Top 10 Jobs to Help Fight Climate Change
- Many colleges today offer programs in environmental and climate sciences.
- Popular climate change jobs include environmental lawyer and clean car engineer.
- Those uninterested in science can fight climate change through sustainable jobs like fashion.
In early September, San Francisco residents looked up and saw something that seemed straight out of an apocalyptic film: a burnt, orange sky. The bizarre sight was caused by wildfires burning throughout Northern California and surrounding states, intensified by climate change.
As the smoke blew through the Bay Area, the sun took on an unsettling shade of red-orange. It was a scary experience for many — and a stark reminder to all that climate change will continue to cause and exacerbate extreme weather conditions like this.
According to NASA, 2019 was the second-hottest year on record since scientists began recording temperatures in 1880. In fact, the past five years have all been the warmest years on record.
The rise in global temperatures has led to a higher demand for careers that fight climate change.
The rise in global temperatures, as well as the spread of forest fires and other natural disasters, has led to a higher demand for careers that fight climate change. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for environmental scientists and specialists will increase 8% between 2019 and 2029.
But you don't have to become an environmental scientist to combat climate change. The reality is that climate change affects just about every area of our lives, from our ability to stay warm or cool, to the clothes we wear and the food we eat. This means you can break into a climate-conscious career by following any number of paths, the most popular of which we introduce below.
What Should You Study for a Career in Climate Change?
An increasing number of U.S. colleges and universities offer degrees that specifically focus on environmental and climate sciences. For example, UCLA offers a climate science major through its Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences Department, while Southern New Hampshire University runs an online environmental science bachelor's program.
Other science degrees can also help you get your foot in the door when it comes to working in climate science. For instance, you might consider majoring in biology, meteorology, or engineering. Some schools offer focus areas in climate change-related subjects, such as environmental engineering.
In addition to majors in biology and engineering, many schools now offer specializations in environmental/climate science and sustainability.
You could also pursue a degree in sustainability. Schools like the University of Florida and Roosevelt University offer sustainability studies majors, while other institutions, like UC Davis, boast sustainable agriculture degrees.
Remember that you can double major or add a minor as well. If you were interested in, say, history and climate science, you could study both at the same time — and perhaps even write a capstone paper on the history of the environmental movement.
If you've already got a bachelor's degree and are instead looking to change careers, consider enrolling in a graduate program. Many master's programs concentrate specifically on climate science, such as George Mason University's MS in climate science and Cornell University's MS in atmospheric science.
10 Popular Climate Change Careers
Still not sure what degree to get so you can pursue a career battling climate change? It might help to think about the job you want before planning out how to get it. Below are some of the most popular climate change career paths.
|Job||Median Salary||Employment Growth Rate
|Clean Car Engineer||$88,430 (all mechanical engineers)||4% (all mechanical engineers)|
|Sustainability Consultant||$67,000||11% (all management analysts)|
|Environmental Lawyer||$56,000||4% (all lawyers)|
|Renewable Energy Scientist||Varies||Varies|
|Renewable Energy Technician||Varies||Varies|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale
If you want to contribute to the scientific sphere of climate change, consider becoming a climate or environmental scientist. These professionals conduct research on climate change and how it affects the Earth. Usually, they work within a specialty, such as monitoring the effects of increasing temperatures on the ocean or humans' food supply.
To become an environmental scientist, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree. You can work in settings like universities, research institutes, and government agencies.
Environmental lawyers work for law firms that focus on sustainability, renewable energy, and climate change; they can also work for a government agency. These attorneys might challenge a business that broke certain sustainability guidelines, for example.
To become an environmental lawyer, you must earn a juris doctor degree from an accredited law school and pass your state's bar examination. Many colleges offer environmental law as a concentration.
If you want to come up with real-world solutions to problems caused by climate change, you might be interested in becoming an environmental engineer. In this career, you'll mainly focus on developing and constructing sustainable architecture, such as green, water-efficient buildings.
Environmental engineers must have a bachelor's degree in environmental, civil, or chemical engineering. Many go on to earn a master's degree as well.
As Earth specialists, geoscientists play a large role in stopping climate change. These professionals study all of the different elements of Earth, as well as natural resources. You'll need a bachelor's degree, usually in geoscience or environmental science, though many geoscientists have master's degrees as well. You can find work at universities and research institutes.
Renewable Energy Scientist
As the title suggests, renewable energy scientists focus their research on clean energy sources, such as wind, water, solar power, and geothermal heat. These climate science professionals learn how to make renewable energy more efficient and more widespread so that we don't need to rely on coal and oil.
To become a renewable energy scientist, you'll normally need a graduate degree and must work at a place that will sponsor your research.
Renewable Energy Technician
Renewable energy technicians ensure that renewable energy sources run properly by setting up and maintaining solar panels, wind turbines, and other systems. They may work as solar photovoltaic installers or wind turbine technicians, for instance.
This is a very hands-on job, and unlike many of the careers on this list, these technicians do not typically need college degrees; instead, they may complete a training program at a technical school, community college, or even on the job.
Clean Car Engineer
Remember when hybrid cars seemed futuristic? Now, we see charging stations for hybrid and electric cars on city corners. Clean car engineers created these vehicles, and they continue to improve these cars and engineer other models of energy-efficient automobiles.
Becoming a clean car engineer typically means having at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or a related discipline.
You might've heard of management consultants. These professionals work as analysts and are hired by companies to scrutinize their operations and finances, and suggest ways that the business can become more profitable and more efficient.
Sustainability consultants carry out many of the same tasks; however, they specifically advise businesses and organizations on how to incorporate sustainability and environmentally conscious procedures into their operations. To become a sustainability consultant, you'll need a bachelor's degree in business or sustainability.
Climatologists study long-term weather patterns and perform research that explores the overarching consequences of carbon emissions on the climate. These scientists can work for a government agency or research institute and must have at least a bachelor's degree. Those hoping to focus primarily on research will generally need a doctorate.
Conservation scientists protect the Earth's natural resources by performing tasks like evaluating the quality of water or soil and making sure foresting activities follow conservation law. One major role of these scientists involves suppressing fires and evaluating fire damage, which have increased as climate change intensifies.
You'll need a bachelor's degree in forestry, environmental science, or agricultural science to become a conservation scientist.
Additional Options for Climate Change Jobs
If focusing on the sciences doesn't appeal to you, you might consider going into other industries through which you can help with the battle against climate change.
One option is fashion. Although the exact statistics are often debated, one thing is for sure: The fashion industry is a major polluter. It's also a massive blight on human rights, with garment workers spending their days in dangerous factories for extremely low wages.
But the sustainable fashion industry is hoping to change all that. Many sustainable companies have popped up in the past 10-15 years, promoting slow fashion, sustainable fabrics, recycled materials, and well-made clothing meant to last longer.
Besides science, you can find climate change careers in fields like fashion design, business, political science, public administration, and marketing.
Some schools even have programs that focus on sustainability in design. California College of the Arts offers an MBA in design strategy, while the Parsons School of Design at The New School allows students to specialize in sustainability.
Speaking of MBAs, business is another pathway you can pursue if you're interested in battling climate change. Numerous schools offer MBAs that focus on sustainability, as well as undergraduate degrees that merge business and environmental studies.
Here are some examples to help jumpstart your school search:
- Indiana University Bloomington's sustainable business co-major
- Western Washington University's business and sustainability major with energy studies concentration
- Arizona State University's sustainability business degree
- University of New England's BS in sustainability and business
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's MBA in sustainability
- Franklin Pierce University's MBA in energy and sustainability
If you'd rather pass laws to help protect the environment, you could study political science, a common major at U.S. colleges. You might also consider a double major in political science and sustainability or environmental sciences.
If you want to influence policy decisions without actually becoming a politician, consider earning a master of public administration or a bachelor's in nonprofit management. These degrees put you on track to work at various organizations, think tanks, and nonprofits that concentrate on environmental sustainability.
Given all the evidence, climate change might seem scary. But the good news is that no matter your professional interests, you can tailor your career so that you can make a difference in the climate change field.
Feature Image: CasarsaGuru / E+ / Getty Images