The green economy is a growing fast as companies discover that there's a financial and marketing benefit to improving the sustainability of their operations. And green jobs aren't all found in clean-tech companies, as many employers are trying to improve their environmental footprint.
What you will find is that there is a rapidly growing demand for people with backgrounds in engineering, law and even the technical trades to support the construction of LEED certified buildings and install solar power and wind power generators, as well as other aspects of the growing green economy.
Here are five new green opportunities that don't require a huge amount of education, ranging from a high school education to a bachelor's degree. Keep in mind that higher paying jobs are also available to those with advanced degrees in physics or a professional degree doctoring law or medicine.
LEED Construction Project Managers
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) standards are now used in the construction of everything from offices to schools. Some states also offer tax incentives for buildings that reduce heating and air conditioning costs, as well as reduce water usage. With just a bachelor's degree in project management or construction, these managers can take in more than $80,000 a year on average, and get to work both inside and outside to ensure that construction is finished on time and to LEED standard.
Mechanical and Semiconductor Engineers
Photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines are popping up in farms all over the United States, and someone needs to design them. With just a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electrical engineering, you'll be responsible for designing and testing solar power and wind turbine systems. Median salaries vary from $65,000 to $80,000 and demand is strong in these fields because of the desire to reduce the costs of sustainable electricity generation.
Ethical Investment Analysts
A growing number of college graduates that are considering finance shy away because they want to make a difference in the world. Ethical investment advisors marry financial analysis with a focus on the companies that are improving the environment. These analysts need to understand and work with companies in the clean tech, photovoltaic and wind power sectors in order to provide the best stock picks for clients. Like our other jobs, a bachelor's degree helps, either in finance or certain math fields that are used for modeling investment potential. Jobs are plentiful in cities like San Francisco and New York and other financial centers. And there's a real sense of accomplishment in your checking account, too, with salaries of between $89,000 and $131,000 in top metro areas.
Solar Installer Crew Leaders
Making a move into solar has been a booming industry, especially in states like California where there's an emphasis on the environment. While the annual salary of $40,000 to $50,000 isn't as high as some of these other options, crew leaders are still a strong option for some. The reason is that many installers only need a high school degree and some trade experience, and a number of companies are willing to train you on the job. Those with certifications can expect to make even more, and you get to help small businesses and homeowners reduce their carbon footprint.
Energy auditors help businesses and home owners find ways to save money by improving elements of the building's construction. Options vary, but can include everything from upgrading insulation to reduce heating and air conditioning bills to installing tinted windows. Energy auditors can be certified by national associations with an associate's degree and several years of work experience and make around $60,000 a year on average. It can also be a job that fits for those who like being their own boss; a number of energy auditors are self-employed or have started their own business to support their activities.