3 Great Sustainability Careers that Start at $50,000+/yr

Angie - Test Knowles, | April-15-13

 
For job-seekers considering an environmental career, there’s already a list of compelling motivators
 
Many green jobs are in strong demand with significant future growth. In the sustainability sub-sector alone, 84% of consulting firms plan to hire staff within the next 3 to 5 years, while another 46% of other sustainability employers also plan to recruit.
 
Most environmental professionals also find their work motivating and engaging. Compared to just 64% of the general Canadian workforce, 78% of environmental workers are fully engaged on the job. 
 
This means that these professionals believe their contribution is valued, are committed to going above and beyond their job requirements, and would readily recommend their employer to others. 
 
All of these various factors point to the viable and rewarding nature of environmental work, but … what if you’re a student with student loans to consider? Or a transitioning worker with a family to support? 
 
While it’s great to find a career that’s engaging and long-term, it’s even better to know that you can make a decent living doing the work you love. That’s why we based part of the research for our newest report, Careers in Sustainability: Current Job Trends and Future Growth, on typical salaries in Canada’s fast-growing sustainability sector.
 
If you’re looking for a great career that pays well (and who isn’t?), check out some of the top sustainability careers listed below!
 
 
 

 

Sustainability Researcher

 


What They Do


As thought leaders and innovators, Sustainability Researchers conduct studies about the indicators and best practices to meet the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.  
 
In a typical day, a Sustainability Researcher might conduct surveys and interviews, write reports summarizing recent findings and provide expert recommendations to clients. 
 
In our latest report, Careers in Sustainability: Current Job Trends and Future Growth, we found there are about 2,442 Sustainability Researchers in Canada, representing 4.8% of the sustainability workforce. 
 

What They Make


On average, Sustainability Researchers have starting salaries of about $53,000 per year. With experience, Sustainability Researchers can make as much as roughly $61,000 annually.
 

Where They Work


You can find Sustainability Researchers working in research institutions, think tanks, non-governmental or not-for-profit organizations, post-secondary educational institutions and private consulting firms. A significant number of Sustainability Researchers also work for federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal governments.
 

Does this Sound Like You?


You’d enjoy a career as a Sustainability Researcher if your idea of a great work day involves:
 
Attending conferences to learn about the latest research, innovations and issues in sustainability
Reading reports from other experts in the field on sustainable technologies, practices and policies
Designing research protocols and procedures for upcoming studies
Conducting interviews, surveys, focus groups and roundtable discussions with research participants
 

How to Get Started


Sustainability Researchers need high levels of subject matter expertise for their work, so many hold graduate degrees. 
 
If you’re interested in this type of career, consider taking courses related to Environmental Studies, Natural Resources & Conservation, Public Policy, Economics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry and/or Law.
 
 



 

 

Sustainability Officer

 


What They Do


Sustainability Officers play a vital leadership role in their organizations. These professionals are usually senior-level directors or managers who guide their company’s corporate sustainability strategy by communicating and coordinating with upper management, external stakeholders, clients and junior staff. 
 
As a result, Sustainability Officers are responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating their employer’s sustainability programs. 
 
Sustainability Officers are in high demand, with over 6,450 professionals currently working in this role in Canada.
  

What They Make


While Sustainability Officers with less experience may start at approximately $54,000 per year, those with more experience usually earn an average of $63,000 annually.
 

Where They Work


Most Sustainability Officers find employment at different levels of government, large corporations with a core sustainability policy, utility companies, and natural resource extraction companies (including oil & gas, mining and forestry). In addition, many Sustainability Officers also work at post-secondary educational institutions and environmental professional or advocacy organizations. 
 

Does this Sound Like You?


In a typical work day, a Sustainability Officer might:
 
Act as an internal sustainability consultant in the company to educate colleagues on sustainability trends, programs and issues
Build short and long-range operational plans that incorporate sustainable practices
Manage company sustainability projects, such as recycling, energy efficiency, or reduced water use
Engage with clients, shareholders and upper management to ensure that their input is reflected in the organization’s sustainability policy 
 

How to Get Started


If all of this sounds like your ideal career, consider pursuing at least a Bachelor’s degree in Business or Public Administration (especially in Sustainable or Green Business Management), Environmental Policy, Law, or Urban Planning. 
 
More often than not, Sustainability Officers grow into their role after building extensive management experience – this is not the type of job where simply having subject matter expertise will suffice.  
 
Since Sustainability Officers need exceptional leadership and staff management skills, it pays to take ongoing professional development courses in organizational management, human resources management, stakeholder engagement and public speaking. 

 


 

 

Sustainability Consultant

 


What They Do


Sustainability Consultants provide expert guidance to clients on how they can meet business objectives using an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable approach.  
 
Typically, this advice takes the shape of strategies to reduce a company’s carbon footprint, develop environmentally-friendly products, or comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standards.
 

What They Make


Since Sustainability Consultants offer significant expertise to their employers, they earn relatively high starting salaries. On average, a Sustainability Consultant will have a starting salary around $55,700 annually, while experienced practitioners can earn upwards of $68,900/yr.
 

Where They Work


Niche consulting firms are the domain of most Sustainability Consultants. Typically, these practitioners work for software development firms, renewable and fossil fuel consulting firms, agricultural consulting firms, engineering service firms and green or LEED building design and construction companies. Some Sustainability Consultants may also work as independent consultants.
 

Does this Sound Like You?


Successful Sustainability Consultants have a knack for combining strong client service with extensive expertise. This career is a great option if you would look forward to:
 
Analyzing a new client’s operations to identify appropriate sustainable business solutions
Designing programs and systems to help clients mitigate their environmental risks
Advising clients on the best ways to measure their energy consumption and calculate their GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions
Actively networking with potential clients and fellow consultants in the environmental sector
 

How to Get Started


Sustainability Consulting is an especially appealing career option for younger professionals – about 60% of Sustainability Consultants are under the age 35. 
 
If this is the job you’d like to have, you’ll need a background in Mathematics, Engineering, Biology, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and/or Accounting. Most senior Sustainability Consultants (41%) hold degrees in the Life or Physical Sciences, while 32% have degrees in Engineering.
 
Learn more about Careers in Sustainability.