Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future

Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future

By: Melissa Venable
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Most people today are probably familiar with the term “going green”. We are provided with encouragement to recycle at home and often on the job. The grocery store will put your groceries in reusable bags, and may even offer small discounts for doing so. Maybe you’ve even tried new environmentally friendly light bulbs or drive a new hybrid car. Careers now are going green, too.

This book provides an overview of what it means to pursue a green career field. Green careers are defined by Cassio and Rush as “…jobs that are focused on sustainability and/or environmental protection and preservation”. Green Careers is divided into two main parts: Green Career Profiles and Additional Information and Resources.

Career Profiles
The Career Profiles are divided into the following career groups:

*Environmental Health and Safety
*Government Regulations and Planning
*Building and Landscaping
*Business and Enterprise
*Education, Communication, and Law
*Natural and Land Resource Management
*Natural Sciences
*Physical Geography
*Sustainable Agriculture
*Electric Utilities

While many of these groups are directly related to the sciences, other fields such as education and business are included as well. Some of the more unexpected industries listed in these groups include the bicycle industry, clothing and accessories, ecotourism, and journalism and publishing. Green careers include fields beyond environmentalists and conservationists, and now encompass a wide variety of industries and titles.

This book presents information for over 90 occupations. The occupations include descriptive information from O*NET including projected growth, salary survey, and required qualifications. Professional associations are also listed. Each occupation is linked to “Career Cluster/Pathways” such as Health Sciences and “Primary Career Interest Areas” such as Enterprising. This information allows for clients and counselors alike to easily draw comparisons to results from self-assessment tools.

One of the primary strengths of this book is the inclusion of informational interviews with over 60 green professionals.Each professional answers a series of questions such as:

How did you get into this career field?
What are your most common tasks?
What are some of the best schools, degrees, and certificates for jobs in this career field?
What advice do you have for someone considering this career field?
What are the emerging fields now and into the future?

The careers profiled are diverse in terms of required education and/or training for entry. Not all require a college degree. Many list practical experience as the best possible training, while others state the requirement of a doctorate degree. The range of training and education makes the book appropriate for multiple levels of career decision-makers.

Through the career profiles and interviews, the reader is presented with information about specific schools and colleges, as well as advice about choice of major. A recommended addition to a future edition would be a separate section devoted specifically to education and training. It seems that there are a number of new programs emerging and new majors to consider such as an MBA focused on Sustainable Management.

Additional Information and Resources

The authors have provided this section to address the question “how do you know which is the best green career for you?” The essentials of “assessment, research, and reality-testing” are presented to further inform and assist the reader.

Values, skills, and interests are outlined as traits to be assessed to find a “best-fit career direction”. A number of online assessment websites are listed and students are encouraged to contact a career services professional for guidance. State Career Information Systems are also listed as resources. Informational interviewing is highly recommended by the authors and they have set the example with the book’s rich career profiles. This section also includes tips on accessing the “hidden job market.”

This section of the book is brief, but provides a concise and helpful review of the steps required to make a solid career decision. These steps are not exclusive to green careers, but are presented in that context. The guidance and resources provided here would be a nice supplement to other resources focused more broadly on the career development process.

Recommended Audience

What if you are interested in increasing your participation in the sustainability movement, but are not interested in completely changing your career or going back to school? Cassio and Rush provide keen insights on ways to do this. One option is to seek a new position with a “green employer”, one who may not necessarily be in a green industry, but who encourages sustainability within the organization. The authors also recommend developing green habits at your current workplace and encouraging your employers and coworkers to do the same.

The potential audience for this book includes:

Career Services Professionals and Counselors – who need additional information addressing “green” careers and who may be working with clients who have an interest in sustainability.

Students – from high school, technical schools, universities through to graduate school. Because of the wide range of training and experience required for the many careers in this book, it could appeal to a range of students.
Working Professionals – who may be seeking a “green workplace” or are interested in marketing their current skills and experience to “green employers”.
Individuals interested in sustainability and environmental protection – who may be seeking ways to be green in their everyday lives, including their careers.

The authors encourage everyone, not just those in green careers, to think about ways in which they can be “greener” on the job. The book itself is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks. In this way, the authors and publisher play an active part in “going green”.
Melissa Venable, Ph.D., is Project Manager/Instructional Designer for the Distance Course Design & Consulting Group, College of Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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Posted on April 12, 2011