How to Turn Your Environmental Passion into a Career




Are you passionate about making a difference in the world? Do you want to use your talent to create a lasting impact? Then you're not alone. Many young professionals want their careers to have meaning. And one of the most pressing issues that we face globally is climate change. We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy as quickly as possible. By bringing your talent to this sector, you will be helping save our planet and working in an industry that continues to grow. According to NetImpact, "demand for jobs in energy and clean technology remains higher than supply." While many companies laid employees off during COVID, demand for workers in clean energy actually increased. So, now that we have your attention, let's focus on the jobs that are most in demand and show you how you can turn your passion into a career. The HBCU Clean Energy Initiative works with HBCUs and governmental agencies to expand solar usage and job training in minority communities and has put together this overview to help you get started.


Green Engineering

Careers in this field can range from designing the next generation of wind turbines and solar panels to environmental engineering, where principles of chemistry, biology, and social science are combined with engineering to develop climate change solutions. Another opportunity is in Biofuels, where engineers work to build and find uses for fuels derived from plant sources. Biofuel can power cars, heat homes, and generate electricity without emitting carbon.


Of course, many other jobs support these sectors and don't require an engineering degree. Solar and wind turbine installers and repair technicians are needed, as are electricians who specialize in converting old wiring so that it is compatible with solar and wind. And biofuel technicians monitor gauges and meters to ensure safe, efficient production and adjust or repair equipment as needed.


Sustainable Agriculture

Chemical pesticides can cause cancer, kill wildlife, and leech into our groundwater. However, we need the crops that farmers grow, and they need to protect them from insects and other diseases. So, what is the solution? That's where professionals who specialize in sustainable agriculture come in. These careers usually involve a degree in environmental or agricultural science. Applying scientific methods to grow crops, maintain soil productivity, and limit synthetic fertilizers and pesticides can help us continue growing the crops we need while limiting the negative environmental impact.


Green Biotechnology

Green or plant biotech uses living organisms or parts of living organisms to produce foods, drugs, or other products in a lab. Their goal is to improve the production and output of crops. In addition, many scientists are working towards finding alternatives to killing animals to provide meat. Carefully removing muscle cells from an animal under anesthesia can produce meat in a lab without hurting the animals. Industrial animal farming is a significant driver of climate change, deforestation, air pollution, and groundwater contamination. According to the United Nations, animal agriculture contributes 14.5% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. And eating meat grown in a lab can also be healthier because scientists can control the quantities of harmful cholesterol while keeping the benefits of the protein derived from meat.


Architecture and Design

Solar and wind energy have changed how we approach the design of new buildings and structures. Architects, landscapers, and urban planners all play a role in designing a home, work, and outdoor space that are more environmentally friendly. Green architects create buildings that conserve energy and natural resources, minimize waste, and avoid toxic construction materials. Landscapers create environments that use native plants, decrease water usage, and attract birds and other pollinators. And urban planners can help to reduce urban sprawl, develop public transportation options, and protect open spaces from development.


Corporate Sustainability Roles

Corporations of every type must develop strategies to reduce their negative environmental impact. Many companies have designated departments within their organizations that develop corporate sustainability plans to reduce their ecological footprint, minimize carbon emissions, and assess sustainability risks and issues. Other businesses may seek help from outside consultants who work on a contractual basis to address issues such as water pollution, air quality, and soil contamination. An environmental consultant has the scientific knowledge and technical expertise to conduct field and desk-based research, conduct assessments, and advise companies on ways to minimize their environmental impact.


EV Careers

Electric vehicle purchases are increasing at a phenomenal pace. While overall car sales dropped during the pandemic, electric vehicles increased. In 2021's third quarter, electric vehicle sales nearly doubled to 10.4% from 5.5%. And with this increase in demand, job opportunities are growing as well.


EV careers range from electrical, chemical, industrial, and mechanical engineers to technicians, software developers, and industrial designers. Mechanics who understand battery-related or software engineering will also be in demand. According to manufacturers, 97% of current mechanics are not qualified to work on electric vehicles.


How to Get Started

There is no shortage of clean energy jobs, and there is a wide choice of careers within the sector. But how do you get started? If you are still in college, speak with a career counselor about the courses of study that would be best suited to the field. Or consider participating in a competition like the EcoCar EV Challenge. In teams, students receive financial and in-kind support from program-level sponsors, training on industry-leading tools in advanced automotive controls, computer-aided, connected, and automated vehicle system design, business development, project management, and communications skills.


There are also nonprofits such as Greenlining, which trains future leaders to be effective advocates for environmental justice and fairness through their Leadership Academy. They have trained and empowered over 1,000 young leaders who now occupy influential positions in government, business, and the nonprofit sector, as well as elected offices. And the Environmental Defense Fund runs a program called Climate Corps® that trains graduate students to help companies and organizations reduce their environmental footprint. They have placed over 1,100 fellows across the private and public sectors to help over 520 host organizations meet their climate and energy goals. And the HBCU Clean Energy Initiative offers job training programs to residents in low to moderate-income communities.

You can also take free courses through ClimateScience.org and find jobs through recruiters specializing in placing candidates in sustainable careers. So, what are you waiting for? Put your passion into action!


To find out more about HBCU Clean Energy Initiative, click here.

To read more HBCU Clean Energy blogs, click here.

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