woman engineer with tablet in front of wind turbines

Congratulations to the class of 2018 on your recent graduation. And if you’re interested in a green job that entails sustainability, recycling, or environmental protection/reclamation, we applaud you!

More than 80 colleges currently offer some form of degree in environmental science or sustainability, suggesting a lot of demand for first-time workers seeking jobs in the green sector. Luckily, the field of opportunities for sustainability grads is pretty substantial. Arizona State University, which offered the first undergraduate sustainability program at a U.S. college, reports that 70 percent of its 2017 graduates have jobs in the sustainability field, which is an impressive achievement when you consider an additional 16 percent went on to graduate school instead of the workplace.

For those just starting out or looking to break into sustainability work, here are five entry-level jobs to consider for those with a passion for the environment. If you’re thinking of starting off in the CEO’s office, you might want to lower your expectations, but there are plenty of paths to the top in this emerging industry.

1. Environmental Engineer

Company/organization: Energy and technology companies
Summary: Environmental engineers help plan and design construction projects while accounting for energy/water use and limited solid waste.
Average salary: $66,579 (GlassDoor)
Benefits: Excellent earning potential, large impact on urban planning, with a variety of applications
Drawbacks: High-stress position, requires licenses/certifications
How to apply: Start at Engineerjobs.com to find opportunities

2. Water Quality Specialist

Worker inspecting valve for water filtration. Image: Adobe Stock

Company/organization: City water departments
Summary: Water quality specialists study the health of local water systems, including raw water and treatment plants.
Average salary: $45,000 (ZipRecruiter)
Benefits: Lots of work in the field, math/science intensive, steady work opportunities
Drawbacks: Mostly freelance/contract, long hours
How to apply: Visit the American Water Works Association career page

3. Solar Power Installer

Company/organization: Private companies making solar panels
Summary: Installing solar panels on housing and buildings is a complicated process done by humans. If you don’t mind heights, you can learn a ton about solar energy.
Average salary: $42,500 annually (Fortune)
Benefits: Not an office job, mostly available in big cities, fastest growing job in the United States
Drawbacks: Lots of manual labor, largely seasonal market
How to apply: Contact solar manufacturers directly, such as SolarCity, Vivint Solar, or Sunnova

4. Zero Waste Coordinator

Company/organization: Cities, waste haulers, Fortune 500 companies, universities
Summary: Everyone wants to reduce waste; zero waste programs for cities and companies set goals to recycle more material. Coordinators help implement these programs, providing education and customer service.
Average salary: Varies based on the company
Benefits: Room for growth, ability to transition from public to private sector, cool sounding job title
Drawbacks: Results largely based on factors you can’t control, still an evolving field at the corporate level
How to apply: See if your local city/university is hiring in the solid waste department

5. Park Ranger

National Park Service ranger answers question
Photo by Kurt Moses, courtesy of National Park Service

Company/organization: National Park Service or state parks
Summary: Rangers aren’t just for protecting picnic baskets. They conduct research, preserve trails, and interact with visitors.
Average salary: $16 per hour (GlassDoor)
Benefits: Not an office job, lots of overtime in peak seasons, lower cost of living than cities
Drawbacks: Uniform required, additional training required
How to apply: All NPS ranger jobs are posted on https://www.usajobs.gov; state park jobs are on state sites

Editor’s note: This article was updated in June 2018 by Trey Granger.

Can you suggest other green jobs for recent grads?

By Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.