Generally speaking, a green career is one that promotes sustainability (enabling the current generation to meet its needs without negatively impacting future generations), remedies or prevents environmental damage, and advances the triple bottom line (putting people, profit, and planet on equal footing). Internships and jobs can be found in private industry (from green tech startups and sustainable food businesses to large corporations with socially responsible commitments), mission-driven and non-governmental organizations (like the United Nations or The Natural Resources Defense Council), and educational institutions (from elementary schools to higher education institutions).
You might work in media to cover environmental issues, in facilities to ensure environmental health and safety of workers, designing or marketing new products or services that are environmentally sound, as a consultant to help companies comply with regulations, in policy or law, to encourage change by lawmakers and defend the environment, or at a venture capital firm or social investing firm to strategize green investing. Some positions can be found at companies with an obvious environmental mission (i.e. a grant writer at the Environmental Defense Fund), while others might be positions that are focused on environmental work within a seemingly unrelated company (i.e. a supply chain or corporate social responsibility manager at Timberland).
To learn more about options, visit The National Center for O*NET Development’s comprehensive overview of green economic sectors and green occupations.
In the green sector, most people have a passion for solving complex problems, working with new or emerging research and technologies, and see themselves as agents of change. Sought after skills and abilities (from a survey conducted by the US EPA) include communication skills (speaking, writing, visual, listening), broad environmental science understanding, creativity and innovation, critical thinking, and technical skills.
If you are interested in working at a mission-driven organization, starting off as a volunteer can be a great way to get your foot in the door.
Other ways to show interest in, gain experience in, and start to transition into the field is by taking on or getting involved in making your own student group, community organization, or company more environmentally-friendly - even if it’s not in your official job title.
An internship or job search can take anywhere from three to nine months, so it’s best to start the process early. Different industries recruit in different ways, and even within industries, individual organizations often have their own timelines. See our Finding a Job web page for more information on strategizing your search. A job search in this sector, like all others, requires research (into the type of work you want to do, and knowing who is doing it), networking (meeting people who are doing work that interests you), using tailored online job boards (and organization web sites directly) and direct outreach techniques. There are plenty of Columbia resources that can assist you in each piece of the process.
- CCE’s Fall and Spring Career Fairs, Engineering Consortium Career Fair (fall), and Startup Career Fair (spring), connect Columbia students and alumni with employers. Past green/environmental-related participants include NYC Department of Design and Construction, Community Water Solutions, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Grid, GZA GeoEnvironmental, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, ERS, and Proctor & Gamble.
- LionSHARE Under the job search tab, try key word searching for ‘energy’ or ‘environment’ or ‘sustainability’; select ‘environment/conservation’ in the job function menu; or select industries including ‘agriculture,’ ‘environmental services,’ or ‘waste management or remediation services’ in the employer industry menu. Examples of organizations that post include CH2M Hill, Con Edison, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Betterfarm, R3 Energy Management Audit & Review, Transportation Alternatives, and Acumen Fund.
- Vault and WetFeet are excellent career resources for learning about companies and industries. In Vault, you will find the Vault Guide to Environmental Careers, Vault Career Guide to the Energy Industry and Vault Guide to Green Programs. Wetfeet offers a Guide to Green Careers and a Guide to Careers with a Conscience.
- CCE provides a webinar called Growing Your Green Career: Building a Sustainable Future for You and the Planet. Listen in to demystify the green sector, learn ways to build experience, and get tips on finding opportunities.
- Read profiles of alumni working in the green sector, including:
- The Earth Institute hosts the All Ivy Sustainable Development Fair each spring (see link for participant organizations). Follow the Institute’s calendar of events for regular panels and networking opportunities. The Institute also offers internship program, travel grants, and research programs.
- The Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University offers Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships to a select group of undergraduate students.
- The Earth and Environmental Engineering department at Columbia provides study in environmental health, sustainable energy and materials, and water resources and climate risks. Learn about research opportunities for students.
- Columbia’s student-run organizations offer ways to explore career options, gain experience, and network. Groups include: Earth Coalition, Scientists and Engineers for a Better Society, CURES (Columbia University Renewable Energy Society), and Columbia Engineers without Borders.
- There are a number of Entrepreneurship resources at Columbia. If you’re interested in working at a Startup or launching a company of your own, visit the Start Up industry resource page.
- Columbia offers assistance to students and alumni interested in pursuing Fellowships (scholarship and research opportunities). Learn about the programs and offices for different schools on campus: CC/SEAS, GS, and GSAS.
- Sign up for the Science opportunities email listserv through the Center for Student Advising
- Social Venture Network
- American Solar
- International Society of Sustainability Professionals
- International Ecotourism Society
- Northeast Sustainable Energy Association
- Society for Environmental Journalists
- Water Environment Federation
- Environmental Career Opportunities
- Science Careers Forum
- Stop Dodo
- Green Job Engine
Urban Planning/Design & Building
Socially Responsible Business & Investing
- Business for Social Responsibility
- Green Dream Jobs
- Just Means
- B Corps Job Board
- Social Investment Forum
International Development, Non Profit, Government
Social Venture Competitions
- NewsWeek’s Top 500 Green Business Rankings
- Certified B Corporations
- GreenTech Media
Last Updated June 2015