The Growth of Green Jobs

Building for the Future

Published on Mar 9, 2023

Updated on Oct 5, 2023

Written by Elizabeth Beckett

Blog Graphic

The global shift towards conservation is apparent nearly everywhere: in public policy, in day-to-day life, in business, and of course, in the labor market. A commitment to a more eco-friendly economy can have a positive impact on employment, as maintaining and developing new energy sources allows for more job openings and new careers—all over the world.

In the US, Lightcast data show that demand for green jobs is up by more than 50% since 2019. This spike reflects the growing concern for the environment in recent years, reflected most obviously in global policy. The EU is attempting to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, California has plans to ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles, and the US saw a gradual increase in the use of renewable energy sources last year. 

The move toward a more sustainable economy is a permanent shift. For employers and workers, knowing these trends present an opportunity to build for a future where green jobs are key to success and opportunity for everyone.

Green job growth by country

Defining “Green”

Before understanding the specifics of a green labor market, it is important to know the different ways that a job can have an impact on the environment–in other words, what makes a job “green?”

In “Green Jobs Now,” a collaboration between Lightcast and the nonprofit WorkingNation, researchers have analyzed how various US states are working toward a sustainable economy. The project identified four different types of green jobs, each having a different level of impact on the green economy. 

Core Green Jobs are jobs that were developed as a result of the transition into the green economy, and the job plays a direct role in conserving the environment. Some examples include Solar Engineers, Hydroelectric Engineers, and Energy Efficiency Specialists.

Green Enabled Jobs are jobs that are separate or tangent to the green economy, but are recently seeing a demand for more green skills. For example, HVAC installers who adopt a new, energy efficient product or the mechanics developing that new system have green enabled jobs.

Green Enabling Jobs are jobs that do not necessarily require green-related skills, but are housed at firms associated with the green economy, such as the marketing manager at a solar panel company.

Potential Green Jobs are jobs that currently have little relation to the green economy but may evolve to require green skills in the future. Some examples include maintenance techs and engineers. 

Demand for Green Jobs is up over 50% since 2019

Opportunities for Workers

As the public decides to take strides to reduce their carbon footprint, the demand for renewable energy sources, efficient heating systems, and hybrid cars is rising, along with the demand for workers to develop these products. 

Between 2019 and 2020, the demand for Solar Sales Representatives increased by 70%, and by 56% for Solar Installers. Neither of these job titles require a bachelor’s degree, but they pay competitively compared to similar, non-green jobs. The opportunities that green jobs can create are extremely valuable in bridging gaps in the labor market, allowing individuals to upskill into long-term careers.

The occupations that had the highest concentration of green jobs in 2022 were mainly core green jobs, such as Environmental Compliance Specialists, Energy Conservation Engineers, Environmental Engineers, and Soil Conservationists. Some job titles among these, however, were less direct: for example, Home Energy Auditors and Permit Writers. 

Plus, when looking at the green economy as a whole, the occupations with the most green-specific job postings were for titles such as Electrical Engineers, Power Systems Engineers, and Electricians. This suggests that the new increase in demand for green jobs is mostly due to green-enabled and green-enabling jobs. Across the board, some of the top green skills in 2022 included Recycling, Climate Engineering, Environmental Laws, and Waste Management. 

While this growth is an exciting prospect, there is a long way to go before these jobs have a widespread positive impact on the market. A study between the London School of Economics and Lightcast found that in the UK, green jobs are referred to as "low-carbon jobs” and they tend to demand more skills than their high-carbon counterparts, even though wages for both jobs also tend to be comparable. American green jobs face similar obstacles: they tend to be more demanding in terms of managerial, technical, and social skills, and therefore less accessible to potential workers. 

Green jobs could have long-lasting and profound effects on the labor market, but these effects cannot come to fruition without an understanding of what green skills are, how workers can be upskilled to assume green careers, and what resources can be used to initiate this upskilling. The sudden spike in green jobs can be navigated with up-to-date data that most accurately reflects the changes in the market, allowing green employers to find the talent they need to have a positive impact on the environment. 

The sharp rise of green jobs over the past few years indicates they will only grow further in the years to come. Employers can prepare by identifying fast-growing green skills and providing training for them, and by providing competitive pay for green jobs that require new skills. Understanding these trends and investing accordingly can create an environment where green jobs enable success for businesses, opportunity for workers, and a better future for the environment.

Connect with a Lightcast Data Expert