Why Choose a Green Career?

By Emily Goetsch
Jan 16, 2024 11:35 AM ET
A smiling person looking at a laptop, a pen by their head.

​It was recently Green Careers Week in the UK and as sustainability recruitment and development specialists, we’re receiving more and more requests from people at all stages of their careers asking, “How can I get into sustainability?”

The path to a green career is seldom linear, and we are keen to shed light on how individuals from different backgrounds can move into roles with the remit to create and maintain a more sustainable, resilient society and environment.

As part of this endeavour, my colleague Ruth Smith and I joined forces with Catalyse Change for its Your Green Career course, where we joined other passionate changemakers to help guide and inspire young women who are pursuing a career in sustainability. Our involvement was organic as I sit on the advisory board for Catalyse Change and Acre has worked with the social enterprise for some time now, supporting their green careers drive.

Throughout this process, we’ve received all kinds of green careers questions. So, we thought we’d share those in hope of helping inspire the next generation of sustainability professionals.

How can I start a green career?

For some, starting a green career begins with formal education. Sustainability degrees and qualifications continue to emerge across the globe and are endowing more and more people with the skills and understanding needed to help build a more sustainable future. For others, a green career starts by taking transferable skills from previous jobs and applying them to a sustainability-related organisation or remit.

The challenges that we face environmentally and socially are vast, and we need all kinds of skills, ideas and ways of thinking. We recommend focusing on the skills that you have, your interests, and which areas of a green career most attract you. Once you’ve honed in on your strengths and areas you want to develop, it becomes easier to search for roles that meet those objectives.

Do I need a degree to work in sustainability?

For highly technical or specialised roles like legal or engineering positions, relevant qualifications will be required. For the most part, however, while a degree can be helpful, it isn’t always necessary.

Whether you’ve gained significant transferable experience through employment, an apprenticeship, or via a different certification, there are opportunities to work in sustainable businesses or in roles that do not require an educational background specifically tied to sustainability.

What background do I need to work in sustainability?

You can get into green jobs from a range of backgrounds. The world needs people with all different skillsets to identify, articulate, and tackle the problems that we face, and everyone has a part to play. Whether you’re coming from an environmental science, finance, business, communications or...dare I say...art history (like me!) background, skills from these different spaces all come into play across green jobs. The climate crisis bleeds into just about every facet of society, so it will take a diverse set of skills, experience and thought to solve it.

Can I get a green job if I don’t have any experience in sustainability?

It is possible to secure a green job without prior experience, and focusing on businesses that are oriented towards sustainability might be a good first move.

For example, it might be worth focusing on organisations that look at different aspects of sustainability and applying for entry-level roles in those spaces. Additionally, if you have recently received a degree or certification in a ‘green’ field, there will be ways into green jobs based on that knowledge.

How important are soft and hard skills?

Both soft and hard skills are key to pushing the sustainability agenda forward. We hear a lot about how ‘hard’ technical skills play a role in the energy transition, whether that’s through engineering, financial analysis, legal review, etc. Soft skills are, however, also critical to effectively communicating and delivering messages so that they can be understood and adopted by diverse audiences. Influencing behaviour and helping people to understand how and why certain approaches are preferable is key to driving change and implementing sustainability strategies, and the soft skills tied to winning hearts and minds should not be underestimated.

What advice do you and Ruth give young women regarding sustainability-related jobs?

We encourage young women to think hard about what they’re passionate about and where their strengths lie. When you have a sense of what you can bring to a job, and are passionate, it’s much easier to focus on roles and organisations that meet your needs. There are so many skills that can be transferred into sustainability, so it’s worth highlighting your experience and explaining how it can translate into a green context. Additionally, we like to flag that young women shouldn’t be put off by job descriptions that are a laundry list of ‘required’ skills and experience. You don’t have to tick every box to get an interview or the job! Think about how you can best frame your experience and the areas that you want to develop.

Finally, we would both flag persistence. It takes time to land that first or next job, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the first role you apply for. Keep at it, request feedback and ensure that you’re positioning yourself appropriately for each role you’re considering.

About Acre

At Acre, we work with the most aspirational businesses with potential to make real change; from those who are just starting out to those who are well on the journey to crafting a legacy.

Our 18 years' experience in sustainability recruitment, combined with our extensive global network, enables us to provide talent solutions that are designed to deliver this change.

Through our unique behavioural assessment technology, we understand the types of people, skills and behaviours required to create impact. We can develop these qualities within your existing teams too.

We find talented people and develop their skills to ensure they make a true impact in ambitious, progressive organisations.

Acre. Making companies ready for tomorrow.