Setting your sights on an environmentally sustainable career

screenshot from green jobs video

Do you want to make the world a better place? A growing number of people want to have a positive impact on the planet. This is especially true for the young post-millennials of Generation Z who have environmental sustainability and social responsibility running through their veins!

Opportunities for career seekers committed to a sustainable future are increasing as environmental awareness grows and rules for greater accountability and care of the environment tighten.

Green jobs top the charts

Jobs connected to environmental sustainability are diverse and typically relate to protection of the natural environment. For example, jobs that measure, prevent, limit, minimise or correct environmental damage to water, air and soil, as well as dealing with problems related to waste, noise and ecosystems.

Green jobs with the largest direct positive impact on environmental problems are those connected with science and engineering. Your scientific knowledge could, for example, help find alternatives to pesticides that harm bees, or your engineering skills could help design new equipment and systems to improve water quality, or enable you to work on big renewable energy projects.

With an environmental science background, here are some job pathways you could follow:

  • Education officer – involved in a range of activities to promote environmental awareness, such as developing educational programmes for schools.
  • Environmental consultant – providing assessment and advisory services for clients on how to manage their environmental footprint.
  • Environmental technician – monitoring the environment and investigating sources of pollution by doing laboratory and field tests.
  • Policy analyst – helping to develop sustainable business policies for ministries concerned with conservation and the environment.
  • Researcher – working on innovative science projects, for example, lowering greenhouse gases and developing sustainable agriculture.
  • Waste management engineer – designing sustainable water and wastewater systems.
  • Water quality scientist – testing and analysing water from lakes, rivers and streams, and providing solutions to improve water quality.

Not all green jobs have a direct impact on the environment. In some positions people may make an indirect contribution by creating and enforcing sustainable laws and policies. Jobs such as sustainability manager and environmental co-ordinator now appear in industries such as construction and manufacturing. You will need an environmental management qualification for these roles.

Exciting selection of environmentally-focused courses

Various courses and qualifications are offered by tertiary providers to meet the challenges of employment in an increasingly environmentally-conscious age. For example, Lincoln University offers agriculture and environmental qualifications and has a major focus on lessening the impact of agriculture on the planet. Lincoln also incorporates sustainability and climate change issues into its teaching and research. 

Here’s a selection of environmental qualification options at tertiary level:

  • Bachelor of Environment and Society – Lincoln University
  • Diploma in Environment and Sustainability – Open Polytechnic
  • Bachelor of Business in Sustainable Enterprise with papers in climate change, environmental monitoring – AUT
  • Post-graduate Diploma in Science in Environmental Management – The University of Auckland
  • Master of Engineering Studies (renewable energy systems) – Massey University 

Wide range of career options in organisations with a sustainable world view

The sustainability movement includes many national and international organisations working to promote social and environmental responsibility in their specific areas. Often these are not-for-profit organisations involved in educating individuals and companies to be more sustainable.

Typically these groups have educational, fundraising, communications and marketing strands to their work. By networking and volunteering for work experience in environmental organisations you may be inspired to get qualified in an area of the sustainable economy of the future.

Watch the video ‘Working for a sustainable future’ to see a Wellington-based organisation helping to raise environmental awareness. Janet Young, an educator at the Sustainability Trust, talks about the education programmes they run and where she sees the biggest demand for green jobs happening. 

Traditional jobs like trades taking on a shade of green

Many traditional job roles are changing as industries adapt to a more environmentally focused world. Trades such as mechanical engineer, plumber, electrician and automotive technician now include specialised training for servicing energy efficient equipment, appliances, buildings and vehicles.


To discuss your career options and get practical advice on how to work towards your green career, you can speak with one of our career advisers on 0800 601 301. 

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