. Look for opportunities in Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and Sulphur Oxide (SOx) markets as overall greenhouse trading markets grow. Traders and brokers must complete licensing requirements in order to work in the market.

  11. Energy Management: Also called Resource Efficiency Managers, the professionals in this field not only understand engineering and construction but monitor utility rates to find cost savings. They ensure that energy consumption and costs stay within acceptable limits.

  12. Environmental Engineering:These are the people who design water and wastewater treatment systems. Many cities like Atlanta, DC and Portland,OR have multi-billion water infrastructure upgrade programs underway which will receive federal funding.

  13. Environmental Information Systems:Industrial facilities must monitor all their equipment, facilities and waste products to ensure the safety of their employees, the environment and the public. The specialized computer systems, software and the people who design and maintain them will have a big job to do in the “green economy”.

  14. Environmental Scientists:These are the people who do the environmental investigations and write the environmental permits and reports for construction, industry and climate change. These people will be especially important to the smart grid, rural broadband and environmental clean-up and restoration projects.

  15. Forestry:I am sure you were scratching your head about this choice. Here is my reason: Forests absorb carbon dioxide and will be used as offsets in carbon trading. Someone has to look after the trees because planting trees could become more lucrative than cutting them down.

  16. Geographic Information Systems/Remote Sensing:The Smart grid and other infrastructure will be on a highly specialized network of sensors using different technologies to monitor power flow and report data.

  17. Greenhouse Gas Auditing/Compliance:Every facility that has a smoke stack or produces gaseous byproducts will be inspected and monitored for compliance with greenhouse gas regulations. These professionals will work for environmental consulting firms, the government, non-profits and private investors to make sure GHG emissions stay in range.

  18. Geotechnical Engineering:Geotechnical engineers have a key role in the design and construction of dams, foundations, levees, tunnels and underground remediation systems. As the alternate energy, infrastructure and environmental projects heat up, the need for these professionals will go off the chart.

  19. Industrial Waste Treatment/Solid Waste/Hazardous Waste Managers:Before any industrial waste product can be reused or returned to the environment it must recycled, treated or put into long term storage. These professionals are at the front line dealing with contaminated water, E-waste, household trash and nuclear waste.

  20. Landscape Architecture/Horticulture:Ever heard of a green roof or eaten organic vegetables or Xeriscaping? The natural activities of plants are important to the green jobs industry. Plants will be used to conserve water, clean up environmental spills and many other things.

  21. Mechanical Engineering (HVAC):Green buildings need high climate controls to monitor energy consumption and the indoor environment. Mechanical engineers will be responsible in designing the next generation of indoor climate controls.

  22. Nuclear Engineering:I know. I know. You think this is a stretch, right? Well, the French have come up with a way to reuse spent nuclear fuel rods and return them into service. If the department of energy approves the process, it is possible thousands of spent fuel rods could be returned to service and limit the need for new manufacturing.

  23. Recycling:Recycling companies will gain a huge benefit in the green economy. Watch for some of them to have strong business in scrap metals and recycled materials markets.

  24. Regulatory/Government compliance:The EPA and a number of other government agencies will have to expand their staffs to stay on top of new companies and regulations.

  25. Risk Management/Insurance:All businesses need insurance and risk management services. The green industry will be no different.

  26. Structural Engineering:Do you remember the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota or how about the Dallas Cowboys practice facility? Structural Engineers not only design structural framework of building and bridges, they also investigate structural failures.

  27. Transit /Light Rail:The ARRA has a lot of money committed to transit projects. This field has a large number of people retiring over the next few years and a large influx of new people will be needed.

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Author: stephen_hinton (4 Articles)

Stephen Hinton is the Managing Director of Hinton Human Capital, an executive search firm that specializes in the Climate Change, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering markets. Hinton Human Capital also provides resume writing services that are uniquely focused toward the technical professional. His Hinton Human Capital Blog articles on green and infrastructure jobs, the job market and job search strategy have been featured across the internet on the following web sites: CivilEngineeringCentral.com, Green Economy Post, Linked In, Business Week Exchange, The Examiner and many more. He has also been featured internet radio shows and quoted in articles on the AOL web site, the Wall Street Journal, CareerJournal and Minority MBA Magazine.

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  • Dana Foley

    Dear Stephen,
    I accept that most, if not all, of these professions are becoming very important. The question that keeps going through my head is “how do you get into these professions if you’re in another one that isn’t on the list?” Companies are only interested in hiring people with previous experience in Alternative Energy, for instance, and do not consider an engineer or scientist wanted to cross over.
    Please comment.
    Regards,
    Dana Foley

    • http://hintonhumancapital.wordpress.com Stephen Hinton

      Dana,
      Thanks for your comment. Your question is one that needs to be addressed by industry leaders, government officials and everyday people.What you have pointed out is a major workforce development issue where the available jobs and the skills of the available workers are misaligned.
      Our country does not have a comprehensive plan to develop, educate and retrain the workforce needed for the new green jobs and industries.My hope is that more people talk about this issue openly so we can solved this problem and get people back to work.

      Thanks
      SH

    • http://greeneconomypost.com Tracey de Morsella

      Dana :
      While it is my hope that government and industry leaders come up with ways to help the workforce transition, there are a number of steps individuals can take to make a personal transition. However, it is not an easy thing to do. I’ve done it three times in the past to get into publishing, human resources and information technology. I have met people who have done it to get into solar, wind, and sustainability.

      Number one is to green your credentials with certifications. Maybe even consider getting an advanced degree. However, as you say, most employers want experience. So you have to create opportunities. Approach non-profits or small businesses and offer to do the work for free as a project. Take an internship or apprenticeship position. Write articles and papers and get them showcased in prominent blogs, journals, magazines etc in your targeted specialty. Aggressively network with people working in your targeted specialty so that people know who you are. Become active in local professional associations in your specialty. Submit proposals to speak on topics in your targeted specialty at region relevant events. These activities will dramatically transform your resume and then you start looking for the jobs. Consider targeting small and mid-sized firms for opportunities. They are less likely to rigidly adhere to all of the requirements listed for some of their lower level positions and will likely seriously consider skilled candidates with less experience.

      There is no quick solution. You will have to commit a great deal of time to make this transition.

      • http://hintonhumancapital.wordpress.com Stephen Hinton

        Well said Tracey. One more thing I want to add here. Alternative energy maybe the “sexy” “en vogue” career field right now but it may not be the fit for everyone. The orignal purpose of this article is to show people that there are more opportunities available to explore.

  • http://www.greencareercentral.com Carol McClelland

    Thanks Stephen, for this detailed list. Some great careers ideas on this list that haven’t been talked about much.

    I would also like to add, for those who don’t have a scientific/technical background, that there are other categories of careers that will also be essential in the new green/sustainable economy. Here are a few ideas…they aren’t always as easily described as some of the job titles Stephen mentioned, the they are important to the transition we are in.

    1) We need people who can work at the policy level to create/advocate for strong green/sustainable policies.

    2) Green finance – not just in the trading markets you mention, but also in terms of developing and offering innovative financing options for residents and business owners to make improvements for energy efficiency and renewable.

    3) Stimulating demand through communication – environmental education, marketing, sales, media. All of the changes that are happening and will happen will need to be communicated to the masses in a motivating, inspiring, accurate, and information way.

    4) Managing and operating the companies throughout the green/sustainable economy. Every company is going to need the same kind of infrastructure and operations that traditional companies have. The difference is the focus on sustainability and the rapidly evolving marketplace. Incorporating sustainability training is going to be critical for those who want to work in these companies.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Stephen.

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  • Greg Brown

    I would be careful about putting too much credence in green energy jobs forecasts. In 1973 we had oil shortages and everyone was going to go solar, there was lots of talk and it soon became obvious that solar had limitations and could not compete with cheap fossil fuels. T. Boone Pickens today announced that he is halving his order for GE wind turbines and abandoning the Texas wind foar that was much ballyhooed only a few months ago. Those who have been around long enough know that a technology that can not stand on its own economics and relies on government subsidies willnot survive beyond the subsidy’s expiration. Look at ethanol for a prime example.

    That said, I agree that technology is the place to be for the future – it always has been.

    I predict a few shocks ahead:

    1. Global warming will be proven to be a data anomaly and the rush to eliminate greenhouse gasses will die.

    2. Politicians will back off the cap and trade legislation and the EPA willhave to backtrack on declaring CO2 a plooutant. The 2010 elections will serve as a wakeup call to congress where we will see the liberals loose their influence in fabor of people who focus on the immediate needs of job creation not linked to pie in the sky green technology.

    3. Within the next 20 years we will see leaps forward in energy including nuclear, hydrogen, and elecrtic vehicles with the capability of traveling reasonable distances on a charge and being recharged quickloy, just like filling your gas tank. There will likely be some halfway steps perhaps fuel cells at commercial scale.