10 Green Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year College Degree


Postings for green jobs have increased 8% over the last year, but the skilled green workforce has only increased by 6%.

As green industries continue to grow, so does the need for green workers.

Many established industries are quickly developing new ways of doing things in response to climate change. This means there are lots of possibilities for green entrepreneurs and those looking to break into the industry.

For example, the music industry has a growing number of businesses and organizations focused on making concerts and touring more carbon neutral.

The auto industry is experiencing a big shift toward greener tech, too. It’s anticipated that by 2030, half of new car sales will be electric vehicles. This means that people interested in manufacturing and sales jobs will have to be knowledgeable about green infrastructure and materials.

Meanwhile, construction, transportation, fashion, and health care are transitioning into more sustainable industries, and they’re hiring employees with environmental and sustainability knowledge, according to a World Economic Forum report.


10 Green Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year College Degree

Ready to go green? We looked at median salaries, job growth, and education requirements for 10 jobs with an environmental or sustainability focus.

Most of our information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook. We also used reports from employment sites like Indeed and Linkedin, and various industry organizations.

Here are ten jobs that don’t require a 4-year college degree.

Agricultural or Food Science Technician

If you are interested in science and are detail-oriented, you might consider becoming a food or agricultural science technician. This growing field is laboratory-based, where staff measure, analyze, and report on food and other agricultural items. Technicians usually develop specialties, which lead to higher salaries.

Median salary: $44,700 per year

Job growth: 9%

Required experience: Associate’s degree


Arborists take care of trees. There are many types, too, which provide a wide range of salaries: research, private, commercial, municipal and utility arborists. Commercial arborist jobs are mainly seasonal, since arborists often work in landscaping. Those kinds of jobs offer on-the-job training while other arborist fields may require a certification or an associates degree in forestry or arboriculture.

Median salary: $63,750 per year

Job growth: 5%

Required experience: Associate’s Degree, certificates

Environmental Science / Protection Technicians

This is another great job for the detail-oriented person. These technicians might monitor pollution data, inspect establishments for environmental or safety issues, perform laboratory work, assist scientists or verify compliance with state and federal regulations.

Median salary: $47,370 per year

Job growth: 6%

Required experience: Associate’s degree

Forest/Conservation Worker

Helping the planet might make up for a low entry salary. Forest and conservation workers help plant and protect forests, prevent forest fires and generally take steps to keep our forests healthy. They might also clear brush away from roads and campsites. Another perk? Your office could be in a local, state or national park.

Median salary: $30,550 per year

Job Growth: -3%

Required experience: High school diploma or equivalent

Hazardous Materials Removal Worker

This job might not sound very green, but getting rid of harmful or destructive materials is fundamental for the health of our environment. You learn how to remove and dispose of asbestos, radioactive waste, lead, and other hazardous materials. Often workers will keep records, drive forklifts or other large machinery or clean contaminated areas. It’s also a field with frequent overtime pay.

Median salary: $46,300 per year

Job growth: 0%

Required experience: High school diploma or equivalent

Organic Farmer

Agricultural/farm workers traditionally don’t earn a lot of money. But the 2022 Farm Bill is pumping $300 million to incentivize farmers to transition to organic farming and develop new markets for organic produce. There are no education requirements for organic farming, though there is a lot to learn. You can start off as an apprentice or intern. There are associate’s degree in organic farming as well. Several websites state that experienced organic farmers make more than $70,000 a year.

Median salary: $34,103 per year

Job growth: 1%

Required experience: Few education requirements

Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Solar panel installer is one of the fastest growing jobs on this list. People going into this trade often learn on the job, though there are some courses that they can take at technical colleges, and online. Installers are involved with almost all of the steps of installation. They use the measurements of the location to create the photovoltaic panels, install them, and may repair and maintain them and any systems holding them.

Median salary: $47,670 per year

Job growth: 27%

Required experience: High school diploma or equivalent

Wastewater Treatment Operators

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are responsible for making sure that clean water flows out to residents and businesses, and dirty water flows in for treatment. These workers might be testing, measuring, and treating water. They record data for government records. They also clean, maintain, and inspect equipment and the systems that filter the water. While this job area is overall declining, it is anticipated that there will be about 10,800 open jobs annually.

Median salary: $47,880 per year

Job growth: -7%

Required experience: High school diploma or equivalent

Wind Turbine Technician

Looking for job security? Consider working in the wind turbine field. Windtechs are the fastest growing jobs on this list. They usually have to get a certificate from a technical school or program, and then⁠ — or sometimes simultaneously ⁠— they usually get a year of on-the-job training. Windtechs know how to work on the components of the turbine, and are familiar with hydraulic and electric systems. They also collect and report data.

Median salary: $56,260 per year

Job growth: 44%

Required experience: High school diploma, certificate

Vegan Chef

Plant-based eating has been steadily increasing in popularity in the 21st century. A food industry group estimates that 40% of Americans have incorporated vegan food into their diet, and 14% don’t eat meat. While vegan restaurants have traditionally found their home in larger metros, they’re now opening outside of major urban areas. Becoming a vegan chef would require either attending a traditional culinary school, a vegan culinary schools or starting off in a kitchen and learning as you go.

Median salary: $57,839 per year

Job growth: 15%

Required experience: High school diploma, certificate

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Green Jobs

What are the three fastest growing jobs?

Wind turbine technician; 44% growth.
Solar photovoltaic installer; 27% growth.
Agricultural or food science technician; 9% growth.

Which green jobs have the highest median salary?

Arborist: $63,750 per year.
Vegan Chef: $57,839 per year.
Wind turbine technician: $56,260 per year.

How fast are green job opportunities growing?

The BlueGreen Alliance estimates that 9 million green jobs will be created over the next 10 years.

What states have the most green jobs?

Alaska, Colorado, Washington, California, Iowa, according to The Hill.

Are all green jobs outdoors?

Many are, but being a vegan chef, wastewater treatment operator, and technicians are indoors.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.


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