5 Jobs That Help Fight Climate Change

Written by Coursera • Updated on

If you're concerned about climate change and what it's doing to the planet, you may consider a related career, like an environmental engineer. Discover five climate change jobs and learn about job growth, top skills, and certifications.

[Featured Image] A man is sitting at his desk using a desktop.

Some examples of climate change jobs include climate scientist, environmental engineer, environmental lawyer, renewable energy engineer, and sustainability and climate change consultant.

If you're concerned about climate change and its effect on the planet, consider a related career in the field. According to leading scientists, many of Earth's problems, like flooding, drought, and wildfires, are directly related to climate change, so people in this line of work are more valuable than ever. Learn more about climate change jobs to help you decide if this is the career path for you. 

Types of climate change jobs  

Whether you enjoy sitting at a desk or working outdoors, you can find jobs across many fields, including science, engineering, business, and law, that relate to protecting our environment. While some professionals in these fields use complex formulas to make predictions about climate change, others find solutions to environmental or climate problems by making new laws. For more information, here are five climate change careers to consider. 

*All salary data sourced from Glassdoor (March 2022)

1. Climate scientist 

Climate scientists study aspects of Earth's climate like temperature, sunlight, and precipitation They use complex mathematical formulas and computer models to help predict climate change’s effects on the ocean, the food supply, regional weather patterns, and more. 

To become a climate scientist, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in climate science, climatology, meteorology, or another related field. For an educational track, get an entry-level job that allows you to work simultaneously on a master's degree. Some companies and organizations might even help pay for your tuition to entice you to stay at the job. 

While some climate scientists work in an office or a lab, others may spend the majority of their time working in the field.

Average annual salary (US): $94,101

2. Environmental engineer 

Environmental engineers identify environmental problems and create plans to fix them using biology, chemistry, engineering, and soil science knowledge. They create systems and structures such as sewers, aqueducts, sustainable buildings, and wind turbines. 

To be an environmental engineer, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering, civil engineering, or a related field. Join a cooperative environmental engineering program, and you can alternate periods of academic study with full-time work. 

As an environmental engineer, you might work in both an office and construction setting taking samples or surveying progress. 

Average annual salary (US):  $76,949

3. Environmental lawyer 

Environmental lawyers represent individuals, companies, or organizations in legal issues regarding the environment like climate change, land use, or water rights. 

As an environmental lawyer, you could work for state or federal agencies, nonprofit groups, or corporations. Job duties might include:

  • Working on court cases

  • Providing testimony in court

  • Lobbying for pro-environment legislation

  • Consulting on sustainable business practices

  • Counseling clients on environmental regulations and laws

To become an environmental lawyer, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in a field like environmental studies, public policy, or political science; then, aim to graduate from law school and pass the bar exam. 

Most environmental lawyers work in an office setting, but some travel to meet with clients or to visit work-related sites. 

Average annual salary (US): $112,444

4. Renewable energy engineer 

Renewable energy engineers work on ways to get energy from renewable sources like wind, sun, and water. They also work to reduce the use of finite energy sources, like oil. These engineers might be advisors, consultants, designers, or builders. Some job duties might include report preparation, energy system inspections, project management, and data analysis.

 If you're interested in becoming a renewable energy engineer, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in renewable energy engineering or a related field, like electrical or mechanical engineering. If you decide on this career path, you might consider an internship or volunteer position with a renewable energy nonprofit to get some hands-on work experience and professional connections. 

Average annual salary (US): $77,725

5. Sustainability and climate change (S&CC) consultant 

Sustainability and climate change (S&CC) consultants help companies and organizations become more socially and environmentally responsible. They offer advice on sustainable building practices and environmentally-friendly materials. They also show clients how to decrease energy consumption and waste by putting tools in place to measure and monitor corresponding data. 

To become a S&CC consultant, aim for a bachelor's degree in environmental science, community development, or sustainability for an entry-level position. At the consultant level, you may need a master's degree or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in sustainability. As an S&CC consultant, you'll likely work in an office, but you may be required to travel to meet with clients and conduct site inspections. 

Average annual salary (US): $114,463

Job growth for climate change careers

It's projected that jobs for climate scientists, environmental engineers, and similar specialists will increase from 3 to 8 percent over the next decade, depending on the job [1]. Some of the highest job growth in climate change will be installing and repairing devices like solar panels and wind turbines. 

Top skills for climate change professionals. 

Climate change isn't just an environmental problem, but also a cultural, economic, social, political, and scientific one. Therefore, top skills and duties for climate change professionals may include:

  • Research and innovation: Improve and research the efficiency of existing energy sources like sun and wind technologies.

  • Climate change finance: Apply and distribute funds that support climate-change companies and nonprofit organizations.

  • Data analysis: Interpret data that involves temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind, wind chill, and heat index.

  • Communication skills: Explain complex climate issues in easy-to-understand ways.

Climate change certifications 

Certifications offer climate change professionals a way to get more training and stand out from their peers. Green business certifications are given to firms that have principles, policies, and practices that help improve climate change.  Here are a few offered from the Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI): 

  • Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA): For new professionals

  • Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP): For more advanced professionals

These certifications focus on topics like:

  • Understanding and communicating sustainability information to various audiences

  • Identifying current issues involving sustainability and the tools and techniques to deal with them

  • Using 'systems thinking' in developing sustainability solutions and assessing risks and opportunities

  • Planning and implementing sustainable practices and procedures and following up with an evaluation 

More certifications that you might get include:

  • Certified Candidate Pilot Program from Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) for new or transitioning professionals

  • Certified Climate Change Professional from ACCO for more advanced professionals

  • Certified Energy Manager from Association of Energy Engineers (AEE)

  • Business Energy Professional from AEE

  • Certified Energy Professional from AEE

  • Renewable Energy Professional from AEE

Next steps

A climate change career is not only good for the planet. It could be good for your future too. To find out if you might be interested in following this career path, start by checking out climate change courses such as From Climate Science to Action and Act on Climate: Steps to Individual Community. These courses are all offered by world-class companies and universities available on Coursera.

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Article sources

1. Yale Climate Connections. “Which climate change jobs will be in high demand in the future?, https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/05/which-climate-change-jobs-will-be-in-high-demand-in-the-future/.” Accessed March 8, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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