Green jobs and the services they provide are beneficial to the environment by conserving resources either immediately or further into the future. As people and industries in the United States become more aware of the need to be green, the demand is growing for professionals to fill everything from entry level green jobs to higher-level positions.
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This is good news for college students pursuing a sustainability degree or one that is related, as well as for professionals who are transitioning into the green industry.
California, Vermont and Washington D.C, Lead the Way on Green Jobs
In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started to cull data related to the green industry regarding its employment growth across the nation through what is now known as the Green Goods and Services (GGS) Survey. This survey is part of the Quarterly Census Employment and Wages (QCEW) program.
One of the findings from the BLS study showed a little over 3.1 million jobs located in the U.S. were associated with jobs that met the BLS’ definition of Green Goods and Services (GGS). The BLS published the full results in March 2012. Here are a few examples of the GGS employment data pulled from the study:
The survey covered 120,000 businesses and government holdings in 333 industries that are in some way, shape or form related to being green (the BLS has a qualifying formula to exclude jobs that may be green, but do not lead to green results)
- California had the most GGS jobs in comparison to the 50 other states (338,400), but GGS jobs in California accounted for only 2.3% of employment in proportion to other jobs
- Vermont’s GGS jobs had the “highest proportion of employment” at 4.4%
- Washington D.C.’s proportion of employment (second highest) was slightly lower at 3.9%
Private Industry Already Employs 2.2 million in Green Jobs
The GGS survey also provided private sector employment data (over 2.2 million GGS jobs) in various industries. Manufacturing has the highest amount of green jobs, while transportation had the least. The industries and the total number of GGS employees are: manufacturing (461,847); construction (372,077); professional (349,024); administrative (319,915) and transportation (245,057).
“With an increased interest in the environment and growth in the ‘green collar’ job sector, colleges and universities are beginning to incorporate sustainability into their programs,” reported USA Today in a 2009 article about more students wanting to get green jobs and earning a sustainability degree to get one.
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In a recent article for GreenBiz.org, author Cai Steger wrote that “government study says U.S. green jobs are growing strong.” Steger also pointed out what could be one of the strongest motivators for professionals wanting to get a green job: these jobs can’t be outsourced.
Green Jobs Growing in the Construction Industry
Even though many workers from the construction industry may have seen their prospects dry up over the past few years, they may be able to find renewed career prospects by earning a specialized or advanced sustainability degree in fields related to construction management, architecture and mechanical engineering. An article from the BLS, “Careers in Green Construction,” gives supporting information about growth in green construction-related jobs that can have high-earning potential.
The BLS article also provided the median annual wages for the following job titles: construction managers ($85,030); electrical engineers ($84,350); geoscientist ($82,500); mechanical engineers ($80,400); architects (excluding landscape and naval) ($77,210); civil engineers ($76,120) and urban and regional planners ($63,040).
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The salary information listed above is based off of the job title itself, which can be found in the BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. However, if these already high salaries are indicative of what professionals make without a higher-level of green training, it is fair to assume those with green training and/or sustainability degrees may earn more.
This should be exciting news for those looking to join the green industry, regardless of whether they start at the bottom or toward the top.