Pursuing a Green Career

Photo courtesy Andrew Koeser, International Society of Arboriculture, Bugwood.org

The green industry produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment. Green jobs are distinguished by their contribution to natural resource preservation or the development of more environmentally friendly processes. A career in this field can look very different for every person. Your workplace could be a remote forest, a laboratory, or an office in City Hall. Working in the green industry can be the most rewarding decision in your life. However, making a life decision such as a long-term career choice can be daunting, so we hope to help guide you in the right direction! Government, industry, or nonprofits have a wide range of job opportunities for whatever your dreams are!

Arborist

Arborist, often described as ‘tree service’ professionals, specialize in individual tree care in urban or suburban settings. Arboriculture focuses on proper tree planting, pruning, fertilizing, water, and other maintenance issues. An arborist is known to accurately identify disease in a neighborhood tree, by studying the symptoms being displayed, and provide recommendations for treatment.

Qualifications: This profession may not require a 4-year degree. However, professional arborists are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) organization through a continuing education program.

Forester

Foresters perform a variety of tasks that relate to the overall health of acres of woodlands. They are responsible for monitoring trees for insects and disease by developing a care plan for each acre of the woods. Foresters evaluate forest health, conduct land surveys, and ensure that forest crew activities comply with government regulations. Foresters manage and monitor wooded areas for commercial, recreation, private, or public use. Urban foresters supervise landscape-level management in more developed regions as well, such as urban forest inventory, planning, policy, etc.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science degree in forestry (or related program). This is the minimum entry-level requirement for becoming a registered or licensed forester in many states, or to become a Certified Forester by the Society of American Foresters (SAF).

Forest and Conservation Technicians

Technicians measure forest characteristics and help with quality improvement under the direction of foresters. These workers travel through sections of forest to gather necessary information such as species and the population of trees, disease and insect damage, tree seedling mortality, and conditions that may cause a fire danger. Technical career advancement and ultimate salary levels are usually less than for foresters. However, technicians often have the opportunity to work more in the field than behind a desk.

Qualifications: 2-year associate’s degree in forest technology from a school with an accredited technical forestry program.

Conservation/Environmental Scientists

These physical scientists manage and protect land, air, water, and soil. They typically spend equal time in the field and at an office working to resolve issues of land and resource usage. Conservation scientists use a combination of field methods and forest monitoring software to collect data for forest and soil quality evaluations. They are often responsible for the preparation and review of technical reports, feasibility studies, and work plans in support of assessment, investigation, and remediation projects.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science or a related geoscience field.

Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager

A spatial analyst performs an essential role in leading the design and development of digital technology and data sources in forest restoration projects. They provide expertise, technical leadership, and support in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other state-of-the-art technology. This position works to modernize and innovate various practices involved in forest restoration by creating a cartographic or tabular representation of geographical information. The analyst develops methods for mapping and classifying ecosystems and related data management, including developing and maintaining all documentation for data and data management.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science (or related program) and/or certification in Esri ArcMaps software.

Woodworker

Wood is still the material of choice for most people when it comes to the expectation of quality, value, and utility. Today, many wood products, such as musical instruments and furniture, are mass-produced, but trained woodworkers make custom-made products with hands and tools. These artists manufacture a wide range of products like furniture, cabinets, cutting boards, and tables and chairs using wood, laminates or veneers. Sometimes they combine other scavenged or salvaged materials into the finished product. The demand for the recycling of urban timber is steadily growing. Additionally, the ability to use computer-controlled machinery, such as a laser cutter, is becoming increasingly important.

Qualifications: Many woodworking skills were once taught in high schools all across the nation. Unfortunately, modern woodworkers must learn through college classes, apprenticeships, or by trial and error. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a woodworker.

Botanist or Wildlife Biologists

Wildlife biologist allocates a majority of their career researching entire ecosystems or specific species impacted by recent climate variations. Scientific reports explain the findings of why and how an animal/plant population has changed over time. These findings are presented in the form of wildlife rehabilitation or management plans. This research will be conducted for institutions or the general public through academic grants.

Qualifications: The minimum requirement is an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology or a related field. Researchers often obtain higher-level degrees, such as a masters degree or Ph.D., to advance beyond an entry-level position.

Park Ranger

Park rangers spend every day in some of the most beautiful natural parks in the world — surrounded by mountains, preserved lakes and streams, and some of the oldest trees. These professionals may have job duties that primarily encompass law enforcement or protective services, or they may perform tasks specific to the interpretation of cultural or historical points of interest within the parks they serve. Depending on the role, they may focus on enforcing park rules and regulations, or they may spend the better part of their day assisting visitors, giving group tours, and presenting visitor programs.

Qualifications: Prospective park rangers must be US citizens, possess a valid US driver’s license, and be at least 21 years of age. Since this is such a competitive position, it is recommended that one obtain a BS in geoscience (or a related field).

Landscape Architect or Urban Designers

Designers and urban planners are needed to design, develop and maintain green buildings, including their energy, waste, and water systems and the landscapes that surround them. Urban and regional planners create or review urban development plans for feasibility, environmental impact, and compliance with federal regulations. They may specialize in urban landscape projects from cross-laminated timber offices to local parks. Jobs in the green building industry currently supports over 100 million jobs and is expected to continue to climb according to U.S. Green Building Council.

Qualifications: Most professionals within this field have undergraduate or master’s degrees in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design.

Urban Farmer or Agricultural Scientist

Eco-friendly farming practices and technologies are aiming to feed growing world populations sustainably. Urban farms allow community members to grow fresh local food on otherwise unoccupied spaces. Most of these organic fruits, eggs, and vegetables are sold at local farmer’s markets. An urban farmer should have hygienic soil and a plan to grow annual and perennial crops.

Moreover, agricultural scientists will be needed to find farming methods that won’t harm the environment. There may also be opportunities to help find energy sources from plants. The demand for new and safer foods will drive job growth for food scientists.

Qualifications: There are no education requirements to become an urban farmer. The prosperity of this trade depends on marketing, planning, and resources. Unfortunately, only 1 in 3 urban farmers claim to farm as their sole source of income. An agricultural scientist must have a BS degree in plant biology, soil science, agroecology, or a related field.

Environmental Policy Analysis 

An environmental policy analyst researches the data, relationships, and policy developments surrounding environmental challenges and proposed solutions. Their analyses, which usually involve advanced statistical techniques and analytical models, lead to recommendations for legislation, awareness campaigns, or fundraising approaches. Some environmental policy analysts focus on specific issues such as climate change or environmental health policy. This field requires flexibility as policies will undoubtedly change throughout one’s career.

Qualifications: Environmental policy analysts need at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy, political science, ecology, or a closely related field.

Educator 

A primary school science teacher is just as essential as a professor at a higher learning institution. Through lab experiments, field trips, mixed media materials, and computer research, you’ll have the opportunity to encourage students to explore the natural world around them and learn new and evolving scientific theories. Educators create unique lesson plans, give lectures, and conduct classroom research projects. College professors dedicate their career to conducting research to contribute published papers in their respective fields. Additionally, graduates with a science education degree may also find work in science museums.

Qualifications: All educators are required to obtain a state teaching certificate. As a science teacher with a bachelor’s degree, you can find work in a middle school or high school setting. If you have a master’s degree or PhD, you may be considered for teaching at the college level.

Forest Fire Inspection and Prevention Specialist or Wildland Firefighter

This profession combines firefighting experience with knowledge of laws, regulations, and hazard prevention. Wildland firefighters asses forested areas for hazards and prevent, report, and investigate fires to ensure locals are not violating codes or posing wildfire risks. The crew members are required to operate effectively in team settings in high-stress environments and maintain constant readiness for response nationwide.

Qualifications: A high school diploma is typically required as well as passing physical and written tests. Recruits generally attend training and may be required to obtain EMT certification. Some employers may prefer a bachelor’s degree in fire science. 

Current Students

Internships are great ways to get work-related experience (and professional connections) in between semesters. Some employers may accept an internship in lieu of work experience! It is also noteworthy to investigate if any of these organizations also offer scholarships!

Organizations such as:

21st-century Conservation Service Corps

U.S. Forest Service Pathways program

Discover Your Forests

Forest Stewards Guild

National Forest Foundation

U.S. Forest Service Virtual Internships

Society of American Foresters (SAF) Henry Clepper Internship

All the aforementioned careers (and more) contribute to environmental wellness. A significant part of a career in the green industry is ensuring natural areas stay healthy, or helping restore wellness through propagation, remediation, compliance and fire prevention.

Photo courtesy Andrew Koeser, International Society of Arboriculture, Bugwood.org

Sources:

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

EnvironmentalScience.org

FireScience.org

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