10 climate change careers and the skills you’ll need for them

July 25, 2023 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Get the details on these 10 jobs that combat the effects of climate change, plus the skills and education you’ll need to pursue them.

It becomes more pressing each day to make a difference in managing and reversing the damage climate change is doing to our planet. As United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated in his State of the Planet speech in December 2020, human action may be where this started, but it can be where it ends as well:

"Let's be clear: Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos. But that means human action can help solve it."

As climate change continues to impact our lives, the growing need for trained professionals to study and address these challenges is increasingly important. Climate change jobs can give you the opportunity to make a difference by creating innovative solutions with technology that drive change and awareness of global warming.


Help fight climate change with these jobs

“There are many ways to get started on the fight against climate change,” said Dr. Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz, associate professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. “It’s a field where interdisciplinary knowledge and skills are needed and thus offer a broad range of opportunities to contribute to solutions.”

Some climate change jobs to consider include:

  • Environmental scientist

A career as an environmental scientist involves using general climate knowledge and research to assess basic threats and protect the environment. This can involve, but is not limited to, cleaning up polluted areas, reducing waste among an organization and helping policymakers make sustainable decisions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of environmental scientists is expected to grow at an average rate of 5% between 2021 and 2031. The median annual salary for this role in 2021 was $76,530.

  • Sustainability consultant

A sustainability consultant provides expert advice to stakeholders on policies and procedures that  promote sustainability within an organization. Their key responsibility is to support their organization’s  objectives while prioritizing their environmental impact.  This can include working on projects related to climate change, energy transition, environmental equity and other eco-friendly best practices.

  • Environmental engineer

Environmental engineers are responsible for combining the principles of science, biology, engineering and chemistry to develop smarter solutions related to environmental sustainability. Environmental engineers may work to help an organization improve practices in recycling, waste management, public health and general pollution.

The employment of environmental engineers is expected to grow at an average rate of 4% between 2021 and 2031. The median annual salary for this role in 2021 was $96,820 with the typical entry-level education being a bachelor’s degree.

  • Renewable energy engineer

Renewable energy engineers focus on the production of energy from sustainable sources including solar, wind, hydro or marine power, to minimize environmental impact. Renewable energy engineers have the option to specialize in chemical, industrial, mechanical or electrical engineering. In each specialization the goal is to reduce the impact of fossil fuels on climate change to protect the health of humans and other ecosystems.

  • Agricultural and food scientists

Agricultural and food scientists conduct research to enhance the effectiveness and safety of agricultural operations and products. Their primary responsibility is to improve and expand the country's food resources including the commercial farming of animals and plants. They can perform their work in laboratories, offices or hands-on in the field. Agricultural and food scientists in basic or applied research and development throughout their work.

The employment of agricultural and food scientists is expected to grow at a higher than average rate of 8% between 2021 and 2031. The median annual salary for this role in 2021 was $74,160.

  • Hydrologists

Hydrologists investigate the movement of water across and within the earth's crust. A hydrologist works on evaluating water initiatives such as irrigation systems, determining water supply levels and minimizing climate impacts due to pollution, erosion and flooding. Hydrologists may work collaboratively with environmental engineers, scientists and public officials on large impact projects.

The median annual salary for this role in 2021 was $84,030.

  • Ecologist

Ecologists study the relationship between plants, animals and their environment. Their work covers many areas of ecosystem support including urban expansion, irrigation, climate change and invasive species. Ecologists often specialize in a specific type of environment, such as marine or coastal areas, or focus on studying a particular animal or plant.

  • Wildlife conservationist

Wildlife conservationists are scientists that dedicate their work specifically to the preservation of wildlife. In their daily work this can include hands-on fieldwork, laboratory research and policy advocacy. Wildlife conservationists can work in zoos, national parks, government offices and more, depending on the area of focus. Drawing upon the outcomes of their findings, wildlife conservationists prepare reports tailored for policymakers, landowners, industry leaders and local communities.

The job growth outlook for conservation scientists and foresters, the group ecologists fall under, is 5% between 2021 and 2031. The typical entry-level education required for this role is a bachelor’s degree and the median annual salary in 2021 was $63,750.

  • Climate change analyst

A climate change analyst, also known as a climatologist, studies atmospheric changes regarding the weather and climate. In this career path, you may assist in developing weather forecasts and collecting data to determine the causes of climate change and gain a better understanding of global warming.

The job growth outlook for environmental scientists and specialists, the group climate change analysts fall under, is 5% between 2021 and 2031. The typical entry-level education required for this role is a bachelor’s degree and the median annual salary is $76,530.

  • Urban planner

An urban planner's role involves developing and executing strategies for the advancement of cities, towns and other urban regions. They will frequently collaborate with government officials, developers and community stakeholders to develop plans that cater to the needs of both the environment and the community.

The employment of urban and regional planners is expected to grow at an average rate of 4% between 2021 and 2031. The median annual salary for this role in 2021 was $78,500.

6 tips for a successful career change

If you’re one of the millions of workers longing for something different, follow these six tips to put together a road map to your new career.

Online degrees and certificates that prepare you for climate change careers

ASU Online offers programs in sustainability, urban planning, geography and more that prepare you for many jobs in climate change including the ones mentioned above.

Our suite of biological sciences programs are offered by the university's School of Life Sciences, which encourages students to make connections between interdisciplinary studies such as biochemistry, philosophy, communications and mathematics. The geography and urban planning degrees are offered by the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning which includes a highly diverse research enterprise studying topics ranging from global urbanization and cultural geography to urban economic development and impacts on local communities quality of life.

  • BA and BS in sustainability

The Bachelor of Arts in sustainability is a path to consider if you’re exploring a career in humanities, planning or social sciences. In this program, you can develop knowledge around the foundational elements of sustainability and problems related to governance, social equity, international development and urban sustainability.

The Bachelor of Science in sustainability encourages a greater focus on critical thinking in sustainability and how it impacts the problems we face as a society today. The program takes a solutions-oriented approach to building skills in community engagement and leadership and focuses on topics like economics, engineering and natural sciences.

  • Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a concentration in conservation biology and ecology

The conservation biology and ecology degree concentration prepares you to understand and potentially find solutions to complex environmental threats. Graduates of the program gain an understanding of the ecology of different habitats, animal and plant physiology, and behavioral ecology and population biology.

“This online program allows students to hone interdisciplinary skills that are necessary for the complex subject of channeling conservation ecology and biology as one of the powerful means needed to address climate change,” said Dr. Cadillo-Quiroz.

  • Bachelor of Science in geographic information

This STEM-based social science program focuses on geographic problem solving with mathematical and statistical spatial modeling and computational practices in global index software. Through this program, you’ll gain an understanding of how to apply your computer science skills and geography knowledge to address urban, environmental and social issues.

  • Bachelor of Science in urban planning

In this urban planning program, you can learn theories and best practices for creating equitable and sustainable communities. Subject matter areas include economic development, planning laws and ethics.

  • Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership and Master of Sustainability Leadership

The Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership is for professionals with at least five years of experience and covers sustainability communication, leadership and strategy from a global perspective. Included in this program is an immersive three-credit course that takes place during a week-long stay in Washington, D.C. During this course, you’ll interact with executive-level sustainability leaders and strategists who’ll provide firsthand knowledge about addressing sustainability challenges and solutions.

Have less than five years of experience? Or looking for a more flexible learning schedule? The Master of Sustainability Leadership prepares you to advance social and environmental responsibility at your company or organization. The curriculum is very similar to that of the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership, but doesn’t include the immersive experience in Washington D.C.

  • Sustainability graduate certificate

This sustainability certificate program explores the foundations of sustainability using problem-solving methodology. Topics of study include international development, clean air and water, sustainable food systems, human rights, waste reduction, climate transformation and clean energy.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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