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Going Green: Eco-Friendly Ideas and Environmental Issues  - Article Details
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Top Environmental College Degrees For Green Collar Jobs

Date Added: March 17, 2009 04:00:51 PM
Author: Lisa Jenkins
Category: Going Green Jobs

Top Environmental College Degrees For Green Collar Jobs
By Lisa Jenkins

This is the right time to be searching for a green collar job, because the world is investing heavily into the environmental sciences. With petroleum prices as high as they are governments are finally giving incentives to companies who invest in alternative energy, in eco-friendly packaging, recycling, and other green initiatives. But getting a job in this 'green' niche isn't easy without the right kind of college degree. Here are the top college degree programs for people interested in getting on the green train:

Environmental Science Degrees

What is it?

This is a large scientific field which includes some well known areas of study such as ecology, forestry, geology, and hydrology. Over the years, this arena has grown to also cover such areas as the soil sciences, natural resource conservation, atmospheric science, and some aspects of oceanography. And, no matter what area you choose to study, conservation and sustainability is the ultimate goal.

Course of Study and Curriculum

These degree programs provide a broad field of study natural and social sciences. This allows students to create their own focus of study as the progress in the department. Many college programs offer an interdisciplinary curriculum which incorporates courses from the natural and social sciences, as well as technology, business, law, and other fields. The knowledge from these courses allows students to have a better understanding on problems such as pollution, the human population, waste management, and wildlife conservation.

At the Graduate level, a Master of Science allows students to develop a specialized field of study. This advanced degree increases job value and is sometimes necessary for more advanced careers.


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of jobs for environmental scientists will grow more rapidly than average over the next 5-10 years.

With people focused on the environment, the work of scientists will remain critical to the goals of sustainability and conservation. Scientists are needed not only as watchdogs of the environment, but also as consultants when it comes to the education of the community. Their expertise is needed in areas of water quality, recycling, waste management, and various public and individual efforts to "go green." Also, the continued implementation of federal and state policies and corporate regulations will continue to increase the need for trained workers.

Most professionals in the field find work in environmental protection, research, and natural resource conservation. And, as the need for workers increases across many employment sectors, scientists are now found working for government entities, public and private agencies, and non-profit companies, as well as in the world of academia as teachers and professors.

Environmental Studies Degrees

What is it?

This is an interdisciplinary field focusing on the interaction of humans and the environments, mainly the ecosystems of the planet. A wide ranging field, it can include various ecosystems and habitats, such as the natural and social environments, planned environments (urban), and the interrelationships among them.

Course of Study and Curriculum

Degree programs incorporate the natural (biology, physics, geology) and social sciences (philosophy and ethics, history, sociology, anthropology) and many fields in humanities, with the focus on learning about humans, society, and the relationships to the natural world. This is another field where students have the opportunity to develop their own course of study and academic focus.

Samples of courses offered at the University of Oregon:

- Climatology - Physics of the Atmosphere - Forest Biology - Wetland Ecology & Management - Human Ecology - Population and Environment - Political Ecology - Ecological Energy Generation - Environmental Alteration - Geological Hazards - Human Adaptation - Human Population


The job market for professionals is expected to grow. As public consideration of issues concerning the environment and the management of natural resources increases, and as more government agencies and corporations are pushed to comply with environmental regulations and policies, the need for trained workers will increase.

Graduates find careers with large businesses and corporations, mainly focusing on policy compliance, or working for smaller companies in the field of resource management and conservation. Professionals also find work in panning, policy administration, and analysis.

Environmental Policy and Management Degrees

What is it?

This field relates to the use of natural resources and the connection to human and economic factors. It is an interdisciplinary field of study, incorporating everything from eco-related issues and policies to sustainable development and planning. It involves the supervision and control of the environment and natural resources, while optimizing sustainability and minimizing negative impacts.

Course of Study and Curriculum

The field focuses on the delicate relationship between the environment and its ecosystems and the development of business and industry. It is a broad field that can incorporate Urban Planning, EH&S, and even Environmental Science programs. Due to this wide range of study, students in this major study topics in the natural and social sciences, humanities, business, and law.


With the attention now paid to green concerns, there is an increasing demand for trained professionals to oversee movements to improve the quality of the environment, and to guide public efforts on the local, regional, and national fronts.

Graduates enter careers that focus on the financial and social aspects of business and eco-friendly practices. Careers are found in a wide range of areas including, advocacy and policy groups, and smaller business and non-profit entities, and as consultants for government agencies, public and private companies, and large corporations. People devote their careers to ensuring that governmental policies and regulations are strictly enforced.

Green Law Degrees

What is it?

Due to the increase of federal policies and regulations (there are now over 15 federal environmental statutes) that have been enacted to protect the environment from the problems of pollution and resource misuse, Green Law is a growing field. The field includes the application and enforcement of policy, the overseeing of corporate responsibility, the treatment of waste and the regulation of the sanitation industry, the testing and improvement of water and air quality, and the manufacturing of household goods, to name a few.

Course of Study and Curriculum

Green Law students study an interdisciplinary curriculum of law and science, which often includes courses in economics, ethics, and urban and regional planning.

Areas of Focus at Pace Law School:

- Pollution Control and Enforcement - International and Comparative Environmental Law - Land use - Energy - Climate Change

Courses Offered:

- Compliance and Enforcement - Animal Law - Protection of Cultural Resources - Conservation Law - Energy and Natural Resources - Historic Preservation - Ocean and Coastal Law


The growing awareness and concern over eco-issues has resulted in an evolving field of green law. Due to this, the demand for lawyers in the field is expected to increase over the next few years.

Lawyers are now found in major law firms across the country, in federal, state and local environmental agencies, and on staff at many nonprofit eco-organizations (Greenpeace). These lawyers represent public interest and advocacy groups (EPA), concerning adherence to federal policies.

Environmental Engineering Degrees

What is it?

This type of engineering involves the application of scientific and engineering practices to prevent environmental damage and to correct existing problems. People in this field are involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of structures and methods aimed at protecting the environment and sustainability. Involved in this is water and air quality control, waste management, alternative energy development and research, pollution research, and many other environmentally based practices.

Course of Study and Curriculum

Programs incorporate the natural, social, and physical sciences to analyze, correct, and improve the interactions society, technology, and the environment. While many schools are developing Environmental Engineering programs, most are still found in the main Engineering departments of universities across the U.S.

A bachelor's degree is required for most engineering positions, however, engineers often continue their education with graduate degrees and certificate programs to stay updated on industry changes and to attain advanced positions.

Areas of Study at the University of Connecticut:

- Water Supply and Resources - Systems Modeling - Green Chemistry - Waste Management (Solid, Wastewater, Hazardous Wastes) - Atmospheric Systems and Air Pollution Control - Environmental and Occupational Health - Hydrology of Earth Resources


As the shift to alternative fuel and power sources increases and as more corporate regulations and eco-policies are enacted, personnel are needed to build, operate, and maintain technologies and machinery according to regulations. Over the next decade, the need for recent graduates in the field and transitional engineers will increase.

Green engineers work in the fields of waste water treatment, hazardous waste and materials control, and air and water quality control.

The United States and other developed countries have begun investing into clean energy research, slowly shifting away from total dependence on fossil fuels. One sees more hybrid cars on the road, and in every major newspaper there are weekly stories about new green collar jobs related to solar and wind power, biofuel development, and in other sectors. Lisa Jenkins, a freelance career writer for JobMonkey, breaks down opportunities in these industries, including where to pursue environmental science degrees both online and through traditional universities

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