Today’s environmental crisis calls for a new generation of innovative thinkers with the skills and knowledge to lead worldwide sustainability initiatives. Those equipped with an understanding of the current ecological challenges have an opportunity to make a real impact on the future. Sustainability careers involve different disciplines with the goal of ensuring a symbiosis of people, planet, and prosperity (EnvironmentalScience.org., n.d.).
In the private sector, this career may point to a role of crafting a sustainability strategy for businesses or organizations. You will be responsible for the program’s success in reducing environmental impact, improving cost efficiency and preventing natural degradation caused by doing business. On the other hand, the public sector offers opportunities in entry-level state and federal jobs of administering sustainability programs or as far up a role as policy-making and program auditing and inspections.
Students planning for a sustainability career can expect to take courses in environmental management and environmental systems, and master different types of research design. Below, see what the sustainability career path can offer you in terms of the salary range, job outlook, and professional resources in this guide.
Persons whose passion lies in the environment and making a better world should pursue a sustainability career. Besides passion, sustainability professionals must also display exceptional skills in research, communication, and analysis. To improve these skills, enrolling in an associate, a bachelor’s, or a graduate degree would be of great help.
Source: The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2020
The sustainability career path includes sustainability specialist, environmental engineer, sustainability manager, and sustainability director roles. These professions can bring positive effects to the environment, quality of living, and upcoming generations (Best Colleges, 2020).
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are roughly 53,150 environmental engineers in the country. They earn an average income of approximately $88,000 annually. The BLS also predicts that vacancy for the position will grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028, adding about 3,800 new jobs (Best Colleges, 2020).
The table below shows the average sustainability salary.
|Job Title||Entry-Level |
|Early Career |
In the 2021 Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences paper “The Unsustainable Sustainability,” Suzi H. Theodoro and Othon H. Leonardos raised more questions about the concept of sustainable development. They then concluded by citing how change always leads to conflicts. “Even though many writers and thinkers consider the environmental issue to be a modern phenomenon, it has been an important factor for more than a century now, influencing political-economic decisions across the world. And while development has made life easier for most people, bringing improvements to health and longevity and creating opportunities for consumption and well-being, it has also brought about opportunistic diseases, unknown and increasingly dangerous viruses, and in particular, the deterioration of the natural environment and mankind’s relationship with nature.”
To make an influence and real change, sustainability professionals need to acquire skills that would enable them to accomplish more than just checking their to-do lists every day (Qualis Flow, n.d.). Here are some of the skills that can help you thrive in the field.
Essential Skills for Sustainability Professionals
General Skills for Sustainability Professionals
Obtaining a sustainability career starts with holding an associate, a bachelor’s, or a graduate degree. An associate degree can already qualify an individual for some professions, but higher degrees, such as a bachelor’s or master’s lead to better salaries and higher positions (Best Colleges, 2020).
What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in Sustainability?
Also referred to as park rangers, wildlife troopers, and foresters, conservation workers manage huge natural areas. They impose conservation initiatives with government institutions and nonprofits. Some of them also develop academic programs for schools and tour groups.
Median salary: $34,039
Environmental Science and Protection Technician
Environmental science and protection technicians support environmental and health organizations, such as government bodies, hospitals, and community groups, by taking research assistant or administrative roles. They often work alongside professionals with careers in geology.
Median salary: $42,971
What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sustainability?
Environmental consultants assess how the products and processes of an organization impact the environment. They also look into work conditions by monitoring and talking to workers. Interestingly, a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion also covers sustainability. Graduates may work as environmental consultants for the government, private businesses, and nonprofits.
Median salary: $61,054
Environmental engineers, like other career paths in environmental science and sustainability, handle waste and pollution problems through technology. They may also work with the government to guarantee federal law compliance.
Median salary: $61,000
Can you get a sustainability job with just a certificate?
You cannot get a sustainability job with just a certificate, but holding an industry certification can definitely improve your career development plan in sustainability and salary prospects. Many organizations offer extensive certification programs for sustainability careers.
To improve your career and salary potential as a sustainability professional, you can earn a certification from many organizations or continue your education by earning a master’s or doctorate degree. Another option would be engaging yourself in networking or professional organizations. Doing the latter can provide you with opportunities in private job boards, free publications, and networking events.
What can I do with a Master’s in Sustainability?
Sustainability directors think of more ways to establish Earth-friendly policies within companies. Their works may also center on inventing sustainable facilities, minimizing production waste, and teaching energy-saving techniques to employees.
Median salary: $81,000
Source: University of Wisconsin, 2020
Environmental scientists work for government agencies, consulting companies, and schools by performing research on environmental concerns. They study data and present their findings. Their works guide the development, execution, and assessment of conservation laws.
Median salary: $70,511
What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in Sustainability?
Professors teach students, as well as guide them with laboratory activities, research, and theses. At the same time, they may also work on their own research and publications or take consultancy roles with government or private bodies.
Median salary: $89,528
Research scientists collect and assess information and publish their findings. They can either work in school settings or in applied fields.
Median salary: $85,508
Which certification is best for sustainability?
The International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) are just two of the most prestigious programs that can help you prove that you are a knowledgeable and skilled sustainability professional. Through these programs, you can prove that you can deliver sustainability strategies and implementation work across regions, industries, and functions (Kenlon, 2021).
A change in mind once you step out onto the field or after a long time of practicing your specialization is inevitable. Should you decide to explore other related careers, here are some alternative options for you.
What else can a sustainability professional do?
Landscape architects often fall under geography jobs but this is also a viable career in the field of sustainability. They study the natural geography and terrain of a location and then impose different design methodologies to integrate man-made patterns with the environment. If you are a sustainability graduate or professional, these tasks would be easy for you.
Safety measures and efficiency are also the main focus of food science roles. Food scientists are also tasked to perform experiments to improve the sustainability and efficiency of goods, especially of farming practices, farm animals, and agricultural goods.
With the current struggles of people and the world, it is just reasonable to look for a job that could contribute to the betterment of our lives and of others. In a sustainability career, you can help in protecting the environment, stopping the ongoing climate crisis, and making a brighter future for everyone. More than being a job role, sustainability is a mindset and lifestyle.
Do not just look for a job, find one that could have a long-lasting impact (Gonçalves, 2019).