by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post Chris is the co-editor of The Green Executive Recruiter Directory. Follow Chris on Twitter @greeneconpost

Major Green Industries with a significant presence in the state are: Solar, Wind, Biofuel, Smart Grid, Energy Storage, Fuel Cells, Hydro, Geothermal, Green Building, Energy Efficiency, Sustainability, Electric Cars.

Green Jobs in California: the High Level View

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Click on this map, by the California Economic Strategy Panel for more details about the nine regional economies in the state.

California is in a league of its own when it comes to the Green Economy. Many hundreds of thousands of California’s citizens are now employed in the state’s rapidly growing cleantech, environmental and renewable energy sectors. This state simply cannot begin to be covered in a single page and as a result California has become a section of pages that exist under this California green employment overview page.

A recent survey done by the State of California, entitled “California’s Green Economy” that surveyed 51,100 businesses in the state and got responses from 15,200 (a 30% participation rate) reports total green jobs estimate of 432,840 for the state. This accounts for 3.4 percent of California’s total employment for the (May 2009 – January 2010) survey period. Of the total green jobs in the State, employers reported that 263,222 worked at least half of the time on green activities.

The long term growth rate of employment in the green sectors in California has been also been more than twice the employment growth for the state as a whole. In the fifteen year period (1995-2009) employment in the state’s green economy grew by 56% while it grew employment for all sectors grew on average by 18% over the same time period.

According to a study conducted by green job search engine in 2010, California is the top state hiring for green jobs. California had over 7,500 green jobs posted online. The most sought-after job types were in sales and engineering. Engineering came in second. Engineering candidates of all disciplines – mechanical, solar, chemical, etc. – are also in huge demand in its green economy.

According to the Brookings Institute Clean Economy Jobs Report.  In 2010 California had 318,156 clean jobs, which make up 2.1% of all jobs in the state. California has seen an increase of 4.2% clean jobs annually since 2003 with a total of 79,092.  The estimated median wage in California is $43,815, but the median salary for clean economy jobs in the state is $46,400.

The Brookings Institute Clean Economy Jobs Report lists the largest clean economy segments in California as waste management, conservation, organic food and farming, public mass transit, and professional environmental services.  The fastest growing segments in the clean economy are smart grid, renewable energy services, fuel cells, solar thermal, and wind.

California’s big cities are also some of the country’s most important green jobs clusters. For example California takes four of the top fifteen areas for cleantech job activity in Clean Edge, Inc. 2010 ranking; including both the number one and number two slots. The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro area is ranked number one; the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside metro area is ranked number two nationally; the San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos metro area is seventh on Clean Edge’s 2010 ranking; and the Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville makes it into the top fifteen list at fifteenth ranking in the nation.

Important Drivers of California’s Cleantech Economy

California benefits from its high-tech sector in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the state such such as on the Digital Coast in southern California. Cleantech has a lot in common with high-tech and can benefit from many of the financial, business culture and other intangible infrastructure that has been developed by California’s leading high-tech sector. Silicon Valley venture capitalists, software and Internet giants are aggressively leveraging their technical expertise and resources and seeking to gain a commanding position in emerging cleantech areas. Prominent amongst these are: Cisco, Intel, and Google who are all expanding their smart-grid initiatives. Google is also investing money, knowhow and talent in renewable energy areas. In another measure of this ferment California is the top state in patent registrations in green solar and wind technology (data from 2007-2009).

California’s three big metro areas are also important regional growth centers in their own right. For example, San Diego, is aggressively developing biofuels and other clean-tech sectors and is becoming a nationally important center for these areas. These important regional clusters are explored further in each regions own dedicated page. [see links below]

California is the #1 state for solar jobs with an estimated 36,000 solar jobs in over 1,000 solar firms. Wind energy plays an integral role in California’s electricity portfolio. In 2007, turbines in wind farms generated about 2.3% of the state’s gross system power and supported 4,000-5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

California is also a smart grid hotspot, second only to the Southeast region of the U.S. in terms of the number of companies that are in some way involved with the smart grid including those that have traditionally provided electric equipment as well as firms that provide information technology (IT), core communications, smart hardware, energy services, energy management, telecom service, and system integration. In the U.S. Smart Grid report (lead author: Marcey Lowe, Duke University) California was found to have 75 firms in this category out of a national total of 334 U.S. relevant smart grid employers. California has 35 of these tracked firms headquartered in the state (125 number of tracked firms in the U.S.); 5 device manufacturers (70 total included in U.S.); 17 hardware manufacturers (76 tallied in U.S.); and 18 software developers (63 tallied in U.S.).

The Biggest Areas of Green Job Growth

The biggest single area of growth in the green economy over this period was seen in renewable energy. California’s varied and vast resource base; its early, sustained support for the renewable energy industry; its existing high tech cluster in Silicon valley and elsewhere; and its startup friendly culture has been successful in attracting and incubating leading renewable energy companies which has, in turn, created many high-quality jobs. One study found that in the latest year with data (2008-2009) more than three thousand new renewable energy jobs were created in California.

Recent employment growth, in California has been exceptionally strong in energy generation, energy storage and clean transportation. It is worth noting that manufacturing employment represents 26% of all green employment compared with just 11% of California’s total employment. The green economy is making things in California; it is a manufacturing economy, and this is bucking the trend in this country to not build things here in America. In the year (2008-2009) jobs in energy storage increased by 11% and clean transportation jobs increased by 6%. Green manufacturing jobs increased by 11% in the last year and sales and research & development jobs in the green economy increased by 9%.

Sustainability Careers in California

Sustainability is evolving and becoming more mainstream. As this occurs, it is increasing becoming a part of business strategy within large corporations. The majority increasing investment in and management of sustainability, and see it as a means of gaining the competitive edge. Many have incorporated sustainability into business operations and product development. This is particularly true in resource intensive industries and companies with workforces of more than 10,000. All these trends are driving many organizations to bring on hire sustainability professionals or increase the number of sustainability professionals working their organizations.

Colleges and universities have also increased their hiring of sustainability staff in the last year. There is more sustainability hiring taking place in schools with enrollment of 10,000 or more and research institutions. Despite this huge increase in the need for sustainability professionals, a growing number of graduates and working professionals want to use their business careers to make a difference in environmental issues. As a result, competition for these jobs is fierce.

There is more work in the sustainability field for those living in areas that are home to more large company headquarters and more large universities. Those living in California should see a significant increase in the number of sustainability opportunities. California is home to 98 Fortune 1000 companies and 433 colleges and universities. It has 15 research universities.

Green Venture Capital Driving Growth in Califonria

This robust jobs growth in the state’s green economy is supported by a high level of venture capital flowing into cleantech and renewable energy ventures. The startup mentality that has developed in California and has been its motor of growth in high tech is transitioning into the green economy, especially in renewable energy, energy storage and transportation sectors. Startup is more than just money it is an entire way of doing business; a vast ecology of supporting infrastructure from the cloud to finance and legal to risk taking on the big payoff. This culture exists in California, especially in a few important areas such as Silicon Valley for example and because of this in some ways it is easier for new green ventures to come into existence in California.

Of course the volume of green venture capital money is also very large. According to, the Pew Center of The States Clean Economy Report, more than $6.5 billion of new venture capital made its way into the states green economy sectors over the two year period from 2006-2008. This is a level of venture capital funding that dwarfs that of other states. It also reported that the state (as of 2007) had 10,209 green businesses.

Green Jobs by Industry

Employers in all 20 major industry sectors surveyed by California’s Green Economy survey reported at least some green jobs, with the manufacturing and construction sectors reporting the greatest numbers. Mining and finance and insurance sector employers reported the fewest number of green jobs in the survey. Two of the five categories surveyed: energy efficient product manufacturing and natural and sustainable product manufacturing, focused on manufactured goods.

There were 88,810 green jobs reported in the manufacturing sector of the state’s economy; followed by 61,300 green jobs in construction; 41,820 green professional, scientific, and technical services jobs; 32,960 green jobs in the wholesale trade; and 31,680 green jobs in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. When the number of green jobs is measured as a percentage of all jobs in an industry, the top five sectors in the California economy for green jobs are utilities (28%), mining (18%), construction (11%), agriculture (9%), and manufacturing (9%).

The Top Ten Green Careers by Numbers Employed

The top ten occupations for green jobs in California by the number of green jobs in each occupation are: Carpenters involved in green activities filled 46,150 jobs; followed by hazardous materials removal and remediation workers at 43,470 jobs; 43,110 people were employed in green, sustainable or organic agriculture; there were 40,350 assemblers working in green manufacturing; 36,060 recycling center operators; 24,750 electricians worked in green sector jobs; there were 23,000 plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters working in green economy related jobs; 21,670 architects (excluding landscape) worked in green economy related positions; 20340 industrial production managers found employment in green sector areas; and 19,330 construction managers worked on green projects.

Breakdown of Green Jobs by Green Economy Sector

The states green jobs are distributed across these main areas as defined in the “California’s Green Economy” survey.

Energy efficient product manufacturing (27.1%)
Recycling existing materials also (26.7%)
Natural and sustainable product manufacturing (23.7%)
Education, compliance and awareness (16.6%)
Generating and storing renewable energy (5.8%)

Breakdown of Green Jobs by California Economic Region

One interesting thing that is shown by the survey results is that the three smallest employment regions in California (Northern California, Northern Sacramento Valley and Central Sierra) had the highest percentage of green jobs, or 8.1%, 4.5% and 4.8% respectively.

Southern California(43.8%),
Bay Area (21.9%),
Southern Border(8.7%),
San Joaquin Valley(8.7%),
Greater Sacramento(5.4%),
Central Coast(3.1%),
Northern California(2.4%),
Northern Sacramento Valley (1.0%),
Central Sierra (0.5%),
and other (1.3%).

Links to California Green Jobs Detail Pages

California is a big state. In order to cover the green job situation in this state we have created a series of more detailed pages that provide more detailed information on a regional basis within the state and for various green economy areas as well. These pages can be accessed through the links that are listed below.

Find Green Jobs in Each California Economic Region

For a more detailed picture of the green economy and the green economy jobs situation for each of the nine economic regions of California click on the region to be taken to a more in depth breakdown of employment data and regionally specific information.

Northern California Northern Sacramento Valley Bay Area
Greater Sacramento Central Coast San Joaquin Valley
Central Sierra Southern California Southern Border
Find Cleantech Jobs by Specific Areas of the Green Economy

For a more detailed picture of the state of the green economy and the green economy jobs situation for each of the main cleantech sector’s in California green economy click on the industry area below to be taken to a more in depth breakdown of employment data and sector specific information.

Renewable Energy Energy Storage Clean Transportation
Green Building Energy Efficiency Recycling
Water & Wastewater

Return to the Top Level Page in The Green Economy Post U.S. Cleantech Employment Outlook State Directory