Green-Collar Work

10 Careers That Help Fight Climate Change

Looking for a career in the sustainability space? These 10 “green collar” jobs in sectors like renewable energy, law and business are high-potential options.
Posted on
August 25, 2022
10 Careers That Help Fight Climate Change

There was a time, not that long ago, when earning a pay cheque and helping the environment were two separate activities.

Now that the world has woken up to the economic impact of climate change and is making the shift to a low-carbon economy, it’s possible to have a career and protect the planet, no matter what your interests and skills might be. (Though we think Greta already has a social media manager, fyi.) 

The good news for green job hunters is that many of these gigs already exist—and more are being posted every day.

How many climate change job opportunities are in Canada?

According to ECO Canada, as many as 233,500 job openings in the environmental workforce are expected by 2029, and there's demand for green workers in every province, territory and industry.

So, what are some of these green gigs and how can you get one? Here are 10 expected to be in high demand in the coming years.

10 of the best jobs to fight climate change

1. Nuclear power plant safety inspector

Man inspecting nuclear plant machine

What does a nuclear power plant safety instructor do?

It's a lot more complicated than Homer Simpson makes it look in The Simpsons, with much less margin for error (and probably fewer doughnuts). A nuclear power plant safety inspector, or nuclear technician, makes sure plant systems are working properly. The role includes investigating, measuring, collecting samples, maintaining equipment and educating staff.

How can you become a nuclear power plant safety instructor?

An associate degree in nuclear science or technology is typically required, though those with military experience and training in nuclear energy are also candidates.

What's the salary of a power plant safety instructor?

The median annual income (half are above, half are below) is about $86,000.

Why are power plant safety instructors important for climate change?

Nuclear power is a controversial source of renewable energy, but it’s becoming accepted as necessary to the global transition to a low-carbon economy. The 19 nuclear reactors in Canada currently produce approximately 15 percent of the nation’s electricity.

2. Wind turbine service technician

renewable energy technicians on top of wind turbine

What does a wind turbine service technician do?

If hanging hundreds of feet in the air is your kind of fun, being a wind technician could be the perfect career. It’s one of the fastest-growing professions in the country, full of thrill-seekers and do-gooders. Also known as windtechs, these workers do installations, inspections and maintenance and are called on to diagnose and fix any problem that could cause a turbine to shut down unexpectedly.

How do you become a wind turbine service technician?

‍Most windtechs have an associate degree, which takes about two years to complete.

What's the salary of a wind turbine service technician?

The average hourly rate is around $27.27.

Why are wind turbine service technicians important for climate change?

Wind is a key source of renewable energy and has fewer effects on the environment than many other sources. Wind is the second most important renewable energy source in Canada, accounting for 3.5 percent of our electricity generation.

If hanging hundreds of feet in the air is your kind of fun, being a wind technician could be the perfect career.

3. Solar energy installer

workers installing solar panels
As the cost of solar power systems drops and the need for renewables rises, so too will the demand for installations.

What does a solar energy installer do?

Also known as solar photovoltaic installers or PV installers, these professionals work with solar panels and systems that convert solar power into electricity. The job includes mounting panels on roofs or other structures and, in some cases, connecting the panels to the power grid, as well as maintenance.

How do you become a solar energy installer?

High school diploma and on-the-job training, apprenticeship or post-secondary training program.

What's the salary of a solar energy installer?

The average hourly rate is around $19.17.

Why are solar energy installers important for climate change?

As the cost of solar power systems drops and the need for renewables rises, so too will the demand for installations. Solar energy contributes toward reducing pollution and GHG emissions, helping to combat climate change.

4. Environmental engineer

environmental engineers working on machine

What does an environmental engineer do?

Environmental engineers help come up with solutions to environmental problems that can affect the safety and natural integrity of air, water and land. Responsibilities range from pollution control and solid waste management to hazardous materials control. Given the number of legal issues involved, environmental engineers must be familiar with relevant laws; many are practicing attorneys.

How do you become an environmental engineer?

Environmental engineers require a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field, as well as practical experience.

What's the salary of an environmental engineer?

The median annual salary is about $64,000.

Why are environmental engineers important for climate change?

Engineers help to protect the environment as well as support and maintain public health standards.

5. Environmental lawyer

environmental lawyer pointing at contract

What does an environmental lawyer do?

The work may not be as sexy and instantly satisfying as Julia Roberts and her team make it look in Erin Brockovich, but it can be just as fulfilling. Environmental lawyers specialize in areas such as clean energy and technology, water law, climate change law and land management. They work in private firms, government and education.

How do you become an environmental lawyer?

You (perhaps obviously) need a law degree for this job and will need to cut your teeth on a few environmental cases to build your expertise in environmental law.

What's the salary of an environmental lawyer?

The average annual salary of an attorney or lawyer in Canada is about $77,109.

Why are environmental lawyers important for climate change?

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, the market for environmental lawyers will continue to grow.

6. Conservation biologist

conservation scientist doing a field study
Conservation biologist help create a “symbiotic relationship” between humans and nature.

What does a conservation biologist do?

A conservation biologist manages the quality of land, forests, parks and other natural resources. They work with landowners and governments on using and improving land in a way that protects the environment, sometimes with a specialty such as land manager, range manager or soil and water conservationist. 

How do you become a conservation biologist ?

A college degree is often required in areas such as forestry or environmental science, and—although it's not necessary to become certified to work as a conservation biologist—some practitioners choose to apply for certification.

What's the salary of a a conservation biologist?

The median annual salary for a biologist in Canada about $59,961.

Why are conservation scientists important for climate change?

Conservation biologists help create a “symbiotic relationship” between humans and nature. They help landowners figure out the best way to use land and water and their work can help lessen the impact of natural disasters such as fire and floods.

7. Hazardous waste manager

Hazardous waste manager sifting through recycling machine

What does a hazardous waste manager do?

Hazardous waste managers manage and dispose of the toxic elements in industrial waste. The job can be done in a lab, a landfill or an office. Several federal agencies deal with hazardous waste, as do many private organizations.

How do you become a hazardous waste manager?

A bachelor’s or master’s degree in chemistry is usually needed, with specific knowledge of geology and areas of environmental chemistry, such as soil or water chemistry and the chemistry involved in biodegradation.

What's the salary of a hazardous waste manager?

The median annual salary is about $73,177.

Why are hazardous waste managers important for climate change?

Managing hazardous waste is critical to protect the planet and our health, given the dangers posed by toxic chemicals and other dangerous substances. Managing hazardous waste will be even more important given the shrinking number of disposal sites and the rising costs of getting rid of this waste.

8. Climate change analyst

Climate scientist measuring water levels

What does a climate change analyst do?

Also known as climatologists, these scientists use statistical models and weather dynamics to monitor climate trends. They study temperatures, polar ice caps, ocean conditions and greenhouse gases over time, and use math models and data to predict future climate conditions and collaborate with climate scientists.

What education do you need to become a climate change analyst?

A minimum bachelor’s degree in environmental science, climatology, hydrology, meteorology or other related science; however, a master’s degree is usually preferred.

What salary can you expect as a climate change analyst?

The average salary is about $107,376.

Why are climate change analysts important for climate change?

Climate change analysts help turn climate data into policy suggestions and goals. Their data and predictions are often used to make recommendations for environmental practices and propose new policies in alternative fuels, transportation, and other factors related to climate change.

9. Environmental assessor

environmental assessor in the field checking soil

What does an environmental assessor do?

An environmental assessor investigates hazards on land and water including lakes and streams, manufacturing and production facilities and private residences, to ensure laws are followed and environmental impact is limited. They often travel to sites and work with teams to survey the environment.

What education do you need to become an environmental assessor?

Most positions require a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a related engineering discipline. Students often major in environmental management, which focuses on toxicology, hazardous waste and air pollution, as well as environmental regulations and risk assessment. Some employers may also look for certain qualifications, such as an asbestos certification.

What salary can you expect as an environmental assessor?

An average of about $60,931 a year.

Why are environmental assessors important for climate change?

Fighting climate change is more critical than ever. Environmental assessments are needed to ensure land and water is protected, particularly with new developments. For instance, environmental assessors review the impact of new mines that are needed to produce the metals and minerals required to build out the low-carbon economy.

10. Sustainability manager

What does a sustainability manager do?

A sustainability manager makes sure their organization sets and meets its environmental goals. They develop policies and programs to encourage employees to reduce energy, water and waste and are usually in charge of reporting progress to various stakeholders, including customers, employees and investors.

What education do you need to become a sustainability manager?

Most sustainability managers have a bachelor’s degree, often in business or science, with a minor related to sustainability. There are also graduate-level sustainability programs. Some may choose to obtain a professional certification from the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.

What salary can you expect as a sustainability manager?

The salary is roughly $79,269 a year.

Why are sustainability managers important for climate change?

More customers, employees and investors are looking for evidence that the companies they buy from, work for or do business with are proactively working to reduce their carbon footprint. Sustainability managers help to create more good corporate citizens.

What are the other benefits of careers that help climate change?

The rapidly moving transition to a low-carbon economy has supercharged the need for these green-collar jobs.

Many people are concerned about climate change and want their work to contribute to the global effort to protect the environment. Thankfully, this rapidly moving transition to a low-carbon economy has supercharged the need for these green-collar jobs.

McKinsey says a low-carbon recovery has the potential to significantly cut carbon emissions and “create more jobs and economic growth than a high-carbon recovery would,” which is more good news for green-job seekers.

The new green economy is also expected to create opportunities for women and people of colour, who are “consistently underrepresented” in many occupations, according to a Brookings Institution report.

In other words, green jobs aren’t just good for the planet but also for the people who live here.

So, while you might think fighting climate change includes nothing but sacrifice, a green economy is full of possibilities.

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Brenda Bouw
Written By
Brenda Bouw

Brenda Bouw is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver. She's a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail and many other publications. She's a long-time vegetarian and 'almost vegan' who prefers her bike, unless it's a car ride to her favourite place, Tofino.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada, RBC Ventures Inc., or its affiliates.

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