One amazing thing about studying sustainability is that it can be applied to practically anything. Although it is often connected with environmental protection and conservation, sustainability also includes social and economic impacts. In fact, many companies adopt sustainability strategies to increase profits, and the environmental aspects become an added bonus.
As a result, once you graduate you get a wide range of areas to choose from – whether it is a corporate career, environmental activism, education or governmental institutions. To get a better sense of where students decide to go, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies has been doing a yearly survey of its latest sustainability alumni 6 months after the graduation day. Below is the break-down by sector of the Class of 2011 Masters employment profile.
(Source: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Employment Profiles and Salary Data. Class of 2011 Masters Employment Profiles and Salary Data)
Yale has now been doing this survey for 5 years, which provides an interesting dataset for comparison. It looks like the private sector is becoming increasingly attractive, at least to the Yale graduates. It has been on the rise since 2009 and is now employing 35% of recent graduates. The rate of students in the government jobs have been declining, while not-for-profit sector has remained roughly the same. Only in 2009 a higher rate of students found employment in the public sector or decided to continue their studies.
In terms of compensation, in 2012 a private sector job paid on average nearly 60% more then a non-profit one and 17% higher then a public sector job.
This data matches a bigger trend in business towards sustainability, both in Corporate America and in small and medium businesses. In the corporate world, there is an increasing number in senior level CSR positions. Before 2006, the VP title did not exist at all in CSR job postings; by 2009 almost 20 percent of CSR posts were for VP-level positions. Similarly, the first Chief Sustainability Officer position was created in 2004 (DuPont). In 2013 already 35 of large American corporations recognized the significance of sustainability at a strategic level, by creating a similar position within their C-suit. Read more…
For smaller companies a big push towards sustainability came with the massive governmental clean tech investments during Obama’s first administration. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that there were 3.1 million green jobs in the United States in 2012. Today, there are 75,000 Americans employed in the wind energy business alone, compared with 81,000 coal miners.
Despite this recent success, however, the future does not look as certain. Nearly all clean tech segments in the United States are still reliant on subsidies and other supportive policies to gain an expanding foothold in today’s energy markets. Now, many of these subsidies and policies are poised to expire—with substantial implications for the clean tech industry. (Boom and bust of the clean tech report)
However, the future need not be glum. The biggest good news for the US renewables sector in 2013 was the 11th-hour extension of the PTC for wind power projects. There were fears that this specific piece of legislation could slip through the net as a much lower priority given the much broader challenge of preventing the country from tumbling over the “fiscal cliff.” Meanwhile, several authors from Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution and World Resources Institute reviewed current federal and state subsidy programs and suggested a way forward in their report “Beyond Boom and Bust”.