The fastest-growing green jobs in the U.S.


What’s the career equivalent of a building manager’s “master key” — the unique job title that opens the hiring door at practically every company?

The winning answer this year isn’t exactly in tech, even though elite companies such as Tesla, Ericsson and Analog Devices are trying to fill such positions right now. Instead, its value registers everywhere from retailers such as REI to food companies such as Kellogg. For that matter, U.S. universities need this specialty too — as does The Huntington, an elegant library, museum and garden in San Marino, Calif.

We’re talking about the booming role of environmental health and safety specialists. Across the full sweep of the U.S. economy, these EHS specialists help keep workplaces and their surroundings safe. Their roles focus on everything from broad policies to detailed on-site inspections.

A new analysis of the fastest-growing “green jobs” in the United States puts EHS specialists at the top of the list. This ranking, compiled by LinkedIn’s Economic Graph research team, is based on multi-year hiring trends for a wide range of environment-related positions in the United States since 2016.

Turn the clock back a few decades, and many employers treated health and safety as its own standalone function, with environmental oversight off to the side by itself. But it’s increasingly common to see all three of these functions fused together into a single, all-purpose department — putting environmental concerns at the front of the list.

What’s led to the change? Experts point to factors such as growing public interest in eco-safe products, along with more sophisticated — and pervasive — ways of assessing risk. A desire to adopt well-integrated, “lean” production systems has also spurred the unification of environmental, health and safety perspectives.

The result has been a surge in EHS hiring at all levels. At the most senior levels, LinkedIn data shows an annual growth rate of 26% for “head of EHS” positions since 2016. Moving down a rung, to the “EHS manager” level, the annual growth rate has been 17.3%. And in the non-managerial ranks, there’s been 22.1% annual growth in hiring of “EHS specialists.”

To avoid repetition, all three of those seniority levels are represented in the chart’s first entry.

With a growth rate that high, it’s not surprising that people from a wide range of backgrounds have moved into EHS careers. It’s a common destination for people with environmental-science degrees, but it’s also become a home for people who previously worked as financial analysts, administrative assistants and even pro football players.

Chelsea Mozen epitomizes the importance of sustainability managers, who show up as the third-ranked green job title on the rise. She works at Etsy, the online crafts marketplace, which has attracted attention for its sustainability work (as well as for a current fees-related dispute with its sellers.)

This recent Fortune profile chronicled Mozen’s work as Etsy’s senior director for impact and sustainability. One project of note: an initiative to invest in carbon offsets, so as to offset the environmental impact of all the shipping packages that Etsy-affiliated merchants use.

For foresters, the No. 4 green job on LinkedIn’s ranking, more than half of current employment is with federal, state and local governments, rather than with private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Priorities may include planting new trees as well as finding ways to “conserve wildlife habitats, creek beds, water quality and soil stability,” the BLS explains.

Agronomists (No. 5) work on ways to improve plants’ durability and yield. That can often lead them into work on soil conservation and sustainability. Arborists (No. 7) manage the growth and development of trees. Their work is more likely to be in urban settings, working one tree at a time, as opposed to foresters’ focus on large wilderness areas.

A list of in-demand green jobs wouldn’t be complete without some sort of call-out to solar energy opportunities (No. 6) and wind-power work (No. 8). Both those lines of work show up on the BLS’s predictions of fast-growing jobs by 2030, too, on the belief that there’s a lot more alternative-energy capacity that needs to be built and installed.

For a full rundown of global green skills, check out this special LinkedIn report. And if you’re comfortably settled into a different industry but still are eager to keep tabs on the growth of the green sector, you’re not alone.

A few days ago, I launched a straw poll on LinkedIn, asking people about their degree of interest or involvement in the green economy. Among the poll’s 392 respondents, only 13% said: “I’ve got a green job and love it.” (Another 27% said: “Not for me.)

The most popular choice, attracting 55% of all votes, was: “Don’t have one, but I’m intrigued.”

Green jobs are defined as ones that can’t be performed without extensive knowledge of skills relating to the environmental sustainability of economic activities (i.e. green skills.) This analysis looks at green jobs that have experienced rapid hiring growth since 2016, including during the 2020-2021 span of the COVID pandemic.

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