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Whether you are a climate activist, a habitual recycler, an animal lover, a devoted conservationist or all of the above, there is a wide range of career options out there which will allow you to turn your passion into a professional pursuit.
It’s no secret that environmental careers are expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, as important issues such as global warming, species extinction, pollution and environmental destruction are finally gaining justifiable attention across the world. As a result, the demand for professionals across various environmental fields is steadily rising.
So, if you are looking for a career that will allow you to make a positive change, then here are 20 environmental jobs to consider.
1. Environmental engineer
Average annual salary: $92,120 (£68,300)
Environmental engineers use their expertise to come up with sustainable solutions that can reduce pollution and waste by optimising the usage of natural resources, utilising renewable energy and designing new technologies.
This is a career that combines principles of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry, which are employed in order to improve public health, air pollution control and recycling.
2. Urban planner
Average annual salary: $75,950 (£56,310)
Urban planners are tasked with developing land use plans and programmes. These are aimed at helping create communities, address population growth and revitalise physical areas, such as public parks.
To achieve this, urban planners must assess community needs and identify socio-economic and environmental problems that need to be addressed through urban planning projects.
Oftentimes, urban planners may choose to specialise in specific areas, such as historic preservation, public transport and environmental sustainability.
Average annual salary: $93,580 (£69,380)
This environmental career combines indoor office work with outdoor field work.
As a research-focused profession, geoscientists carry out investigations by travelling to different remote locations where they can collect samples, gather data and conduct surveys for their research.
At the office, they carry out lab tests, analyse data, such as aerial photos, in order to determine the location and size of natural resources, create geologic maps and charts, and prepare scientific reports, which are then presented to the parties involved in their research.
4. Environmental lawyer
Average annual salary: $126,930 (£94,100)
If you are equally passionate about law and the environment, then this could be your calling.
Environmental lawyers use their knowledge of environmental legislation to represent clients and advocate for clean technology, land management, climate change laws and conservation.
Environmental lawyers may also spearhead efforts to introduce and instil environmental protection policies, but also focus on more academic aspects of sustainability and environmental legislation.
Average annual salary: $84,040 (£62,310)
Hydrologists study how water moves across the earth.
The work involves a fair amount of field work where they study river flows, analyse factors that may influence water quality and quantity, and collect water and soil samples.
Their research may focus on water pollution, erosion and droughts, and they utilise computer systems in order to foresee problems regarding water supply, as well as floods.
Meanwhile, they may also be tasked with evaluating and advising on water-related projects whilst working closely with engineers, scientists and public officers.
6. Environmental health officer
Average annual salary: $95,381 (£70,720)
Environmental health officers work within their community and investigate various environmental health incidents, including pollution, toxic contamination and pest infections.
Their main responsibility is to enforce health and hygiene legislation, which could also include filing reports, serving legal documents and investigating complaints made by members of the public. Meanwhile, they may also be tasked with advising organisations, providing feedback on their policies and processes and proposing changes that could prevent air, noise, water and land pollution.
7. Chief sustainability officer
Average annual salary: $184,460 (£136,770)
Often known by other titles, such as sustainability manager and director of sustainability, this profession is focused on spearheading environmental challenges faced by companies and other organisations, helping them minimise their negative impact on the environment.
As a chief sustainability officer, you would be responsible for developing a company’s sustainability strategy and coming up with ways to reduce waste, energy consumption and pollution.
So, if you enjoy certain entrepreneurial endeavours, but still want to have a positive impact through the work you do, this career could be the perfect fit!
8. Climbing arborist
Average annual salary: $44,040 (£32,650)
Also known as tree doctors, climbing arborists diagnose and treat tree diseases, helping others take better care of their trees. This requires them to have a deep understanding of how different trees’ anatomies and immune systems work and be able to recognise the signs of plant disease. Once they have made their diagnosis, the arborist needs to come up with a treatment plan for the affiliated vegetation.
Their work can be extremely vital, as diseased trees may have weak branches that could crack and fall, causing severe damage and incidents, but also because they can help sustain and grow tree populations.
9. Conservation scientist
Average annual salary: $64,010 (£47,460)
If you are a nature lover that is passionate about protecting natural habitats, then conservation science is certainly a career path that aligns with your values.
The main role of a conservation scientist is to manage the land quality of green areas, such as forests, parks and rangelands. This involves overseeing conservation activities and ensuring that environmental protection regulations are being followed, working with governmental agencies and private companies to improve land, and safeguarding natural resources.
Oftentimes, they may also work with farmers and offer guidance on land improvement for agricultural purposes.
10. Solar panel installer
Average annual salary: $46,470 (£34,450)
Often referred to as PV installers, this environmental job involves assembling, installing and maintaining photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight into energy. If you are interested in renewable energy and also want an active, hands-on role, this could potentially be a good match for you.
11. Wind turbine technician
Average annual salary: $56,230 (£41,680)
Are you afraid of heights? Then, keep scrolling! This career requires a lot of hovering above ground whilst inspecting, installing and maintaining wind turbines. Wind turbine techs are also responsible for performing routine maintenance, diagnosing problems and replacing malfunctioning components both within and outside the wind turbine towers.
Much like solar panel installers, this green energy job is projected to grow by 68% between 2020 and 2030, creating plenty of career opportunities for those who are both technical-minded and want to pursue an environmental job.
12. Energy engineer
Average annual salary: $80,915 (£59,980)
Energy engineers may find themselves working with natural resources for the creation of energy, such as oil and gas, or they may choose to focus on being involved with sustainable and renewable energy sources, such as biofuels, wind and solar power.
Their main purpose is to design new technologies and processes that can be utilised to harness and produce energy, but also used to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce environmental damage.
To achieve this, they use mathematical and computer models and carry out lab experiments, which allow them to test any new processes.
13. Green data analyst
Average annual salary: $64,938 (£48,130)
Green data analysts are statisticians that work with environmental information and raw data to compile reports, educational material and graphics in a digestible and comprehensive manner. Their work acts as a bridge, which allows scientists and researchers to communicate their findings to the general public — an especially crucial role for tackling climate change.
14. Agriculture engineer
Average annual salary: $84,410 (£62,560)
The role of an agricultural engineer is a multifaceted one. From using software to create new equipment and systems, to dealing with environmental issues, to designing housing for livestock, their main objective is to find solutions to various agricultural problems.
Those who are more focused on the environmental sustainability aspect of agriculture may work on the reduction of air and water pollution, the development of green technologies, waste-to-energy projects.
15. Landscape architect
Average annual salary: $70,630 (£52,340)
Landscape architects design green spaces and outdoor areas, such as parks, playgrounds, gardens and campuses.
Their work, however, is not just about creating spaces that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but that are also compatible with the natural environment around them. As such, they must consider how the space might impact native ecosystems, biodiversity and wildlife, and ensure that it’s harmonious with its surroundings.
16. Soil and plant scientist
Average annual salary: $73,040 (£59,130)
Soil and plant scientists study different compositions of soil and how they can affect plant growth and crop production. This involves collecting samples, analysing their chemical properties and offering solutions to soil-related problems. They may also partake in conservation projects, helping protect water resources and prevent soil pollution.
As global population numbers surge, soil and plant scientists’ work is becoming increasingly important as they can identify new processes that can increase food production by improving crop productivity in environmentally and economically sustainable ways.
Average annual salary: $66,350 (£49,170)
For animal lovers with an interest in wildlife, conservation and science, zoology is another important environmental role to consider.
Zoologists spend their time studying animals in their natural habitats, investigating their behaviour and how they interact with their ecosystems. Among their other job duties, they may also have to collect biological data, monitor wildlife populations, oversee conservation programmes for endangered species and analyse how human activity negatively impacts different species.
Average annual salary: $91,840 (£68,080)
Falling directly under environmental science, microbiologists study microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, fungi and algae, inspecting how they interact and impact the environment they are found in.
Their work often puts microbiologists at the forefront of tackling climate change and ecological efforts, as their research and findings allow them to understand the impact microorganisms can have on animals, plants and the environment.
19. Agricultural and food scientist
Average annual salary: $68,830 (£51,030)
Agricultural and food scientists work towards improving agricultural processes for the commercial farming of plants and animals.
Their research allows them to find new techniques and methods that can encourage agricultural establishments to take more sustainable and productive approaches towards food production.
Some professionals in this field centralise their work around innovation and ethical sourcing, which can drastically improve animals’ safety and wellbeing as well as improve the quality and quantity of crops whilst encouraging more environmentally conscious operations.
20. Atmospheric scientist
Average annual salary: $99,740 (£73,950)
If you want your work to focus on the climate, then atmospheric science is quite a fitting career option.
Atmospheric scientists compile and analyse data related to temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity and wind speed, study weather phenomena and produce forecasts and reports to advise the general public. They also use data to form a better understanding of climate change and global warming and may work closely with other scientists in order to examine how they impact natural resources and communities.
Pursuing one of these environmental careers will put you at the forefront of environmental sustainability and conservation efforts.
Whether you want to work with renewable energy sources, research sustainable agricultural practises, study climate phenomena or help companies reduce their carbon footprint, you will have the opportunity to make a difference, one day at a time.
Join the conversation! Which of these environmental jobs sound like the perfect career? Let us know in the comments section below!
Salary information is based on data compiled and published by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, Indeed and Career Explorer. Currency conversions by XE.com on 24 January 2022.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 25 September 2018.