Jobs in sustainability are growing at an unprecedented rate. But how can you get one? 

When it comes to jobs in sustainability, the options are endless. The notion of sustainability itself is so broad, it touches every area of human life. Sustainability itself is often defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals encompass 17 key areas from eliminating hunger and poverty to education, clean water, gender equality and clean energy. 

The growth of green jobs 

So-called “green jobs” alone, those “that contribute to, preserve or restore the environment”, are already growing rapidly. In 2022, there were more than 4.2million jobs in the climate sector in the US alone. And according to recent research, the drive to achieve a net-zero planet by 2050 could create more than 300 million more green-collar jobs.  

As global temperatures rise and political momentum gathers pace, companies big and small, from every sector, are increasingly viewed through the lens of sustainability. Accordingly, sustainability jobs can tackle a wide range of sustainability challenges and run the gamut from the largest corporation to the smallest tech startup.  

All this means more career opportunities. Whether it’s sustainable finance, climate communications, fundraising, environmental engineering, law or greenhouse gas accounting. There is a sustainability career for virtually any degree discipline. 

Narrow down your areas of interest

With so much potential choice, identifying areas to focus on can seem overwhelming. It pays to ask yourself whether you’re more geared towards a certain sector, such as the renewable energy sector. Or whether you’re motivated by the idea of doing a specific job, such as working as an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) analyst. Maybe you’re motivated by both. 

For those starting out with their careers, it’s fine not to know the specific role you’re after. Even having an idea of which kind of sector or organization you’d like to work for is a great start when thinking about your sustainability career. Do you want to work in technology or for a nonprofit? Do you want to work for a Fortune 100 company or a startup? Internships can be a great way to explore roles, types of organizations to see where you might best fit in. 

Examples of sustainability roles available right now: 

Sustainability/ESG Analysts: If we are going to meet the net-zero aims for 2050 then every single business on the planet will have to transition toward operating more sustainably. Sustainability and ESG Analysts may help by coordinating data collection, performing analyses, developing presentations and dashboards to track performance. 

Climate Policy Officers: Organizations must understand the policy landscape they operate in, develop positions and influence. Working in climate policy means undertaking research, collating the views of key stakeholders, building relationships and communicating key positions. 

Sustainability Analytics: The changing sustainability landscape is creating job opportunities in sustainability analytics and climate risk. These roles may be involved in quantifying the impact of climate risk and other sustainability factors on financial assets, or helping companies better understand their exposure to climate risk factors.  

Climate Journalism or Communications: Climate data is proliferating and more people want to understand what that data means. Communicating on sustainability to inform and build trust is an important job, especially with the growth in scrutiny surrounding greenwashing. Communications can range from climate journalism, many major newspapers now have dedicated climate editors, to in-house communications officers at major companies. 

Engineers: From civil or chemical to environmental, engineers will be needed to develop and iterate new technologies. Vacancies for ‘green’ engineering roles are on the rise and engineers have important roles to play across sustainable development goals. 

Environmental Scientists: Environmental scientists and specialists work to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

Circular Economy Managers: There is a growing interest in the circular economy, a system where materials never become waste and nature is regenerated. In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes like maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, and composting. A circular economy manager could be tasked with identifying the potential of circular economy practices, enhancing performance while minimizing environmental impact and embedding circular economy practices across an organization. 

Still unsure of where your skill set would fit within sustainability? 

Start by breaking down your skills. What skills do you have that could be transferable and usable today?

Transferable skills could be those that can be applied across multiple disciplines for instance creativity, communications, critical thinking, analytical skills or problem-solving. Technical knowledge is that which is specific to your field or degree that makes you an expert in that refined sector, for example specific coding languages, software, medical science or accountancy skills. Cross-reference the skills you have with the skills listed on your ideal job adverts. Where are the gaps? Search for courses that will help you fill them. 

How do I gain green skills today?

Knowing your career aspirations is great, but as a recent graduate you will still face considerable competition. Standing out is vital so you need to find ways to demonstrate your passion for sustainability that go beyond a degree certificate. Start by researching and following experts in your field and keep up to date on changes and developments. 

Knowledge is powerful but experience is even better. Search for volunteering or internship programs that allow you to learn on the job. In 2023, I did exactly this and volunteered as a business and partnerships intern for a small social enterprise who make sustainable period products for rural communities in Indonesia. I gained an array of transferable skills such as business development and partnership communication.

If you are facing stricter time restraints then check out some online courses such as these on Linkedin Learning about how tech drives sustainability, green jobs for sustainable careers and things to know about carbon and the climate. Coursera also offers sustainability courses across sustainable finance and ESG. All of which are great ways to gain technical knowledge prior to graduating.

Interested to find out how you can get practical experience in sustainability? Sign up for more information about our sustainability internships here.

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