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Climate Change Jobs: Availability, Salaries, & More

Climate change is a global concern making climate change jobs not only an interesting profession but a necessity. The Earth has grown through periods of changing climate throughout its history and at least some of this is natural. Most of you will be familiar with the various ice ages that the planet has undergone, but there have also been various warming and cooling periods. Many of you may be surprised to learn that as recently as the Middle Ages, various parts of the world had climates very different than what they have today.

In spite of the various natural changes in climate associated with the Earth and its weather, the recent changes in climate have become apparent even to lay people, causing the public to have greater interest in these changes and in the profession. What this means for people interested in climate change is that there is likely to be more investment in the industry and that means more jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, predicts an 11 percent increase in jobs in environmental science over the next year, comfortably above the national average.

What Is Climate Change?

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A discussion of climate change jobs would not be complete without a discussion of climate change. Part of this discussion will necessarily include becoming familiar with the kind of individuals that are involved in combatting climate change at all levels. This effort includes many different individuals from activists, lobbyists and fundraisers to environmental scientists and engineers. Fighting the process of unhealthy weather changes will involve a large number of people working in climate change jobs at all levels.

A 2018 Nobel Prize was given to an economist, Paul Romer, whose work at the World Bank and other institutions involved integrating technological advances into economic policy to effect changes into problems including climate change. The awarding of this prize not only underscores how significant climate change is, it also highlights that even economists can be involved in the work of addressing climate change and making suggestions regarding how governments and international organizations can address it.

So what is climate change? This term refers to the statistical change in weather patterns over an extended period of time. In other words, changes in temperature, precipitation, storms or other natural phenomena that are not brief or documented occasionally, but which represent a changed pattern. The climate change that most of you will be familiar with is the change that we associate with human activity. A large number of human activities are proposed to affect climate, including:

  • 1
    Use of fossil fuels
  • 2
    Carbon dioxide emissions from industry and other activities
  • 3
    Aerosol emissions
  • 4
    Animal husbandry
  • 5
    Deforestation

Climate change is also known as global warming, and one can glean from this list that not only are there many common activities that contribute to global warming, but there are many ways (and many professionals) that can combat this trend. What this means for people interested in working in climate change or global warming is that you have many points of entry into the field. This also means that the sort of salaries that you can expect to earn will also tend to be quite variable.

What Are Climate Change Jobs?

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There are many climate change jobs available. Many individuals work in climate change activities even though their training or the normal scope of their work may be outside the realm of climate change. Although it is true that an economist or a hard scientist may find his work overlapping with matters of climate change, strictly speaking, these professionals would generally be considered outside the scope of climate change jobs. In general, jobs in climate change would typically include the following professionals (among others):

  • Environmental Scientists
  • Environmental Specialists
  • Environmental Analysts
  • Environmental Consultants and Advisors
  • Program Directors
  • Project Managers
  • Researchers and Research Fellows
  • Fundraisers and Fundraising Managers
  • Administrators

This is just a small subset of the types of jobs that are normally encountered in organizations working in climate change. They represent the reality that organizations involved in global warming need workers at all levels, from interns and researchers up to scientists, analysts, program directors and administrators. Climate change jobs therefore naturally encompass both the workers normally found in climate change organizations as well as individuals working in the field for the government, universities or other large bodies involved in work with large research budgets.

It should be clear that there is some degree of overlap in the work involved in climate change jobs. For example, an environmental engineer can work as a consultant, analyst, project manager or in administration. As a convenient starting point to understand climate change jobs and their trajectory, we will take a look at the work of environmental scientists and how their profession is expected to change in the United States in the near future.

Environmental scientists are scientists involved in research and data collection on environmental issues. Environmental scientists may have training in one of several different areas including environmental science, geology, hydrology, agricultural science, or other related fields. Environmental scientists may work for different types of organizations and in many different settings. In terms of education, environmental scientists have at least a bachelor’s degree although master’s degrees are common and may be required for some jobs.

Some workers in environmental science pursue higher education and training in the form of doctoral degrees or postdoctoral training programs. The typical work functions for environmental scientists include the collection and analysis of data and the regulatory work of keeping up with government standards and making sure that the organizations they work for are adherent to code.

What Is the Current Availability of Climate Change Jobs?

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Climate change jobs are widely available all over the United States, encompassing the roles listed above. Workers in this field are engaged in all levels of work, from interns and entry-level researchers straight on up. An interesting facet of the field of climate change is that there are companies and organizations that specialize solely in this work, as well as government bodies, institutes and educational establishments that hire workers in this field.

Environmental scientists and other climate change workers can find themselves working for many different types of organizations. Although environmental scientists commonly work for government organizations, they may also work for consulting firms and other private organizations. Workers in environmental science commonly work in the laboratory setting, but they may be involved in fieldwork or other data collection activities. Their hours may be irregular with junior workers often working longer hours.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports that there were approximately 90,000 jobs for environmental scientists and specialists in 2017. The profession is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is a faster rate than the projected growth in all jobs over the same time frame in the United States. The typical requirement for entry into this profession is a bachelor’s degree. Though salaries will be discussed in the next section, workers with higher levels of education, training and experience generally can expect to earn higher salaries.

In addition to education, training, and experience, other variables can impact the salary and job outlook of workers in climate change jobs. One of the important factors impacting salary and job outlook is organization. Many climate change jobs involve work for the government and some government climate change jobs in environmental science can pay well into the six-figure range.

What Are Typical Salaries for Climate Change Jobs?

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According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for environmental scientists and specialists in 2017 was $69,400. These salaries fell within a range, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than about $41,000 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $122,510. Contrary to what some might expect, jobs for the federal government tend to pay higher than average, which we touched on earlier. The median wage for environmental scientists and specialist working or the government was $101,400.

Earnings for environmental scientists and specialists compared well to workers in other, related occupations according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. They earned slightly less than physical scientists, who had a median wage of about $78,000 in 2017. The BLS predicts that there will be an increase of nearly 10,000 jobs in this field between 2016 and 2026, which may positively impact salaries as interest in this area of international concern grows.

Conclusion

Workers in climate change jobs have the satisfaction of knowing they are not only satisfying their own interests in this exciting area of work and study but also addressing a serious world problem. Climate change is irreversible and various government organizations and other bodies have risen to the challenge of coming up with solutions to an ever-growing problem. What this means for prospective workers in climate change jobs is that they can expect a relatively high and stable salary in government work, and a prospected job growth that will exceed the national average over the next ten years.

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