If you’re passionate about protecting the environment and you want to make an impact in the world, you may want to consider a career in sustainability. 
Sustainability jobs address the social, environmental and civil engineering factors that make the earth more livable and create a better future. Knowledge and skills in sustainable policies and practices is in great demand these days. Who doesn’t want a cleaner, healthier, friendlier and longer-lasting planet?
That means now is an excellent time to consider this rewarding career field. If you’d like to know more about the outlook for jobs in sustainability and how to get one, this article is a great place to start.

What is sustainability?

Believe it or not, there is no single definition everyone agrees on when we talk about sustainability. The original meaning of the word was simply to maintain something — anything — at a certain rate or level. But with the rise of concern for the environment and social problems around the world, sustainability has come to mean something more.
The term generally describes the environmental, economic, and social actions and processes that preserve natural resources, or avoid depleting them. The main objective of sustainability is to keep an ecological balance that maintains quality of life for today while ensuring it for future generations. 

Careers in sustainability

The need for sustainability professionals is nearly universal in every sector of the economy. Sustainability career paths are available in just about any industry, such as manufacturing and construction, agriculture and food, retail and real estate, the services industries, information technology services, health care and human services, and even in government careers. . 
That means there are many kinds of sustainability career paths to follow. To show you the range of options available, here is a representative sample of five different sustainability-related careers.

Sustainability specialist, analyst or consultant

Sustainability specialists and analysts stay on top of trends in renewable resources, sustainable work processes, and environmental science for businesses and organizations. They use a variety of research methods to analyze, report and provide recommendations for sustainability projects and programs.

Energy manager

As their title suggests, energy managers are responsible for energy-efficient systems and structures that control energy consumption and adhere to legal, budgetary and design requirements. They also make sure financial and environmental resources are being used efficiently in a commercial business and industry or the public sector.

Environmental engineer

Environmental engineers apply scientific and engineering principles to improve and protect the environment and human health. They often devise solutions and treatment systems for environmental problems associated with air and water pollution. 

Landscape architect

Landscape architects use their creative and technical skills in design, environmental science, and land planning to devise and build outdoor areas. This includes parks, urban spaces and wildlife habitats. They often must be experts in land surveying and parks, recreation, and urban planning.

Urban planner

Urban planners help companies and other organizations design and organize their use of land. They may devise entire communities, including roads, parks, and neighborhoods, and are often responsible for developing programs that adapt to growth in population with the least possible impact on the environment. 

Sustainability career outlook

The future looks bright for environmental sustainability careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs in sustainability will continue to grow in the coming years. Taking just one example, the BLS projects that the number of environmental engineer positions will increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028, leading to the creation of about 3,000 new jobs. 
The pay is good in many sustainability jobs, as well. For instance, according to Salary.com, the average salary range for a Sustainability Analyst is between $85,310 and $115,680, depending on location, job level, experience, education and skills. A “Sustainability Specialist” can earn between $54,932 and $105,062.

How do you start a career in sustainability?

There are a number of ways to get started on your career path to sustainability. Here are a few tips that will help you land your dream job.

Obtain a degree in a sustainability field

The surest way to learn about and prepare for a career in sustainability is to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and/or doctoral degree in the subject, or related field. Many degree programs allow you to specialize in one or more areas to enhance your prospects. The more advanced a degree you earn, the higher your earning potential can be.

Get sustainability experience

If your workplace has sustainability efforts in place, get involved. Seek out opportunities to design a sustainability project of your own and put it in motion, such as organizing a volunteer event or helping the office go paperless.

Educate yourself in basic economics and business strategy

Employers want to see you have the required knowledge to perform as a sustainability specialist or analyst. You need to have a fundamental understanding of business strategy development, environmental law and science, and marketing and public relations. Many programs are available through educational organizations such as ASU CareerCatalyst that offer valuable talent development courses to prepare you for this line of work.

Make connections

Share your ideas and passions with others. Join a trade organization such as The International Society of Sustainability Professionals. Build a personal network of like-minded people to share knowledge and help each other advance. 

Polish your interpersonal skills

As a sustainability specialist or analyst, you’ll be expected to lead on ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) issues. You might head up a team, engage with different departments, sites, and interface with diverse audiences. In other words, you must be an effective communicator and manager. Take a course, such as the Professional Skills for Everyone Series offered online through ASU CareerCatalyst. Practice them in your current role, and ask others for feedback and advice.

Start Your Career in Sustainability with ASU CareerCatalyst

One of the most efficient and affordable ways to acquire the essential skills necessary to launch a career in sustainability is the Principles of ESG and Sustainability for Business or the Sustainability Analyst Specialization, both available from ASU CareerCatalyst.

Developed by world-renowned faculty from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business and the first School of Sustainability in the U.S., these courses in foundational sustainability and ESG concepts will prepare you to help any organization build and direct their environmental initiatives. Learn more about how CareerCatalyst can help you develop the knowledge and skills you need to pursue your passion in sustainability. 

Photo by Paula Prekopova on Unsplash