Sustainability Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-09-0825 min read

Sustainability careers offer innovative methods of addressing issues with ecological balance. They devise solutions to prevent natural resource depletion.

These careers are invaluable to society and ensure that the earth remains habitable and sustainable for future generations. Sustainability degrees teach students environmental management, research methods, urban planning, and eco-friendly practices.

This guide explores sustainability careers, degree options, salaries, job prospects, and other valuable information. Keep reading to discover everything you need to start your sustainability journey today.

Why Choose Sustainability?

Sustainability careers improve the environment and allow you to contribute to ecological progress.

Students with sustainability skills have a competitive edge in the job market and qualify for roles involving sustainability practices.

You'll hone your research, analytical, communication, and management skills with a sustainability degree from an accredited institution.

A career in sustainability is ideal for you if you're passionate about the environment and creating a better future for the next generation.

How to Start your Sustainability Journey

You need a postsecondary degree to start your sustainability career. However, you can explore lucrative entry-level jobs with an associate's or bachelor's degree.

A master's degree and doctorate qualify you for managerial positions and better career prospects.

Education Requirements

Associate Degree

An associate's degree in sustainability teaches students foundational subjects like biology, chemistry, statistics, and geology. Some colleges also offer introductory environmental ethics, ecology, and communication classes.

This program prepares professionals for supporting roles and trade-based jobs. It also prepares you for advanced sustainability studies.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in sustainability qualifies you for green jobs like ecology, environmental science, civil engineering, and more.

This four-year program helps you build a solid foundation in environmental science, water management, energy issues, and urban sustainability. You can also develop practical skills through capstone projects and internships.

Master's Degree

A master's sustainability program features advanced coursework, independent projects, and extensive research training in green projects.

This degree prepares you for business and managerial roles in companies and organizations.

You can qualify for sustainability director, environmental scientist, and other consultancy roles.

Doctorate in Sustainability

This advanced degree covers in-depth courses like human dimensions of sustainability, resource economics, global citizenship, project planning, and community engagement.

Doctoral candidates design and conduct research that contributes to the sustainability industry.

A doctorate in sustainability prepares you for jobs in academia or upper-management roles.

Employment Prospects

Professionals in various sustainability roles enjoy high employment prospects and job security.

LinkedIn's Global Green Skills Report shows how the workforce grew from 9.6% to 13.3% in the last seven years.

With most organizations and companies adopting green initiatives, the demand for professionals with sustainability skills increases.

There are abundant opportunities in different sectors, from government agencies to private industries and nonprofits.

Sustainability Career Forecast

The BLS lists thousands of job openings in numerous sustainability roles, with industries in the US employing over 44,000 environmental engineers. The department also records over 7000 job openings for environmental scientists and consultants.

Thanks to heightened interest in green initiatives and environmental hazards, sustainability careers will always have high demand. Companies need their expertise to analyze environmental issues and develop eco-friendly solutions.

Lucrative Sustainability Career Paths

These are some of the lucrative and rewarding sustainability career paths to explore.


Ecologists research and survey ecosystems and work with organizations to develop and legalize environmental regulations. These professionals study how human actions affect and influence the environment and living organisms.

Most hiring managers prefer ecologists with bachelor's degrees in sustainability or natural science-related fields.

Average Salary

Ecologists earn over $50,000 in median annual salaries, with the top percentile making around $97,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Perform environmental site assessments

  • Gather specimens and conduct habitat evaluations

  • Monitor construction projects

  • Compile reports and findings

Industries Employing Ecologists

Top-paying industries for ecologists include:

  • Nonprofits and social advocacy organizations

  • Oil and gas extraction

  • Engineering services

  • Management of companies and related fields

  • Waste management services

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers manage waste and pollution issues via technological means. This role is one of the fastest-growing sustainability jobs as more companies need these professionals to design solutions that improve quality of life.

A bachelor's degree and advanced technical and research skills qualify you for this position.

Average Salary

Environmental engineers earn around $96,000 in median salaries, with the highest 10% making over $153,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Assist with environmental remediation projects

  • Obtain and update environmental plans and permits

  • Perform quality-control checks and analyze scientific data

  • Plan and design projects that improve environmental protection

  • Advice companies and organizations on sustainability practices

Industries Employing Environmental Engineers

High-paying industries with the largest concentration of environmental engineers include:

  • Oil and gas extraction

  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services

  • Architectural, engineering, and related sectors

  • Scientific research and development services

  • Water, sewage, and other systems

Sustainability Director

These professionals help companies and organizations to make more environmental-friendly decisions. Sustainability directors help build sustainable facilities, reduce waste production, and train employees on energy-saving practices.

Most hiring managers prefer candidates with postgraduate degrees for managerial sustainability roles.

Average Salary

Sustainability directors earn average salaries of around $80,000 to $160,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Identify environmental and sustainability issues

  • Design and implement green practices for organizations to follow

  • Help companies reduce pollution, waste, and energy use

  • Create sustainability reports and share them with stakeholders

Industries Employing Sustainability Directors

Sustainability directors work in multiple sectors, including:

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services

  • Federal and state government

  • Natural gas distribution

  • Social advocacy groups

  • Waste management services

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists help organizations research ecological issues like climate change, deforestation, pollution, etc. They apply their natural sciences knowledge to protect human health and the environment.

Average Salary

Environmental scientists earn median annual wages of around $76,000, with the highest 10% making more than $130,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Design, assess, and implement conservation regulations

  • Help companies clean up waste and polluted areas

  • Analyze samples and identify environmental threats

  • Offer guidance and information on eco-friendly practices

Industries Employing Environmental Scientists

Top-paying industries employing environmental scientists include:

  • Management and consulting firms

  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing

  • Remediation and other waste management services

  • Natural gas distribution

Sustainability Researcher

These professionals are research scientists responsible for conducting assessments on sustainability-related projects. While sustainability researchers usually work in academia, some help companies develop eco-friendly methods of extracting raw materials.

Most organizations prefer professionals with advanced certifications or a doctorate in sustainability for this role.

Average Salary

Sustainability researchers earn median salaries of around $80,000 to $132,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Oversee sustainability-related projects

  • Design methods and tools to gather environmental data

  • Conduct feasibility studies for new technology and products and how they affect the environment

  • Write detailed reports and publish findings in academic journals

  • Develop plans to reduce the negative impact on the ecosystem

Industries Employing Sustainability Researchers

Sustainability researchers work across multiple sectors, including:

  • IT and software publishing

  • Engineering services

  • Oil and gas sectors

  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services


Geoscientists gather and analyze data on magnetic fields, soil composition, groundwater, and other geological aspects of the earth. These professionals help various industries in their search and development of natural resources.

Types of geoscientists include geologists, oceanographers, geochemists, geophysicists, paleontologists, seismologists, etc.

Average Salary

Geoscientists earn median annual salaries of about $83,000, with the highest 10% making more than $172,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Collect geological samples and plan projects

  • Perform laboratory tests on samples on soil samples

  • Identify natural resources using geostatistical methods

  • Write and publish scientific reports

Industries Employing Geoscientists

Lucrative industries for geoscientists include:

  • Oil and gas extraction

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services

  • Mining industries

  • Management of companies and enterprises

Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist

These professionals help organizations analyze soil and water compositions, conduct land surveys, and assist with conservation efforts. They also study the physical characteristics of wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists often help hydrologists and environmental scientists to manage water pollution and its effects on aquatic animals.

Average Salary

Zoologists and wildlife biologists earn around $64,000 in median wages, with the top percentile making over $100,000 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Develop animal and wildlife conservation plans

  • Collect and analyze biological data

  • Manage wildlife population in natural and controlled surroundings

  • Design programs that reduce the extinction of wildlife from invasive species

Industries Employing Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Top-paying sectors for zoologists and wildlife biologists include:

  • Social advocacy groups

  • Management and technical consulting firms

  • Federal and state government

  • Scientific research and development services

Environmental Health and Safety Analyst

Environmental health and safety analysts create and implement green initiatives for companies and organizations. They also monitor and observe work practices, ensuring everyone follows health and safety standards.

Average Salary

EHS analysts earn median salaries of around $50,000 to $80,000, with the top percentile making over $100,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Participate in environmental health and safety investigations

  • Review and adjust company safety procedures and policies

  • Track EHS metrics and KPIs

  • Provide hazard analysis and safety training

Industries Employing Environmental Health and Safety Analysts

EHS analysts work in the following industries:

  • Manufacturing and construction

  • Oil and gas extraction and distribution

  • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing

  • Management of companies and enterprises

Environmental Consultant

Environmental consultants evaluate organizations' work conditions to assess how their products affect the environment. In addition, these professionals provide insights into environmental issues and ensure the company follows health compliance and safety regulations.

Average Salary

Environmental consultants earn average salaries of around $60,000 to $120,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Conduct environmental tests and assessments

  • Gather and analyze data

  • Identify environmental risks and hazardous materials

  • Create guidelines for the employees to follow

Industries Employing Environmental Consultants

Top-paying sectors for environmental consultants include:

  • Government agencies

  • Nonprofits

  • Management of companies and enterprises

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services

  • Natural gas distribution

Forest and Conservation Workers

These professionals develop and maintain forest life by planting trees and preventing or suppressing wildfires. You can qualify for this role with an associate's degree or vocational training in forest and wildlife management or similar fields.

Average Salary

Forest and conservation workers earn over $30,000 in median annual salaries.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Clear brush from hiking trails

  • Plant seedlings to increase vegetation

  • Spray trees with herbicides and insecticides to kill insects and fungi

  • Cut down diseased trees to prevent them from spreading

Industries Employing Forest and Conservation Workers

  • Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution

  • Government protection agencies

  • Services to buildings and dwellings

  • Social advocacy organizations

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects survey areas and implement design strategies to build sustainable infrastructure or develop wildlife habitats. In addition, these professionals work with construction agencies to incorporate architectural practices that protect the natural environment.

Average Salary

Landscape architects earn more than $60,000 in median annual wages, with the top percentile earning over $100,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Survey landscape and sites

  • Design rough sketches of the infrastructure

  • Produce contracts and estimated costs of projects

  • Oversee project development and prepare site plans

  • Liaise with surveyors, civil engineers, town planners, and other architects

Industries Employing Landscape Architects

Top-paying sectors for landscape architects include:

  • Federal, state, and local government

  • Residential building construction

  • Management of companies and enterprises

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services

Environmental Science and Protection Technician

These technicians monitor and investigate the causes of environmental pollution and contamination. They also work with geoscientists and hydrologists to clean contaminated water and soil around abandoned industrial sites.

Average Salary

Environmental science and protection technicians earn median salaries of about $47,000, with the highest percentile earning over $76,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Collect soil, water, and air samples for laboratory analysis

  • Set up equipment to monitor pollution and contamination levels

  • Verify the organization's compliance with regulations

Industries Employing Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Top-paying sectors for professionals in this field include:

  • Consulting firms

  • Oil and gas extraction

  • Engineering services

  • State and local government

  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing

Urban Planner

Urban planners help companies to design and develop plans for land use. They also develop programs to accommodate the growing population in towns and cities without negatively impacting the environment.

Average Salary

The median annual salary for urban planners is around $78,000, with the top 10% earning over $100,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Review developer site plans

  • Gather and analyze environmental data

  • Observe zoning and building codes and other legal issues

  • Conduct field investigations on land use

Industries Employing Urban Planners

Top-paying sectors for urban planners include:

  • Residential building construction

  • Federal executive branch

  • Business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations

Energy Engineers

Energy engineers design and develop energy-efficient projects for different organizations. They are at the forefront of the sustainability sector and produce energy through natural and renewable resources.

Average Salary

Energy engineers earn around $71,000 in median salaries, with the top percentile making over $100,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Perform risk analysis for problem areas

  • Design and build renewable energy resources

  • Conduct energy surveys and site inspections

  • Liaise with geologists, civil engineers, and other specialist contractors

Industries Employing Energy Engineers

High-paying industries for energy engineers include:

  • Manufacturing companies

  • Government agencies

  • Oil, gas, and nuclear sectors

  • Architectural, engineering, and related fields

Air Quality Engineer

These professionals use statistical analyses and computer modeling to analyze air pollutants in the environment. Air quality engineers also design or modify equipment for pollution control and specialize in emission control.

Average Salary

Air quality engineers earn average salaries of around $92,000, with the highest 10% making over $150,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Perform industry research and catalog harmful substances

  • Design and build ventilation infrastructure for clearing air contaminants

  • Review reports and relate findings to stakeholders

Industries Employing Air Quality Engineers

Sectors employing air quality engineers include:

  • Government organizations

  • Manufacturing and consulting services

  • Architectural, engineering, and related sectors

  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing

Civil Engineer

These professionals design, build and maintain roads, buildings, bridges, tunnels, water supply, and sewage treatment systems. In addition, civil engineers ensure safe work practices at construction sites and conduct structural analyses for various projects.

Average Salary

Civil engineers earn median salaries of around $88,000, with the highest 10% making over $130,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Repair and manage structural work on private and public infrastructure

  • Plan and design projects that meet industry standards

  • Analyze reports from soil testing and other building equipment

  • Prepare cost estimates and budgets

Industries Employing Civil Engineers

Top-paying sectors for civil engineers include:

  • Oil and gas extraction

  • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services

  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing

How to Boost your Sustainability Career

After landing your first sustainability job, you can advance your career through various methods. The first option involves earning industry certifications, while the second focuses on continuing education programs and open-access courses.

Industry certifications from the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and the Association of Energy Engineers help improve your salary prospects and career.

Sustainability professional associations also provide access to development courses, career centers, annual conferences, and networking opportunities.

Pros and Cons of Sustainability Careers

Exploring a career in sustainability offers numerous benefits and perks, but it also has a few downsides.

Let's explore some of them.


  • Sustainability jobs improve quality of life and help save the planet

  • Competitive salaries

  • You can work in multiple industries

  • Bright career outlook


  • Higher-paying roles require advanced education

  • Long hours and work pressure

  • Potentially hazardous workplace conditions

Skills You'll Develop While Studying Sustainability

A sustainability degree equips you with valuable skills to enjoy a lucrative career. These include:


This skill is helpful in different areas like scientific research, business, community engagement, and policymaking. It also helps you implement best practices and develop unconventional solutions for pressing issues.

Research and Analysis

Honing these skills fast-tracks your investigative processes and helps you to provide accurate and updated information. In addition, research and analysis skills allow you to gather and interpret data efficiently.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is an integral part of every industry. And as a result, most institutions prepare students to speak fluently and present their findings to different audiences.

Interpersonal Skills

Mastering interpersonal skills help you manage issues like conflict resolution and resource delegation. It also allows you to build positive relationships with team members and colleagues.

Data Collection and Visualization

Gathering and analyzing data from sustainability efforts is a crucial aspect of most sustainability roles.

You can influence business strategies and create valuable solutions.

How to Prepare for a Sustainability Career

1. Choose your Area of Expertise

Sustainability roles stretch across numerous industries and sectors. So, you can select a career path or niche you can explore.

2. Broaden your Knowledge Base

Once you've chosen your specialty area, you can build the necessary skills to excel in this field. Do your research and stay informed on green initiatives and laws.

3. Get Field Experience

Build your social and business acumen by applying to companies with clear sustainability goals. You can start with internships or entry-level positions to understand how the industry works.

4. Earn Sustainability Certifications

Professional credentials bolster your academic foundation and show hiring managers you have what it takes to excel at specific jobs.

You can find different sustainability-focused credentials that fit your career path.

5. Join a Sustainability Association

Networking with the right professionals can move your career to new heights. Join organizations that provide mentoring opportunities, educational resources, workshops, career placements, and options that align with your goals.

Sustainability Resources to Help Your Career

Professional organizations like the Society for Conservation Biology, the Sustainability Management Association, and the National Association of Environmental Professionals offer networking opportunities and comprehensive training.

You can also find helpful resources from online publications and journals like green@work, Sublime, Mother Earth News, the International Journal of Green Energy, and more.

Online platforms like edX offer free lessons on urban design courses and sustainability concepts.

How to Switch to a Sustainability Career

Sustainability professionals have different academic backgrounds and degrees, including renewable energy, engineering, biology, and environmental law.

A bachelor's degree prepares you for entry-level sustainability jobs. However, you can still pursue this career even if you have an unrelated degree.

A master's degree or industry certification equips you with the necessary skills and knowledge to explore sustainability roles.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sustainability in business?

Sustainability in business is the balance between the economy, equity, and the environment. It integrates social science, civil engineering, and environmental science to make the earth more habitable and sustainable for future generations.

What certification do I need for a sustainability career?

These certifications help you showcase your skills, prove credibility, and stand out from the competition.

Can I get a sustainability degree online?

Yes, you can.

Many accredited colleges and universities offer online undergraduate and postgraduate sustainability degrees.

What fields can sustainability professionals work in?

Sustainability professionals can work in various industries employing green initiatives. For example, you can work for consulting firms, government organizations, nonprofits, energy sectors, and more.

Is there a high demand for sustainability majors?

According to the BLS, sustainability careers are in high demand, with several thousand job openings in multiple industries. CNBC lists environmental specialists and civil engineers in the top ten roles with the most demand.

Final Thoughts

Sustainability careers are broad and all-encompassing. You can find these professionals across multiple industries, designing and developing green initiatives to improve the environment and quality of life.

A sustainability degree from an accredited institution paves the way for a rewarding career and the opportunity to improve lives. This guide offers everything you need to explore a lucrative sustainability career today.

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