Aside from the everyday efforts you make to help the environment, such as recycling or taking the bus, wouldn't it be great if you could be well-paid to help the planet? As it happens, many environmental jobs pay around $30 an hour or more.
Fueled in part by massive federal funding for environmental projects included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) -- better known as the stimulus bill -- green jobs have a bright future. There's a broad range of occupations that allow you to make a difference, so there is likely a green job for you no matter what your interest and skills.
Below is a list of well-paid, green gigs with their median annual salary according to online salary database PayScale.com. That figure is then broken down to an hourly rate by dividing by 2080, the typical number of working hours in a year, according to PayScale.
1. Regional sales manager. When companies create new, more energy-efficient products, it's critical that these products are accepted by customers, says Jim Cassio, career consultant and co-author of "Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future, and the Green Careers Resource Guide." Sales managers for environmentally conscious companies make sure better products reach their target audience. With stimulus funds going to research and development of more energy-efficient goods, particularly in batteries, growth is expected in green sales-manager jobs, says Cassio.
Regional sales managers oversee sales within an entire territory, often supervising a sales team, providing training and guidance. Many are experienced sales reps who've worked their way up to this supervisory post.
Regional sales manager: $87,200 per year / $42 per hour
2. Environmental engineer. This engineering specialty focuses on developing solutions for better water and air quality, says Laurence Shatkin, author of "200 Best Jobs for Renewing America." Other fields for environmental engineers include recycling, waste disposal and environmental cleanup. With stimulus funding for many of these areas, demand for environmental engineers is expected to rise, Shatkin predicts.
Most engineers have a bachelor's degree in engineering from a four-year institution, and participate in continuing education or graduate school to deepen their knowledge or a specialty or learn about emerging best practices in the field. Much of the work ahead, Shatkin notes, will involve devising solutions to clean up nuclear sites left over from World War II.
Environmental engineer: $68,600 per year / $33 per hour
3. Computer systems analyst. Without systems analysts, Shatkin says, "We'll never have a smart [electric] grid." Technological savvy will be needed to design systems that will allow electric transmission systems and broadband networks to operate with greater energy efficiency.
Demand is so great for this IT expertise that the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts nearly 50 percent growth in the field from 2006-2016, despite the fact that the existing labor force for this job is unusually young, with few analysts nearing retirement age. Most analysts have a four-year degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems.
Operating systems analyst: $63,000 per year / $30 per hour
4. Urban/regional planner. Urban and regional planners have a chance to dramatically impact the landscapes under their jurisdictions, says Shatkin. They aid governments in designing and locating schools, roads, and other infrastructure in a city or rural area, with an eye to minimizing environmental impact. They can also design zoning codes to help support environmental goals.
Schooling is rigorous -- even entry-level jobs with state, federal or municipal agencies require a master's degree in urban or regional planning or a similar field. As regulations grow more complex for meeting environmental requirements, more urban planners will be needed, he adds.
Urban/regional planner: $60,600 per year / $29 per hour
5. Hydrologist. This scientific specialty centers on using your knowledge of geology to locate and study bodies of water and suggests methods for keeping it pure, says Shatkin. Hydrologists use advanced techniques and instruments to assess water quality.
Many work for consulting firms and are often hired to solve water pollution, flooding or other water problems. Entry-level positions may be filled with candidates with a bachelor's degree in hydrologic science.
Hydrologist: $68,100 per year / $33 per hour
6. Construction project manager. A great move-up job for workers with construction experience, project managers coordinate and oversee large construction projects. The field of construction management is becoming one where environmental concerns play an increasing role, says Shatkin.
"They're using recycled materials in building new buildings," he says, "and then recycling the old building."
Construction project manager: $68,000 per year / $33 per hour
7. Nonprofit executive director. This job recently topped a list of the Top 25 Green Dream Jobs compiled by Cassio and Rona Fried, CEO of SustainableBusiness.com. Chief executives at an environmental charity or advocacy group have the opportunity to shape their groups' agenda, organizing their constituencies to improve the environment, preserve land or ocean habitat, or change environmental laws. It's a chance to use managerial, marketing, and media skills for green ends, notes Cassio.
At smaller organizations, volunteers may move up into this paying position, while larger nonprofits expect professionally trained executive directors who often have a graduate degree in either business administration, public administration, or nonprofit management.
Nonprofit executive director: $60,000 per year / $29 per hour
Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing. Hourly rates are calculated by dividing the yearly salary by 2080.
Business reporter Carol Tice contributes to several national and regional business publications.
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