What Are the Options for a
Career in Sustainability?

See also: Careers Involving the Natural World

You may have just finished a sustainability-related degree, or are simply fascinated by this emerging field, but how do the career prospects match up to reality? One thing is for sure–there are jobs out there and, with a little narrowing down, getting the right job for you is a real possibility.

Like any new field, exactly what sustainability is can be hard to pin down. In the general sense, sustainability is based on the principle of preserving the environment so that humans can exist in a productive way that supports present and future generations. In the business world, the options are endless. You could be an environmental consultant, urban planner, solar panel engineer or green city builder.

Oak tree in a green field with a blue sky.

1. Breaking It Down

With such a wide variety of jobs out there, choosing what to aim for can be overwhelming. Really understanding your interests, skills, as well as your career values is a great place to start. Try identifying what aspects of sustainability you are most passionate about–what really makes you excited, whether it’s renewable energy, conservation, social justice, or sustainable agriculture.

Your interests will guide your career choice and, in the long run, play a vital role in keeping you motivated. Alongside motivation should be real skills. It's important to ask yourself what you excel at or consider a psychometric test that matches personality, intelligence and motivation with real job suggestions.

Sustainability is about making a positive impact; it can be very value-driven, so consider what your values are and how they affect your choices. Think about what changes you want to see in the world, like fighting climate change, promoting social equity, or advocating for animal rights. Consider upskilling with sustainability courses online where your values will give your career direction and purpose.

2. Environmental Science

Environmental science comes in a few different shapes and sizes. The field combines physical, biological, and information sciences to study and solve environmental problems.

If you're considering a career in sustainability and like science, then becoming an environmental scientist could be right up your alley. These professionals tackle critical issues like climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and pollution with a very evidence-based approach.

Environmental and physical scientists often work to mitigate environmental damage. This is an ideal career path for people wanting to combine their scientific mindset and passion for protecting the environment. As businesses and governments increasingly recognise the importance of sustainable practices, the demand for skilled environmental scientists is growing. Choosing this career not only allows you to contribute meaningfully to sustainability but also offers an engaging and rewarding career.

3. Consulting

Sustainability consulting often involves advising organisations on how to approach environmental, social, and governance issues. With growing awareness and regulation increasing, this field has grown greatly in recent times. Specific consulting jobs vary greatly, and the people who work them even more. In Australia, more lawyers specialise in environmental law, and law school is a good starting place for any consultancy job. In the field, consultants can make a real difference in so many ways: helping clients drive climate action, scaling green ventures, and finding funding for new ventures.

Consultants assist industry leaders in creating climate innovations, expanding market presence, and facilitating capital flow into sustainable business prospects. They focus on decarbonisation through emission benchmarking, targeted carbon reduction strategies, and sustainable business improvements. Consultants can unlock impactful investments for cleaner industries and work with clients to transform their businesses to meet new regulations and sustainable standards. Consultants also build climate-risk resiliency for governments and corporations and promote renewable energy expansion in heavy industries. As companies set more ambitious sustainability goals, the demand for good quality, knowledgeable consultants will grow.

4. Renewable Energy

With the boom in renewables, there has been a boom in production and, as a result, job opportunities. Many roles have an engineering background like renewable energy engineers, who plan, design, and manage renewable energy projects. Project engineers design and implement these projects, while senior engineers in energy generation provide strategic leadership and drive technical project delivery.

Solar project engineers focus specifically on solar systems, and electrical design managers design advanced battery energy storage systems and solar farms. Construction project managers oversee the construction of renewable energy facilities. These roles require a range of skills, from technical knowledge to project management and strategic planning, reflecting the sector's growth and the increasing demand for sustainable energy solutions.

5. Urban Planner

As our cities grow and change faster than ever, as cities develop, more emphasis is put on making them sustainable and liveable by integrating green spaces, parks, and recreational areas to promote well-being. In Australia, large cities like Melbourne and Sydney are moving away from single-use zoning; they advocate for mixed-use zoning to create vibrant, diverse neighbourhoods where people can live, work, and play without having to travel to the centre.

A big focus of sustainability is renewable energy, and, as is evident across Australia and other countries, more and more homes are being fitted with solar systems; in fact, around 3 million Australian houses now have solar energy systems fitted.

The Next Generation

Sustainability is all about managing resources well; it’s a fine balance between using what we have now and ensuring that future generations have enough, or more than enough, resources for their needs.

A career in sustainability requires real passion, but if you are tenacious, passionate and motivated, there are certainly jobs out there.

About the Author

Caitlyn Bell is an arts student whose experiences in life make her tougher than anyone else. She can lend you expert tips on diverse topics ranging from relationships to fashion, making money, health, and careers.