Clean technology jobs include science, engineering, management, law, policy and business careers centered on sustainability issues like water quality and conservation, pollution prevention, recycling, transportation and more. An April 2014 search on Indeed.com found over 33,000 U.S. job listings for the broad category of “clean technology.” The 2009 Silicon Valley Index, for example, found that green technology jobs in this traditionally tech-savvy section of California grew by 23 percent from 2005 to 2008. Below are just a few examples.
Clean Water Engineers
Jobs in the broad arena of clean water abound, from wastewater treatment plant engineers (with an average salary of $42,760 as of 2012) to aquacultural engineers (with an average salary of $74,000) and positions in environmental remediation (salaries range from $37,440 for hazardous materials removal workers to $101,040 for chemical engineers).
Clean water engineers design technology that removes pollutants and cleans water supplies, increases the water efficiency of production processes and helps companies and municipalities better handle stormwater and wastewater. They’re also involved in drilling wells and building sanitation services in developing nations where access to clean water is lacking.
As with clean energy jobs, educational requirements and salaries increase with the level of technical knowledge and skill required for the position, with most jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree in a related field like environmental or industrial engineering, aquaculture or biology. Some say water — whether too little clean, potable water or rising seas due to climate change — is the next “inconvenient truth,” so jobs in the water clean tech field are poised to grow.
Recycling and Pollution Prevention Professionals
From recyclables materials collectors (with an average annual salary of $29,610 as of 2010) to environmental engineers (with an average annual salary of $80,890), plenty of jobs are available for those focused on helping the 57 percent of U.S. businesses that say they use green technologies and practices.
Examples of work in this field include designing air and water pollution prevention and control systems; designing or operating systems that convert waste to energy; designing or operating manufacturing systems that turn a waste product (like a plastic bottle) into new products (like carpeting or furniture); and conducting waste audits. A growing number of educational institutions, companies and towns and municipalities hire waste and/or recycling coordinators to help them develop plans for minimizing waste and maximizing recycling. In addition, state and federally regulated wastes, from biomedical waste to hazardous waste, are handled by environmental health and safety specialists and engineers (with average annual salary of $76,830) with bachelor’s degrees in fields like electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial or systems engineering. As of May 2014, Glassdoor.com lists over 6,000 recycling-related jobs, with positions available nationwide.
On-the-job training and commercial equipment operation licenses are be needed for some positions, like operating a recycling truck. Other positions, such as those in engineering, require specific bachelor’s degrees (and sometimes master’s degrees), licensure and continuing education.
Clean Transportation Professionals
From transportation planners to battery and hybrid technology engineers, jobs in clean transportation are growing. These green technology jobs are devoted to figuring out how to get from place to place more efficiently and with less pollution, using innovations such as electric cars and hybrid vehicles, biodiesel-fueled buses and boats and airplanes that emit fewer carbon emissions.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics hasn’t collected much information on clean transportation jobs, the growing number of electric cars on the road in recent years is indicative of a growing field. The electric vehicle industry employs scientists, manufacturers and technicians, in positions that typically require specialized degrees and/or training. Average annual salaries include:
- $100,450 for electronics engineers.
- $84,720 for materials scientists.
- $47,440 for engine and other machine assemblers.
- $36,470 for retail sales people.
Engineers, planners and other clean transportation professionals may find work with private companies like Tesla Motors, Fisker Automotive, United Streetcar and Clean Harbors, private and government laboratories, state and federal transportation agencies, or colleges and universities, where they could specialize in areas like research and development, engine technology, vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure (e.g., building technology and networks for charging stations).