Are you interested in the environment and natural resources? Consider exploring sustainability careers.
From government agencies to non-profits, career options are diverse and can include: renewable energy specialist, health and safety coordinator, environmental protection agent, wildlife expert, or conservation officer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “although their specific career paths might differ, sustainability professionals promote environmental protection, social responsibility, and profitability.”
The outlook for sustainability careers is strong. There is incredible demand in this space for individuals who understand the interconnectedness and complexity of sustainability, possess strong problem-solving skills, and are capable of drawing on different disciplines to develop robust solutions.
There are a variety of career opportunities within sustainability across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in areas including industry, consulting, utilities, regulatory and governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations. If sustainability is important to you below is a sample of career areas you may be interested to explore:
- Environmental policy and planning
- Government and regulatory agencies
- Environmental science and conservation
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
- Environmental Social Governance (ESG)
- Corporate sustainability
- Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) or other nonprofits
- Public Health
- Community development
- Food justice and agriculture
- Research and development
- Energy, alternative energy, and energy storage
- Waste and recycling
- Supply chain
- Marketing and media
- Event planning
- Fashion and apparel
Environmentalscience.org is an informative website that offers resources about careers across a variety of sectors that include environmental policy and planning, agriculture and forestry, sustainability, and public health.
Prepare for Jobs and Internships
Information, tips, and strategies to help prepare you as an undergraduate.
- Communication: strong writing and presentation skills
- Data analysis and data visualization
- Problem-solving, especially the ability to take an interdisciplinary approach
- Project management and budgeting
- Fieldwork and observational skills
- Scientific research
- Collaboration: ability to work with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, organizations, and areas of expertise
- Decision-making, especially in the face of less-than-perfect information
- Computing skills: spreadsheets and database management, familiarity with GIS software
- Attention to detail
- Efficient multitasking
- Strong work ethic
Be familiar with these terms and use them in application materials and networking conversations:
- Micro Grid
- Integrated Company
- Climate Change
- Green Energy
- Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
- Renewable Energy
- Non-renewable Natural Resource
- Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)
Outdoor Education Program Learning cannot be limited to the classroom. This program is consistently ranked as one of the nation's best as it helps students, faculty, and staff explore their sense of place and adventure.
Students for Environmental Action Participants in this organization educate and energize students about recycling, waste reduction, energy consumption reduction, and greater community issues.
Sustainability Council As an educational institution, Colgate recognizes its responsibility to be socially, economically, and environmentally responsible while protecting the surrounding environment and promoting a sense of environmental stewardship among its faculty, staff, and students.
Upstate Institute The mission of the institute is to create linkages between Colgate University and the regional community to engage students, faculty, staff, and residents in research and a reciprocal transfer of knowledge that will enhance the economic, social, and cultural capacity of the area and sustain the environment.
Colgate’s Sustainability Office Students are vital contributors to the University's sustainability efforts. This office facilitates opportunities for students to actively participate and take leadership roles in sustainability programming.
Green Thumbs A student club with the mission of managing and promoting the Colgate Community Garden in order to provide local, student-produced, organic produce to the student community.
Green Earth Gang A student organization that teaches local elementary students at Madison Central School about the environment and sustainability in an accessible way through art projects and crafts.
Beekeeping Club The club focuses on improving sustainable efforts at Colgate by increasing students’ awareness of the importance of bees to the environment. Colgate owns three hives so students take an active role in caring for bees and harvesting honey.
Environmental Studies Program - The environmental studies program is designed to enhance your awareness of the complexity of regional and global environmental issues and to underscore the consequences and impacts of the human experience on the environment. The program administers five majors: Environmental biology, Environmental economics, Environmental geography, Environmental geology, and Environmental studies.
Additionally, there may be courses offered through Colgate’s natural, life, and physical science departments.
Common Thread - This Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) farm serves Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, and Syracuse. The farm is located in Madison, just 5 miles north of Colgate University near the tip of Lake Moraine.
Madison County Agricultural Economic Development - The primary objective of this group is to maintain, develop, and promote a viable agricultural economy that benefits Madison County.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) - The DEC was created on July 1,1970 to combine in a single agency all state programs designed to protect and enhance the environment.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) - NYSERDA strives to facilitate change through the widespread development and use of innovative technologies to improve the State’s energy, economic, and environmental well-being.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition - This alliance of grassroots organizations advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - Posts internships and apprenticeships.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education - This grants and education program has advanced agricultural innovation that promotes profitability, stewardship of the land, air, and water, and quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and their communities.
- United States Department of Agriculture - This grants and education program has advanced agricultural innovation that promotes profitability, stewardship of the land, air, and water, and quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and their communities.
- Conservation International - Nonprofit that applies innovations in science, economics, policy, and community participation to protect biodiversity around the world.
- Student Conservation Association - Their members protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks, and community green spaces in all 50 states.
- The Nature Conservancy - The leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people
Green Building & Architecture
- Architecture 2030 - A non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization that was established in response to the global-warming crisis
- Environmental Building News - Provides information designed to help building-industry professionals and policy makers improve the environmental performance of buildings
- Sustainable Cities - A non-profit, SCI works with cities around the world to bring about change towards urban sustainability.
- United States Green Building Council: LEED Certification - Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is an internationally recognized certification system that measures how well a building or community performs across all the metrics of sustainability
Higher Education & Sustainability
- AASHE Bulletin - A weekly compilation of the latest sustainability news, resources, events, and opportunities at colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada.
- American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) - Provides a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to implement comprehensive plans in pursuit of climate neutrality.
- National Wildlife Federation: Campus Ecology - This program promotes climate leadership and sustainability among colleges and universities.
National & Global & Sustainability
- 350.org - 350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Climate - EPA's climate change programs and activities are an integral part of the Agency's mission to protect human health and the environment.
- Green America - Their mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.
Outdoor / Environmental Education
- National Environment Education Foundation - NEEF is an organization in lifelong environmental learning, connecting people to knowledge they use to improve the quality of their lives and the health of the planet.
- North American Association for Environmental Education
- Outdoor Ed - Provides a rich community for professional outdoor and experiential educators to come together and share their knowledge, ideas, questions, and issues.
- Outward Bound - This non-profit educational organization serves people of all ages and backgrounds through active learning expeditions that inspire character development, self-discovery, and service both in and out of the classroom.
- Overland - Overland offers 43 carefully crafted outdoors, service, language immersion, writing, environmental studies, field studies, and gap year programs for 10 to 19 year olds.
- Wilderness Therapy Treatment Programs
Advice from alumni who work in this industry.
Kathryn Bacher ’14
Current Title and Organization: Special Assistant at U.S. Department of State
Major at Colgate: Environmental Economics
What do you currently do?
In my position, I am responsible for conducting policy research on the issues under our committee's jurisdiction, prepping for hearings and press conferences, answering constituent calls, and aiding the committee staff with miscellaneous tasks.
What was your first position out of Colgate and what did you do in that role?
I had a paid 6-month internship at a DC environmental think tank called the World Resources Institute. In this role, I researched and wrote a publication with colleagues outlining a guide for policymakers in developing countries on how to adopt mandatory greenhouse gas reporting programs.
How can students prepare themselves while at Colgate to work in your field?
The Environmental Studies Program and the Office of Sustainability Internship Program are great resources for students interested in climate change and environmental policy. Given Colgate's goal to become carbon neutral by 2019, students should try to get as involved as they can for that historic achievement.
What extracurricular activities, associated with your profession or not, were you involved with while at Colgate?
Given that I've been interested in environmental policy since I got to Colgate, most of my extracurricular activities aligned with this interest — I was an intern in the Office of Sustainability, served on SGA as the Environmental Policy Coordinator, and was the Sustainability Chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Jackie Gerson ’11, PhD student in ecology, Duke University; Sammi Leroy ’14, project consultant, Energy and Resource Solutions; Andrew Pettit ’11, CEO, AMP Green Solutions
- Colgate Office of Sustainability Internships - The Office of Sustainability offers several internship positions each year. In the past, they have included internships for Green Raiders, composting, Green Bikes, the Community Garden, food and dining, and communication. Check availability or apply for these positions on the portal.
- Smithsonian Environmental Research Center - Lists openings for jobs, internships, and volunteer positions.
- Washington D.C. Internships in Environmental Policy and Agriculture - All located in the DC area, focusing mostly on policy and research.
- Energy.gov - Provides information on experiential and educational opportunities from internships to graduate fellowships.
- Conservation Job Board - Posts jobs related to conservation, ecology, forestry, restoration, wildlife, fisheries, marine science, environmental education, land trusts, protected areas, outdoor recreation, ecotourism, and more.
- Environmental Career Opportunities (EcoJobs) - Frequently updated, neatly categorized environmental job board.
- Green Dream Jobs - Your home for green jobs: renewable and clean energy jobs (solar, wind jobs), green building jobs, organic jobs, and all environmental and sustainable jobs.
- Green Jobs Ready - An online informative portal offering the latest news views and resources on breakthrough green jobs training programs in the Renewable Energy world.
- Idealist.org - Search for jobs and internships in the environment, energy conservation, wildlife and animal welfare, and more. International jobs are listed as well.
Colgate Handshake Opportunities
Check Colgate Handshake, Colgate's internship and job database, for opportunities that may interest you in this field.
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